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Checking (and Correcting) Your Social Security Earnings Record

The Social Security Administration used to send a statement each year that included your earnings record by year, as well as an estimate of what your Social Security retirement benefit would be if you claimed it at age 62, at full retirement age, or at age 70.

Then, in 2011, the SSA stopped sending those statements in an attempt to save on costs. At the beginning of this month, however, the SSA announced that you can now get your statement online at (after jumping through some hoops to verify your identity, that is).

(Related note: The SSA also announced that annual paper statements have been resumed for people age 60 or over who are not already receiving benefits, and a single paper statement will be sent to people in the year they turn 25.)

Checking Your Earnings Record

Even if you’re a long way from retirement and are not currently concerned about getting an estimate of your Social Security retirement benefits, I’d encourage you to go ahead and create an account for the purpose of checking your earnings record. Mistakes happen, and it’s best to get them fixed as quickly as possible.

Please note, however, that according to the SSA, if your record is missing earnings from this year or last year, it’s not necessarily a problem. Most likely, it simply means that the earnings haven’t been recorded just yet. They should appear on a later statement.

Correcting Mistakes in Your Earnings Record

If you find that your earnings record is missing earnings (other than those from this year or last year), you’ll want to find something that documents the correct amount of earnings, for example:

  • Your Form 1040 from the year in question,
  • Applicable Forms W-2,
  • Applicable pay stubs, or
  • If you were self-employed, Schedule C or Schedule SE from that year.

Once you’ve found something documenting your earnings, you’ll want to call the SSA to get things straightened out as soon as possible.

Where to Find Earnings Documentation

If you no longer have anything documenting your earnings for the year in question, you could call your employer from that year to see if they’ll send you your W-2 or, failing that, some other sort of payroll record.

Alternatively, you can order a transcript of that year’s tax return from the IRS. A tax return transcript includes most information that was filed on your return for the year, including any accompanying schedules or forms. You can request a transcript in any of three ways:

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  1. Good news, I didn’t realize they had stopped sending the report. I give ours a once over and if it looks close enough, I’m satisfied.

  2. Interesting, I only have about 20 credits so I can’t see everything, but it looks like they’ve gotten my earnings correct. What a miracle!

  3. Everyone should check their SS statements. A few years ago, we found that the SS# for my wife and one of her sisters had been mixed up since they were teens = MANY YEARS! It took almost two years to get it straightened out, but it did get done.

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