The Social Security statement, a primary source of information for Americans about their earnings history and expected future benefits, has undergone a visual overhaul.
The redesign, unveiled by the Social Security Administration (SSA) Oct. 4, aims to give current and future beneficiaries a quicker, cleaner overview of their Social Security outlook, replacing a text-heavy four-page document with two pages of boxes, charts and graphs.
Once mailed annually to tens of millions of workers, the statements are now distributed primarily online via My Social Security accounts. AARP is backing federal legislation that would require the SSA to resume regularly sending paper copies to people age 25 and up, as it did until a decade ago.
Acting SSA Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi said in a news release that the document’s new look reflects an agency priority “to provide information to people in clear and plain terms about Social Security’s programs and services.”
For example, personalized estimates of retirement, disability and survivor benefits, previously listed on page 2 of the statement, now appear right up front, in a bar chart and a set of labeled gray boxes. The streamlined format “makes it easier to find information at a glance, helping to simplify our complex programs for the public,” Kijakazi said.
The prominently featured chart shows projected monthly retirement benefits, based on past and current income, if claimed at any age from 62 to 70. The statement also estimates your disability benefit if you become unable to work for an extended period and what your spouse and children could receive if you pass away.
On the second page is a table laying out your lifetime earnings that were subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes; an accounting of how much you’ve paid in those taxes; and bullet points on benefit calculations and eligibility, condensed from considerably wordier explanations that appeared in past versions of the statement.
Join today and get instant access to discounts, programs, services, and the information you need to benefit every area of your life.
Statements mostly moved online
The SSA introduced the statements in 1999 as a tool to help future beneficiaries incorporate anticipated Social Security income into their financial planning. They were initially mailed every year to workers ages 25 and over who were not yet receiving any form of benefit.
Starting in the early 2010s, the SSA began phasing out paper mailers and focused on providing beneficiary information and services online. Hard copies are now sent automatically only to workers age 60 and up who do not receive benefits and do not have My Social Security accounts, three months before their birthday each year. (You can request a paper version by mail at any age.)
If you are one of the more than 61 million people with a My Social Security account, you can view, save and print an up-to-date version of your statement at any time. You can also access SSA fact sheets on benefit basics, available in English or Spanish, and tailored for different age groups.
AARP has endorsed the federal Know Your Social Security Act, which would mandate a return to mass mailings of the statements.
“When Social Security sends this statement through the mail, more Americans are able to better plan for their future, not only due to an increased understanding of their Social Security benefits, but also any gaps in their current retirement plan,” Bill Sweeney, AARP’s senior vice president for government affairs, wrote in a June 23 letter to congressional leaders. “Paper statements are annual reminders, especially to younger workers, that they have contributed to Social Security and have earned a stake in the program."
Editor’s note: This article as originally published included incorrect information about when the SSA sends paper Social Security statements to some older workers. It has been updated with the correct information.
Andy Markowitz is a contributing writer and editor for AARP, covering Social Security and fraud. He is a former editor of The Prague Post and Baltimore City Paper.