It’s called a “My Social Security” account. It’s often thought of as something for people getting Social Security benefits. In reality, there are positives for anyone who’s working and paying Social Security taxes.
Protect Your Social Security from Identity Thieves
Once you set up a “My Social Security” account, you’re protected. There can never be more than one account at the Social Security Administration registered to your Social Security number. If identity thieves set up an account at SSA first, they can claim your Social Security benefits and send the money to their own bank account and you’ll never know it until it’s too late.
As far back as 2015, the U.S. Inspector General’s office found that approximately $20 million of benefits for 12,200 Social Security recipients had been misdirected to the wrong bank accounts by identity thieves. The SSA prevented another $6 million of benefits belonging to 5,300 recipients from being misdirected.
Social Security is good about restoring benefits once you alert them to the theft and convince them you’re the real beneficiary and didn’t authorize the change. So, it’s never too early to set up your Social Security account and protect your benefits from anyone who wants to steal them.
Plan for Your Retirement
It’s hard to plan for retirement if you don’t have all the facts. And one of the things you need to know is how much income you’ll have coming in. For many, the monthly Social Security payout is a big part of that income. By having a “My Social Security” account, you have access to calculators that help you project how much your Social Security check will be if you’re thinking about retiring as early as age 62, which is the earliest you can receive a Social Security benefit, at your Full Retirement Age (FRA), or at age 70, which is when delayed credits stop and there’s no reason to postpone benefits any longer.
Check Activity Related to Your Social Security Number
When you sign in to your “My Social Security” account, you can see if anyone has tried to apply for benefits in your name, and if someone has tried to change your address or the bank account where your Social Security check is deposited. Those things will show up as a pending transaction.
Estimate Spousal Benefits
Your work history doesn’t affect just your Social Security benefit. It may also have an impact on your spouse. Often, a spouse who was employed very little, or one who never worked outside the home, will be entitled to a Social Security Spousal benefit, which can be as much as 50% of the benefit you’re entitled to at your Full Retirement Age. Having a “My Social Security” account allows you to calculate the amount of the Spousal Benefit.
There’s also an ex-spouse Spousal Benefit. If you’re divorced and fit the criteria for having this benefit, a “My Social Security” account will help you determine how much that is AND you don’t have to talk to your ex about it.
Check Your Earnings History
We can make all kinds of jokes about the inefficiency of government agencies, but in reality, everyone makes mistakes. With your online Social Security account, you can keep a constant eye on how much the SSA says you earned each year, because that determines the calculation for your benefit. You can’t make corrections all the way back to the beginning of your working years. You only have three years, three months, and 15 days to make changes (I know, how did they arrive at that).
Get a Replacement Social Security Card
Did you lose your Social Security card? Have you carried it so long that it’s faded, worn and tattered? You can order a replacement card right online through your account. The SSA usually has the new card to you in 14 days. This also protects you from companies that want you to pay them to help you get a new card. Getting a replacement card from Social Security is free.
Prove Your Income
Anytime you need proof of income, your “My Social Security” account is the place to go. Whether you’re applying for a mortgage, some other type of loan, trying to rent an apartment, or anything that requires you to prove how much you make, you can get a benefit verification letter and hand it to the person requesting the information.
Set Up Direct Deposit
If you’re already getting Social Security, or if you’re signing up for the first time, you can use your “My Social Security” account to set up direct deposit of your checks. Or if you’re already set up on direct deposit but change banks, you can change your direct deposit instructions through your SSA account. You just need your Social Security number, the new bank account, and the routing number.
I know, making changes isn’t always a pleasant thought. But once you get used to your “My Social Security account, it will take a lot less time to take care of business than sitting on terminal ignore waiting for a real person to pick up the phone.