Social Security Annual Earnings Statement

Have you gone online yet to access your own earnings statement?  I just did it and I have to say that I’m really glad I did it.  Now I can see a copy of my annual earnings and how those translate into benefits for me down the road.  This is a wonderful financial planning tool.  So exactly what am I talking about?

On May 1, 2011 the Social Security Administration launched a new online earnings statement that provides the following information:

            • Estimates of the retirement and disability benefits you may receive;
            • Estimates of benefits your family may get when you receive Social Security or die;
            • A list of your lifetime earnings according to Social Security’s records;
            • The estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid;
            • information about qualifying and signing up for Medicare;
            • Things to consider for those age 55 and older who are thinking of retiring;
            • General information about Social Security for everyone;
            • The opportunity to apply online for retirement and disability benefits; and
            • A printable version of your Social Security Statement.
Does this sound familiar?  It should.  beginning in 1999 the federal government provided all of us with a paper copy on our birthdays.

The new Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement (PEBES), now called the Social Security Statement, will likely become SSA’s most direct and important means of communicating with the public.  This annual communication with all workers will provide a valuable opportunity for increasing program knowledge and understanding….          Social Security Advisory Board, 1997

But in March 2011 the Social Security Administration stopped sending out paper versions of “Your Social Security Statement.”  Why?  It was just getting too expensive.  The Commissioner of SSA told Congress, last year that “the agency has spent about $70 million each year to mail out more than 150 million Social Security Statements.”

Thankfully, SSA has fulfilled its promise to make the Statement available online.

So now you can access this information and set up your own, secure account at the Social Security website.  Just use this link:

It’s really neat.

I’m an attorney who represents claimants on their disability claims.  My clients are always asking me the following questions:

  1. When I’m found disabled, how much will I get?
  2. How much will my spouse and children get?

I can’t answer that question because I don’t know how much my clients have earned over the years and how much has been set aside in payroll taxes for them.  I used to ask my clients:  Remember getting a letter from SSA on your birthday that listed all your earnings?  That statement also provided an estimate of your disability benefit if you became disabled.

My clients think about it and most then say, “Oh yea, I think I remember getting one of those.  I’ll go home and see if I can find it!”

Most people just file that statement away.

No one plans for disability!

Anyway, now I ask my clients to go online to find this information at the Social Security website.  This is a new convenient tool our government provides for us and we should all take advantage of the availability of this valuable information.