Some Social Security estimates were wrong: What you need to know

14.8.2019

Over the next 20 years, an average of 10,000 baby boomers a day will apply for Social Security:

In an odd quirk, Social Security finally acknowledged in early August that a glitch caused the agency to send out some incorrect"On Request" paper statements. The troubled reports were triggered if you asked for information on your Social Security account via a paper form, known as an SSA-7004.

Social Security said a coding issue caused errors on a very small number of the"On Request" statements that were issued since 2017. Hinkle said the statements displayed the correct estimated benefit amounts but the mistakes were made when the projected benefits were applied to incorrect ages at which the person would receive them.

And frankly, we likely wouldn't even know about this mess if it weren't for a Social Security gadfly who rang the alarm bells.

Laurence Kotlikoff, professor of economics at Boston University, wrote in a June 25 column in Forbes:"I’ve learned that Social Security is providing benefit statements that are flat out incorrect."

The figure for claiming at age 62, for example, was nearly as good as the dollar amount you'd get for waiting to claim at full retirement age – which was age 66 and four months in this person's case. It doesn't work that way.

With those kind of numbers – which are clearly wrong – why bother waiting beyond age 62 to a few months past 66?

But he said the client's retirement benefit at age 62 could not be 97.7% of the amount offered at the full retirement age, he said.

"Social Security has pulled lots of whoppers over the years," said Kotlikoff, a longtime critic.

Here's when you can get full Social Security benefits

"We were alerted that there might be a problem with some of the information on some statements," Social Security said in its email.

Social Security said the mistakes were isolated to On Request Statements that were requested by people who:

Indicated on the SSA-7004 that they planned to stop working at age 66.

"I don't understand how this happened because it's a uniform report," Kotlikoff said.

To be sure, most people aren't getting their statements via paper requests. Even so, you want to realize that mistakes can happen and pay attention along the way.

Social Security prefers that people create a my Social Security account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount to view and print a personalized statement.

Eskovitz said you want to make sure that you check your earnings history regularly while you're working so that you can correct any mistakes early in the process.

AARP, for example, has its own resource center at www.aarp.org/SocialSecurity.

Another online product called Maximize My Social Security, which is marketed by Kotlikoff, costs $40 a year for households. The website also offers a way to ask questions about Social Security called"Ask Larry." The site also lists some questions and answers given to other consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission has seen a dramatic increase in reports from consumers that fraudsters are calling to say their Social Security numbers are connected to a crime and their bank accounts will be frozen or seized.

The call might even look like it's from Social Security on your caller ID. Don't fall for it.

313-222-8876 or stompor@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter

Read more: USA TODAY

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