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Correcting the record on your Social Security earnings

Are you counting on Social Security? You should

Are you counting on Social Security? You should check this document to ensure you get everything you're entitled to. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Bill Oxford

If you’re like most people, you’re counting on Social Security to help finance your retirement. But if you find yourself in that situation, have you checked your annual Social Security Earnings Estimate Statement?

If you haven't, you’ve got company. Less than 50 percent of the 39 million people registered for electronic “my Social Security” accounts as of Sept. 30, had checked their earnings statements in the previous 12 months, according to a new report from the Social Security Administration’s inspector general.

If you're among that number, you’re missing an opportunity to correct the record. And that could prove costly to you.

Mistakes happen

“Once in a while, the Social Security Administration has an error in your earnings history or wage reports. A miscalculation or nonrecording … in any year can impact what they owe you in payments,” says Nicholle Overkamp, CEO of Wilcox Financial in upstate Williamsville.

Tim Adams, a registered Social Security analyst in Dayton, Ohio, explains some of the ways such mistakes can happen: “An employer reported your earnings using an incorrect spelling of your name or wrong Social Security number. Or maybe you changed your name and didn't tell Social Security.”

Take charge

Says Overkamp, “Review your statements. SSA gives you three years, three months and 15 days from the year wages were erroneous to fix the mistake.”

And you don’t have to wait to get your Social Security Estimate Statement in the mail. Create a “my Social Security” account at ssa.gov and check it there.

If a mistake is made, it’s your responsibility to have it corrected. “You’ll need proof, tax forms, W-2 or tax return" to fix the problem, says Overkamp, "depending on how you’re compensated.”

Jeffrey Eglow, chief investment officer for Guardian Wealth Advisory in Boca Raton, Florida, says, “Go to the SSA office and sit down with them. They’ll help and answer your questions.”

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