En español | Q. I hear that Social Security is offering people access online to their personal information. What exactly can I see online and how do I get this access?
A. An online account, known officially as "my Social Security," gives active workers and retirees access to information about their earnings and current and future benefits. The personal accounts are part of a major effort by the Social Security Administration to move many of its information services to the Internet. The accounts allow you to get information without making phone calls or visiting Social Security offices.
Since the SSA first rolled out the accounts in May 2012, it has continued to expand the number of things you can do online. Indeed, in a different part of the SSA website, www.ssa.gov, you can apply for benefits online.
Currently, a "my Social Security" account lets you view your personal Social Security statements online. These statements estimate what you'd get if you take your benefits at age 62 or 67 or 70. They also show likely benefits if you become disabled. And they spell out the survivor benefits that would go to your family if you die.
Until a few years ago, when Social Security ran into budget problems, similar printed statements were mailed to workers each year. Now, that information is available to you only through a "my Social Security" account. Social Security reports that people have accessed statements online 5.3 million times since they first became available that way in May 2012. View a sample statement.
If you already receive benefits, an account lets you obtain benefit verification letters, which can serve as proof of income when applying for a mortgage or other type of loan or other benefits. You can also use the account to change your address, telephone number and direct deposit information.
To create an account (PDF), you must be at least 18, have a valid email address, a Social Security number and a U.S. mailing address.
Stan Hinden, a former columnist for The Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.