Why It Pays To Keep A Careful Eye On Your Earnings Record

smiling woman sitting at desk Whether you’re ready to retire, just joining the workforce, or somewhere in between, regularly reviewing your Social Security earnings record could make a big difference when it’s time to collect your retirement benefits.

Just think, in some situations, if an employer did not properly report just one year of your work earnings to us, your future benefit payments from Social Security could be close to $100 per month less than they should be. Over the course of a lifetime, that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in retirement or other benefits to which you are entitled.

Social Security prevents many mistakes from ever appearing on your earnings record. On average, we process about 236 million W-2 wage reports from employers, representing more than $5 trillion in earnings. More than 98 percent of these wages are successfully posted with little problem.

But it’s ultimately the responsibility of your employers — past and present — to provide accurate earnings information to Social Security so you get credit for the contributions you’ve made through payroll taxes. We rely on you to inform us of any errors or omissions. You’re the only person who can look at your lifetime earnings record and verify that it’s complete and correct.

So, what’s the easiest and most efficient way to validate your earnings record?

  • Visit socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to set up or sign in to your own my Social Security account;
  • Under the “My Home” tab, click on “Earnings Record” to view your online Social Security Statement and taxed Social Security earnings;
  • Carefully review each year of listed earnings and use your own records, such as W-2s and tax returns, to confirm them; and
  • Keep in mind that earnings from this year and last year may not be listed yet.

If you notice that you need to correct your earnings record, check out our one-page fact sheet at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10081.pdf.

Sooner is definitely better when it comes to identifying and reporting problems with your earnings record. As time passes, you may no longer have past tax documents and some employers may no longer be in business or able to provide past payroll information.

If it turns out everything in your earnings record is correct, you can use the information and our online calculators at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/benefitcalculators.html to plan for your retirement and prepare for the unexpected, such as becoming disabled or leaving behind survivors. We use your top 35 years of earnings when we calculate your benefit amounts. You can learn more about how your benefit amount is calculated at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10070.pdf.

We’re with you throughout life’s journey, from starting your first job to receiving your well-earned first retirement payment.  Learn more about the services we provide online at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.

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66 thoughts on “Why It Pays To Keep A Careful Eye On Your Earnings Record

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  3. Hi sir and Macon lady
    Employee ask me why it pay to eyes in my record
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  4. If I contribute heavily to a 403b (up to $25k when over 50 yrs old) will it lower what SS sees as my annual income and affect my monthly amount when I retire?
    example: $100k minus $25k looks like I only make $75k.

    Will showing $75k annual salary make a large difference compared to $100K when calculating retirement benefits?

    • Hi, William. We calculate your average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If there were some years when you didn’t work, or had lower earnings, your benefit amount may be lower as a result. For details on how your retirement benefit is figured, visit here. We hope this helps.

  5. Although Social Security says to “carefully review each year of listed earnings and use your own records, such as W-2’s and tax returns, to confirm them,” there hasn’t been one person who can tell me what to compare. There’s not even one line on any of my tax returns or W-2’s that correlate with the numbers that SS has for my annual yearly earnings. What am I comparing it against specifically?

  6. If I stop working before my NRA, and have no new FICA earnings per year, will my benefit continue to grow more than the Colla increase if I wait till I’m 70 Years old to collect?

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