Millions of Americans are ignoring an important tool for retirement planning that only takes seconds to find

You can check your Social Security benefits online at any time. DouglasJennifer/Shutterstock
  • The Social Security Administration makes it easy to find out how much money you’re entitled to in Social Security benefits.
  • Anyone can create a free My Social Security account to find out what their pretax monthly benefit will be based on current earnings, at any time.
  • Nearly 39 million Americans have an online account, but only 43% signed on to check it over a 12-month period, the New York Times reported.
  • Expected Social Security income is an important factor in calculating how much you need to have saved before retirement.
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There’s a ridiculously simple retirement planning tool that millions of Americans aren’t utilising, the New York Times reported.

According to an audit by the inspector general for the Social Security Administration, 38.8 million American workers are registered for online accounts where they can check their future Social Security benefits, but only 43% did so in the 2018 fiscal year.

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The Social Security Administration automatically sends annual paper statements via mail to every American worker age 60 and older who is not yet receiving benefits, as well as statements to anyone else upon request.

It only sent out about 14.5 million statements last year, which means fewer than 35 million people total saw their Social Security benefits information in that 12-month period, wrote the Times’ Ann Carrns.

These statements are incredibly helpful for retirement planning and include a summary of annual earnings; the pretax monthly Social Security check the person, or their family, will be entitled to and how that could change based on the date they leave work; the potential disability benefit; as well as the amount of Social Security taxes paid by the worker and their employer(s) to date.

While Social Security benefits alone won’t cover a comfortable retirement for the vast majority of people, it’s valuable supplemental income that should be factored into calculations for how much a worker needs to have saved before they can retire.

Between 2010 and 2018, the number of paper statements mailed, whether automatically or by request, dropped from about 155 million to 14.5 million, due in large part to budgetary issues and the advent of the online portal, My Social Security, in 2012, according to the audit. My Social Security allows people to access their Social Security benefit information online and is also helpful for monitoring for identity theft, Carrns reported.

Setting up an account is a simple as heading to the Social Security website, entering your Social Security number and birthdate, and answering a few questions about your identity. The agency sends an annual reminder (usually three months before your birthday) to log on and check your statement, but it can be accessed online at any time.

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Read the full New York Times story »