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Getting your estimated Social Security benefits statement online

Social Security has gone digital. The federal retirement program, which last year stopped mailing out estimated benefit statements to everyone who has paid into the system, launched an Internet tool this month that can be used to view several aspects of your personal status. Here's how to use the online tool.

Sign up: Go to http://www.ssa.gov/mystatement to create your online account. You must have a Social Security number, email address and U.S. mailing address, and be at least 18. Create a user name and password (save them someplace safe), and set up three security questions.

Setup problems: If you have a problem setting up an account or don't want to do it from a personal computer for any reason, you can enroll at a Social Security office. To find the nearest one, go tohttps://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/FOLO/fo001.jsp and search by ZIP Code.

Extra security: If you're worried about hackers gaining access to your information, you can add an extra layer of security. With this option, a special code will be sent by text to your cellphone whenever you want to log in, and you'll need to enter that code online.

Estimates: Once in the site, you can review your annual earnings history and see estimates of what your monthly Social Security benefit will be, depending on what age you start drawing it. Note that there's an annual limit on income on which you pay Social Security taxes --$106,800 in 2011 -- so earnings above that amount will not be shown in your history.

Back to paper: Miss the paper estimated benefit statements? The government has resumed mailing them to people who are 60 or older and not yet receiving Social Security benefits. The agency also plans to send statements to wage earners when they turn 25, giving them an early look at projected benefits. Otherwise, if you want to keep receiving paper statements, the Social Security Administration will provide them upon request.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Getting your estimated Social Security benefits statement online", Scott J. Wilson, May 20, 2012

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