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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. Gregory A.

    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.

    • A.C.

      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.

  2. Elaine C.

    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)?

    • V.V.

      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 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.

  3. Carrie

    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.

  4. Tim

    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?

    • V.V.

      Thank you for your question, Tim. If the earnings missing from your Social Security record are for the current year or last year, you don’t need to worry. Because these earnings are recent, we may not have recorded them yet. They should appear on a later Statement. See our factsheet on How To Correct Your Social Security Earnings Record for additional information.

  5. Amy

    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!!

    • V.V.

      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.

  6. Deborah B.

    If I only get SSD and when my father passed away he left me money .. will that affect my SSD? I do not receive SSI

    • R.F.

      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.

  7. Allan G.

    How much can I earn at age 65 in 2018.

    • V.V.

      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!

  8. Vera L.

    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?

    • V.V.

      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.

  9. Lauren O.

    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?”

  10. Patrick F.

    when on SSD how much can I earn working without starting the 9 month trial period?

    • R.F.

      Thank you for your question, Patrick. Please visit our Benefits Planner: Disability for complete information on guidelines for when you return to work. Thanks!

Comments are closed.