No one checks their Social Security. Here's why you should

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Checking the amount in your Social Security helps you plan for retirement. But a new report shows most Americans aren’t doing that.

The two ways to check how much Social Security you have are online or through a paper statement sent to you in the mail. The Social Security Administration (SSA) made efforts in recent years to curb the number of paper statements by mailing only to people over age 60 who haven’t gotten benefits or created an online account yet.

In 2010, the SSA mailed out 155 million statements. In 2018, they mailed out 14.5 million statements. And while the number of users who registered for an online account went from two million in 2010 to almost 39 million in 2018, the percentage of those who actually accessed the statement fell: Only 43% of those with an online account in 2018 accessed their statement.

How to find your social security statement online

You can access your benefits through your online My Social Security account. If you don’t have an account, you can create one using your Social Security number. You’ll be asked a series of questions to confirm your identity. If you have trouble signing up, you can either contact the Social Security Administration or visit a local office.

Your online statement should include a summary of your annual earnings, the size of each check you’ll receive in retirement and how much the amount could change depending on what year you stop working. You can also elect online to have a paper statement mailed to you each year.

Viewing your statement each year helps verify all the numbers are correct and flag any signs of identity theft. If you find a discrepancy, contact the Social Security Administration (and make sure to have your tax return handy).

Social Security & retirement

You shouldn’t depend on your Social Security alone for retirement.

Investing in a 401(k) or independent retirement account can help build your nest egg, thanks to compounding interest. Working longer and retiring late also increases the size of your Social Security and other retirement accounts.

Need to save more for retirement? Here are five ways to save in five minutes or less.

Image: Samuel Zeller