The vast majority of Americans either receive Social Security benefits or can expect to get them in the future. But if you're not actually getting money put into your bank account month in and month out, odds are you don't have a good idea of how much Social Security will pay to you and your family when the time comes.

It's extremely difficult to figure out on your own what your Social Security benefits will look like in retirement or in the event you're disabled. Fortunately, there's a free and easy-to-use tool you can use to get a ton of valuable information about your benefits. Now more than ever, you need to understand exactly what to expect -- so that if and when politicians in Washington suggest changes to the program, you'll be able to evaluate what it means for you and your loved ones.

American flag with ripples.

Image source: Getty Images.

Why now?

Election Day is history, but as of midday on Thursday, Nov. 5, several states haven't yet published final vote tallies. That's important not only for the presidential race but also for determining control of both houses of Congress, which would be the source of any legislation to make changes to Social Security.

Both presidential candidates have suggested major changes that would affect Social Security. As a result, regardless of whether President Donald Trump is reelected to a second term or Democrat Joe Biden becomes the 46th president of the United States, there's likely to be a push for legislation that could have a dramatic effect on your benefits.

As an ordinary citizen, it's sometimes hard to understand what impact a particular proposal would have on your finances. That's why checking your Social Security now is so important: It gives you a baseline from which to compare proposed changes when they come.

So how do I check my Social Security?

There's a great way to get a thorough understanding of what Social Security benefits you've earned so far in your career. The Social Security Administration provides constant access to your Social Security statement via its website, with information updated annually to reflect your work history.

To get your Social Security statement, you'll want to go to the my Social Security website. If it's your first time visiting the site, you'll be able to create your account and look at your statement online. Once you're enrolled, you can go back and visit the site whenever you want to see how your benefits change and grow as your career progresses.

What will my Social Security statement tell me?

Your Social Security statement has a lot of information packed into just a few pages. You'll learn:

  • What you'll receive in retirement benefits, whether you claim at full retirement age, early at 62, or late at 70.
  • What you'd receive if you became disabled right now.
  • What your family members would receive if you passed away.
  • How much you've paid in total payroll taxes toward Social Security and Medicare during your career.
  • Your full career earnings record, broken down by year.

Armed with this information, it'll be easier for you to evaluate any proposals to change your Social Security benefits. As an added bonus, you can also take the opportunity to make sure that the information the SSA has on your earnings is correct -- and if it's not, you can do what it takes to fix it.

Protect your Social Security

Social Security plays a huge role in the financial security of tens of millions of Americans right now, and hundreds of millions more will expect the same when the time is right. By checking your Social Security statement right now, you'll be better informed to demand that your elected officials -- whoever they turn out to be -- do the right thing in defending your hard-earned benefits.