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.


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

  1. There is too many people at social security the do not even know what is available to social security recipients. In my case, I signed up early at 62 and when I told my employer of 46 years that I was retiring, he pleaded for me to stay. I then went to the social security office the following week in Minneapolis where those people put me on suspension. I then worked for another 13 months making over 100k in extra wages. I decided to retire this past may at age 64. and found that I am to only get what I originally was offered. I filed an appeal on June 9 of 2017 and just got a call yesterday 8-9-17 from social security and found out that the people at Minneapolis social security did not offer me my 1 time deal to withdraw. [they put only a suspension as an offer. I get 1845 from old way and could get 2010 if they had done it correctly. Talk about a grand rip off to an American worker who has worked for the same company for 47 years!

    • When you reach full retirement age you’ll get a re-computation and your retirement date will be adjusted to reflect all the months in which you did not draw a check due to suspension. So it is not as bad as you think.

  2. Since 3 years ago, I’m collecting SS benefits thru my ex-husband. Apparently, once you start collecting benefits and continue working, your earning records are not visible anymore. How can I check if my earning records are correct? I’ll start collecting my own benefits next year.

  3. Even if you don’t check out your earnings record now, it ‘s a good idea to save payroll data, especially tax returns and the related w-2 forms during your working lifetime. I have all of my records since 1961 and they’ve come in handy. You may even need to have documentation to support other types of pension eligibility.

  4. I filed at 66 last year and I am receiving monthly SS checks, but I am still working. I am paying taxes on 85% of my SS and I am also paying taxes by continuing to be employed. If the statement from the question above is true that “once you start collecting benefits and continue working, your earning records are not visible anymore.” …then where is all the money going that I am paying into they system? Do I never benefit from paying these taxes? Is my money now supporting someone else or others? How does that work. Awaiting your reply.

    • Why not read the plethora if information available on this very website provided to you in order to save money on administrative costs so it’s the most efficient program we’ve ever had? And before anyone starts knocking SSA, complaining how bad it is when you don’t even know how it works, why not find out FACTS – from the ORIGINAL, OFFICIAL SOURCE – before griping about problems you’ve heard about but that do not even exist???? The answers to all your questions are spelled out, in great detail, allover tjis incredibly comprehensive and easy to use site. Sheesh.

      • So you (Marc) are the representative of the Social Security Administration and this is your response to the question above? Sheesh,

        • official responses from the Social Security Administration have an official government seal at the beginning of the response. All other responses are from private citizens

          • Yes, we have an official social media team dedicated to posting messages and responses to customer inquiries or comments that specifically address SSA issues. Please be aware that our official agency responses will always include the Social Security Administration (SSA) seal. Our blog — Social Security Matters — gives readers information about a variety of topics, including our programs, online services, current events, and human-interest stories, usually in greater detail than typically shared on our other social media platforms. Thank you for your support and for using our blog.

        • I agree with Marc ‘ s response….he was defending SS by someone who didn’t even have first hand experience. He sent a good message out to those who may think about doing the same. Educate yourself on the subject before you go wasting someone’s time with ignorance on the subject.

          Thank you Marc…you professionally put a stop to that nonsense!

          • Social Security is social insurance that came from the Great Depression to partially offset lost wages. You pay premiums whenever you work. New earnings will be used to see if they can increase your payments but only to the extent that a new year of work becomes one of your highest 35 years after adjusting old earnings for inflation.

            It is insurance. You pay premiums whether you use the insurance or not. It is a shared risk pool. Why would this be different from auto or home insurance? Does your insurance company stop collecting premiums after your first claim?

            There is no cap on what you collect either. Most people vastly outlive their contributions plus interest. There are no CEOs, no corporate jets, no dividends to pay to investors. It goes to you or is put aside for future workers.

            Social Security is not just something for you, but for everyone else as well. You not only help yourself but others as well.

        • I have never claimed to be a representative of the SEA, nor am I. I am an American citizen who is sick and tired of reading all the complaints about Social Security here, most of which are about non-existent problems and ridiculous myths. Everyone clamors for their “rights,” but no one seems to recall that as a citizen, you also have a responsibility to do your part. Everything you could possibly want or need to know about every facet of our government is made available to you on countless websites. The very people can do is read the information there before condemning the SSA and the rest of the government for false beliefs. If you’ve time to make nasty comments and criticize here, you can certainly click around the site to find the answers you need – the correct information straight from the original SOURCE. Yes – SHEESH!


  6. I have a problem with all the years I work through out my life time it since like they miscalculated my earnings on my early years of work since 1967 to 1968 1969 there is no way that I was making ala little bid more of one thousand dollars a year they not even show my part time jobs from JFK airport allied company and also work part time at sunny Dale farm why you people don’t look at that and let me know about it thank you

    • You will need to go into your local Social Security office to correct your earnings record, Samuel. When you go, you will need to provide proper ID and evidence of your missing earnings, such as W-2s, pay stubs, etc. Please read our publication “How to Correct Your Social Security Earnings Record” for more information. You can call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you’ll have a shorter wait time if you call later in the week. Thanks.

  7. I will be able to collect social security at FRA in 2021. I understand the calculations take into consideration the past 35 years of employment. On my yearly updates for SSA it states I will receive $**** if I continue to earn the same amount until I retire. I was a stay at home mom until 1987 so my early earnings are $0. Is there any way to calculate what benefit would be if I only earn half of what I did the last years of employment. Kim.

  8. I am 63 and retired. I will not begin to withdraw from Soc Sec until I am 66 and will, instead, draw from my savings until I reach 66 (FRA) and use my annuity. I would like to use the online calculator to estimate my retirement benefits, but it is based on how much I made last year and assumes I will make a similar salary until I retire. This does not apply to my situation as noted above. Is there some other way to estimate benefits if I am not working and draw from my 401K and annuity until I turn 66?

    • Thank you for contacting us. Our Retirement Estimator gives you future estimates of your monthly Social Security benefits based on your actual Social Security earnings record. In addition, we have a variety of other calculators to help you plan for the future. Which calculator you choose depends on what you want to do. Also, we suggest that you create a “my Social Security” account. With your personal my Social Security account, you can verify your earnings, get your Social Security Statement, and much more. Happy planning!

  9. I am 65 and I have one year to go till I eligible for full retirement benefits. I work and my income for 2017 will exceed the earnings limit by 10,000 to pay medical bills not paid by insurance. A reduction in benefits will cause an economic hardship for me. What are my options?

  10. I just signed up for social security, but, I noticed 2016 wages have not been recorded yet,, will they pick this up when going over my application ? Iam sure it would make a difference in my monthly amount. I searched for the anwser to my question, but was unable to find one. Thank You,

  11. This stuff is very well written. The blog post was informational to readers who have a good value for articles. We look forward for more of the same. He has outlined each and everything extremely nicely and in brief.


  12. What s the social Security Number, 07011…………….1
    I am extremely grate full to you
    Best regards

  13. If when reviewed for continuation of your SSDI benefits at the 3 or 7 year period. If deemed able to go back to work, does SS give you a certain period with continue pay for a certain amount of time so you can find a job or do they just cut you office “cold turkey?”

  14. I just looked at my 2018 statement, which says that I would earn over $ 130.00 LESS every month should I retire at the same age (full retirement age) as in comparison on the 2017 statement. What happened?

    • Hi Vera, thank you for your question. The Social Security Statement’s estimated retirement benefits are based on assumptions about future earnings. Social Security assumes that future earnings are going to be the same as the latest full year’s reported earnings. For example, if the worker earned $40,000 last year, it is assumed he or she will earn that much in the current and future years. Zero earnings in the last 2 years will result in the assumption of no current and future earnings.

      Social Security has an online calculator called a Retirement Estimator that provides immediate retirement benefit estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record. Plus, it also allows you to create “what if” scenarios. You can, for example, change your “stop work” dates or expected future earnings to create and compare different retirement alternatives.

      See our Benefits Planner: Retirement web page for more on obtaining benefit estimates.

    • Hi Allan, thanks for reading our blog. If you attain full retirement age (66) in 2018, the limit on your earnings is $45,360 but we only count earnings before the month you reach full retirement age. Beginning with the month you reach full retirement age, your earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn. If you are under your full retirement age for the entire year, then we deduct $1 from benefit payments for every $2 earned above the annual limit. For 2018, that limit is $17,040.

      For more details, visit our Retirement Planner: Getting Benefits While Working and our Retirement Earnings Test Calculator. Hope this helps!

    • Thank you for your question Deborah. Your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are paid based on your previous work and you paying into the Social Security program, other income will not affect your monthly benefit amount.

  15. I noticed an error on my earnings report. I called the office 1-800 number given above, on hold for one hour, still nothing. Tried local office, no number, told to make appointment-but only number is the 1-800 number that I am still on line for over an hour with. So, no will talk to me, I’m told to make an appointment, but must call the same number that has people on line for over an hour. How do I correct this if SSA refuses to answer phone? Can’t go to the office, because I need an appointment….that I can’t get unless I call…..can’t call because SSA doesn’t answer. HELP!!

    • Hi Amy, thank you for using our blog. We are so sorry to hear about the difficulties you encountered with Social Security. To correct your earnings record, you will need to provide us evidence of your earnings, such as W-2s, pay stubs, etc. If you don’t have the evidence that we require, call your former employers to find out if they can help you. Once you’ve obtained your evidence, you can mail or bring the documents to your local Social Security office.

  16. Today is Nov. 3, 2018 and my 2017 earnings are not yet posted. Is this the same for all people or is there a problem with my account?

  17. How do collect my deceased hudbsbd’s SSN. I work full-time and turn 66 on 7/10. When do I make an appointmbin buffalo Ny. What do I have to bring besides a death certificate. I have his benefit matrix. Is there something else to bring?????’

    Thank you. I made a visits last year to waive Medicare as I work for a state college. I was told to come in. What number do I call and when should I technically receive his Beni first? 30 days past my 7/10 birtfday.

  18. If i continue to work after 65 and i don’t apply for medicare B will i get a fine for when i do apply( Once i fully retire)?

    • Thanks for your question, Elaine. If you are covered under a group health plan based on current employment, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that will let you sign up for Medicare Part B after age 65. You have an 8-month SEP to sign up for Part A and/or Part B that starts at one of these times (whichever happens first):
      • The month after the employment ends
      • The month after group health plan insurance based on current employment ends.

      Usually, you don’t pay a late enrollment penalty if you sign up during a SEP.

      You should always check with your health benefits advisor, or health plan representative to see what’s best for you. To learn more about the Medicare enrollment periods visit http://www.Medicare.gov. Please call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 if you need further assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

  19. I am receiving benefits and applied for my spouse to receive her benefits but was told she needed an up to date Resident Alien Card. We have completed the required forms and paid all the fees for that and are waiting for her new card. I’m retired military and my wife has her dependent I.D.. card and receives Health benefits and Commisary and Base Exchange benefits. Is her Military I.D. satisfactory proof for us to get her benefits started? We really need this to happen soonest.

    • Hi, Gregory. For your wife’s security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community continue to work with our offices with specific questions. She can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. Generally, she will have a shorter wait if she calls later in the day. She can also contact her local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

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