Retirement & Financial Planning Report

Earnings not reported by an employer could lower monthly Social Security payments.

The Social Security Administration has advised that those who have paid into that system—in the federal government, nearly all active employees apart from a small number under standard CSRS—regularly check their earnings records with the agency and correct any errors.

“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,” it said in a posting.

“Sooner is definitely better when it comes to identifying and reporting problems with your earnings record. As time passes, you may no longer have easy access to past tax documents, and some employers may no longer be in business or able to provide past payroll information,” it added.

While it’s the responsibility of employers to provide accurate earnings information, only individuals can review their lifetime records to verify that they are complete and correct, it says.

It advises using the “my Social Security account” feature on ssa.gov—those who don’t already have a personal account there can create one—and under the My Home tab, select Earnings Record. That will bring up the agency’s record of taxed earnings; then compare them to personal records such as W-2s and tax returns. “Keep in mind that earnings from this year and last year may not be listed,” it says.

A publication on that site titled How to Correct Your Social Security Earnings Record provides detailed instructions for correcting errors.

For related information on Social Security and federal benefits, see the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset and Social Security at ask.FEDweek.com