En español | Under 60 and want an estimate of your future Social Security benefits? You can now easily get it online. After creating a secure account on the Social Security website, you'll be able to see the amount you'll be eligible to collect if you retire early at age 62, wait until the full retirement age of 66 (or 67 for people born in 1960 or later), or hold out until age 70 to collect. You'll also have access to a history of your taxable earnings and the total amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes you've paid in so far.
Older workers who don't want to wait for the mail can get the information online as well.
"Our new online Social Security statement is simple, easy to use and provides people with estimates they can use to plan for their retirement," Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said in a statement. "The online statement also provides estimates for disability and survivors benefits, making the statement an important financial planning tool."
But you should keep in mind that the numbers are indeed only estimates, based on assumptions that Social Security makes concerning your future earnings. Actual benefits will depend on the precise income figures you have on your record when you finally do retire.
You can use the benefit estimate, along with 401(k) account balances, pensions and other assets, to figure out how much income you'll likely get in retirement. In addition to helping with this kind of planning, the online statements allow you to make sure your lifetime earnings are recorded accurately.
The online statements are part of a government effort to phase out paper in benefit programs. The Social Security Administration used to mail out this information annually to anyone over age 25. But it stopped that last year in an effort to save some $70 million. It resumed the mailings to people 60 and older. There are other paperless iniatives as well: As of last year, new Social Security beneficiaries could get payments only by electronic means, primarily direct deposit. Now, virtually all beneficiaries, no matter when they began receiving checks, will have to make the switch to electronic payments by next March.
For information on Social Security and other federal benefits and services, visit AARP's Uncle Sam at Your Service page.
Carole Fleck is a senior editor at AARP.org.
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