The older I get, the more happy I am to receive and review my Annual Social Security Statement. It arrived yesterday, just as it does every September. This is one government information distribution process that seems to work right.
I’m now less than three years away from being eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. Therefore, I have a high level of confidence that any substantial changes that are made to improve the financial condition of the so-called Social Security Trust Fund (actually a collection of government IOUs) will not apply to me. I will be carefully monitoring this to determine if I should apply for benefits earlier rather than later just to lock in something that is about to be taken away from those not already in the system. Otherwise, my present intention is to wait at least until I reach full retirement age.
One change I may not escape is if Social Security benefits become “means tested.” In a cruel twist to punish those who have saved for retirement, the retirement benefit levels paid by Social Security may be reduced for those who have other sources of income. This is yet another reason that everyone in retirement should have assets that will provide benefits to you personally but not be counted as income. These include a place to live and a car to drive that are paid for.
The Social Security Statement comes with a short advisory piece called “Thinking of Retiring.” Much of the information repeats each year. Other information is new, particularly the links provided to other government resources on the web. These are relevant to baby boomers who are interested in their own retirement planning as I am.
One of the newer linked sites is at the SEC which is now publishing investing information specifically for those entering retirement. (Link)
Another useful site is mymoney.gov, including a section on Planning for Retirement.
For this year’s Social Security Statement, I primarily checked two items. First, I verified that the earnings reported for 2009 were correct. Second, I checked the estimated benefits for my full retirement age to confirm that they had increased somewhat over last year’s statement. This should be the case because my average earnings over my full working lifetime is increasing. If the average earnings increases, the Social Security retirement benefit should also increase, although not proportionately so. The benefit level scales are more heavily weighted towards the lower earning levels.
My estimated full retirement benefit (expressed in today’s dollars) increased by $50/month (to $2,466) compared to the 2009 estimate. I will factor this change into the Failsafe Retirement Income Plan we are working on.
Here is a link to more information on reading your Annual Social Security Statement.
There is a way for you to obtain a very quick estimate of your future Social Security retirement benefits, expressed in either today’s dollars or in future inflation adjusted dollars. Use this Social Security Quick Calculator. I tried it and it came reasonably close to the estimate provided by my annual statement.
For a more accurate online estimate that is based on your own earnings history, use the Retirement Estimator.
Do you enjoy reading your annual Social Security Statement?
How does what you read affect your retirement planning?