En español | If you liked getting your annual Social Security statement in the mail that listed your lifelong earnings record and an estimate of your expected retirement benefit, you won't like this: The government has suspended the program.
As the federal budget battle heats up in Washington and a possible government shutdown looms, the Social Security Administration has announced it will save money by not mailing out annual statements to U.S. workers 25 and older, beginning this month.
The move is expected to save about $30 million in fiscal year 2011 and $60 million in 2012, says SSA spokeswoman Kia Green. Last year 152 million statements were sent.
However, starting early in fiscal year 2012, which begins in October 2011, the government will resume mailing the annual statements to workers age 60 and older who are not yet receiving benefits.
Green says the SSA "is working on an online option" so that all workers can download their statements. No specific date for that option has been set.
Because the annual statements are typically sent out about three months before a worker's birthday, those born in July and later won't be receiving one this year.
David Certner, legislative policy director for AARP, says workers have come to rely on their annual statements, which were first issued in 1999, to make sure their earnings history was correct and to help in their retirement planning.
"We understand the need to save money, but it is also important that individuals have an accurate picture of their earnings record and their projected benefits," he says. "This suspension will make it harder for people to do that."
The annual statements provide an estimate of your retirement benefit at various ages, for example, age 62, 66 and 70, the approximate monthly payment if you became disabled, and how much your family would receive if you died. The statements also provide a history of earnings and the federal taxes paid on your wages.
Workers can get an estimate of their retirement benefits online using SSA's retirement estimator tool. However, the estimator doesn't provide all the information that appears in the written statement, such as a complete earnings record. For that, you need to visit a local Social Security office.
Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.