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Social Security Rolls Out New, Shorter Statements

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What You Need to Know

  • A small percentage of online account holders have started receiving the redesigned Social Security statement.
  • The redesigned statement shows the effects of starting benefits each year between age 62 and 70.
  • The new statement, on which the SSA is still gathering feedback, is down to two pages from four.

The Social Security Administration kicked off a “soft launch” for a redesigned Social Security statement that is being targeted at a “small percentage” of my Social Security online account users who aren’t currently receiving benefits, an SSA spokeswoman told ThinkAdvisor on Thursday.

The soft launch started May 1 and represents the “first step” for the launch, she said. “Throughout the soft launch we will continue to gather feedback and make updates as needed,” she added.

The details were provided two days after Jeffrey Levine, chief planning officer at Buckingham Wealth Partners, tweeted that he received the newly designed statement, which showed  two significant new features.

First, the redesigned statement has two pages, down from four. Second, rather than just ages 62, 67 and 70, the new format shows what the estimated monthly benefits would be for each of nine years if you start receiving benefits from ages 62-70 — in a personalized graphic with a series of horizontal bars.

“Hey #fintwit!” he tweeted. “Has ANYONE seen a new Social Security statement format? Just pulled my statement and it’s TOTALLY different. Same basic info, but 2 pages instead of 4, coloring is ‘off,’ and has a graphic on the top right that shows retirement benefit each year 62-70!”

Levine went on to tweet redacted images of the two pages of the redesigned statement that he received.

Michael Finke, professor of wealth management at The American College of Financial Services, gave a thumbs-up to the statement redesign on Wednesday.

“The example that Jeff Levine showed on Twitter provided a much clearer graphical illustration of the income increase from delayed claiming,” Finke told ThinkAdvisor. “This can help workers recognize the advantage of waiting to claim benefits to increase lifetime income payments, which are even more valuable in a low interest rate environment.”

Several advisors who saw Levine’s example on Twitter agree. “That’s a great improvement on the old statements,” tweeted Andrew Sego, CFP.

But one actuary, Gary Edwards, pointed out in a tweet: “It still needs to show benefits you HAVE earned, instead of only what you WILL earn.”

SSA’s Redesign Details

“The Social Security Statement is one of the most valuable and effective tools a person can use to learn about their earnings and future Social Security benefits,” according to SSA. “It is a very high agency priority to educate people in clear and plain terms about Social Security’s programs and services, and about their potential future benefits and current earnings record.”

With that in mind, “based on extensive research, we are redesigning the Social Security Statement, with an aim to streamline and clarify the messaging, and make it easier to find key information at a glance,” the SSA spokeswoman told ThinkAdvisor.

“Earlier this year, we also published nine supplemental fact sheets online behind my Social Security, to further amplify certain messages customized to a person’s age and earnings situation,” she added, noting “users receive links to the fact sheets when they access their Statement.”

Related: Social Security COLA for 2022 Could Be Highest Since 2009

(Photo: Shutterstock)