Unless you think our federal government never makes a mistake, there's something you should check to make sure you're receiving -- or will receive, when the time comes -- the full Social Security benefits owed you.

It's historic
The Social Security Administration, or SSA, uses your earnings history to calculate how much you'll get back in benefits once you retire. The longer you work, and the more you earn -- to a point, anyway -- the higher your monthly payments will be once you start collecting.

Thus your earnings history is the key to everything, and you should take a careful look at your Social Security statement to make sure all earnings information has been properly recorded in your work history. (You can view your statement by creating an account on the Social Security Administration website.)

The SSA says earnings omissions may have happened for several reasons:

  • Your employer reported your earnings using the wrong name or Social Security number.
  • Your employer reported your earnings incorrectly.
  • You got married or divorced and changed your name but never reported the change to Social Security.
  • You worked using a Social Security number that did not belong to you.

You might notice the SSA doesn't mention the fact it could also make a mistake -- so let's mentally add that to the list, shall we?

Expert advice
I recently interviewed Jean Setzfand, vice president of financial security at AARP, in her Washington, D.C. office. In the video below, Jean talks about the national average for Social Security benefits and emphasizes the need to check your earnings history.