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

August 10, 2017 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: November 3, 2023

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 our website to set up or sign in to your personal 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.
  • 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, How to Correct Your Social Security Earnings Record.

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 on our Benefit Calculators page 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 with our publication, Your Retirement Benefit: How It’s Figured.

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.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Dell S.

    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?

    • R.F.

      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!

  2. Kim B.

    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.

    • A.C.

      Hi, Kim. You can use our Online Retirement Estimator at to obtain estimates on your future retirement benefits. This tool allows you to change information for what if scenarios as you described. We hope this helps.

  3. Samuel c.

    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

    • R.F.

      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.

  4. DAVID J.


  5. Lesly F.

    Retired or be disable…!

  6. Harry

    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.

    • Marc

      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.

      • Dennis

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

        • teach

          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

          • R.F.

            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.

        • Donna M.

          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!

          • Tom

            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.

        • Marc

          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!

  7. Eugene T.

    November 17th 1955

  8. John

    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.

    • Eugene T.

      I will be 62 this year in November 1955

  9. Carmen

    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.

    • John

      When you file to collect on your own record you are given an opportunity to view your earnings record, be sure to ask if not offered.

      • Sylvia

        I turned 62 this year and still working full time. My husband passed away 4 weeks ago. Are you saying I can draw income on his social security and then also draw on mine when I reach retirement age?

    • AKA

      I’ve drawn retirement for 12 years and I can still view my earnings record. I don’t know what the glitch is in your case.

    • A.C.

      Thanks for your question, Carmen. Please create a my Social Security account. This online account will allow you to review your earnings record, and more! We hope this helps!

      • Linda

        Hello, can anyone tell me how to get my earnings records… beginning from 1970 ? Not sure if IRS will go back that far.
        Thank you, Linda

        • R.F.

          Hello Linda, you can get your personal Social Security Statement online by using your my Social Security account. Your online Statement gives you secure and convenient access to your earnings records. If you need a detailed earnings statement that includes my employers or a certified record of my yearly earnings and taxes, click here!

  10. david r.

    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!

    • John

      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.

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