If you’re not already familiar with the Social Security Administration’s website, it may be time to start. You may already know that you can go online to get an application to replace your Social Security card, apply for Medicare, retirement or disability benefits, even search popular baby names. While all those online services may be helpful, a new addition to the website may become essential. The government is working to provide your yearly earnings statement online by the end of this year, and forego the massive mailings.
The statements, mailed to 150 million people each year, show a projection of your future benefits and include a history of taxable earnings for each year – so people can check for mistakes – as well as the total amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes paid over your lifetime. While certainly a useful retirement planning tool for workers, the mailed statements cost the SSA more than $70 million a year.
In a recent article from the Associated Press, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue says the website offers the same estimates, while also allowing the individual to run scenarios to test their preparation and various outcomes. Nevertheless, critics point out that it does not, as yet, offer the detailed history of taxable incomes, which means you’ll have no way of catching possible mistakes. Plus, if you’re not really computer-savvy, or don’t have access to high-speed internet, the website could be quite difficult to use.
Stopping the mailed statements is part of a trend in government to conduct more of its business electronically. The SSA already mails out few paper checks. About 88 percent of beneficiaries have their payments deposited directly into bank accounts, and approximately 41 percent of applications for retirement benefits come in online.