You might figure you don’t need to create a Social Security account until you’re ready to start collecting your money.
Actually, there are quite a few services offered by the Social Security Administration that make it worth signing up for a free account as soon as you can. Of course, it will certainly be handy once you begin receiving benefits too.
Here’s a look at the most valuable reasons to have a “my Social Security” account.
1. Protect your Social Security from identity thieves
Perhaps the most important reason to set up your Social Security account posthaste is to beat criminals to the punch.
As we explain in “Don’t Overlook This Way to Protect Your Social Security From Identity Thieves,” creating an account removes the risk of someone else making one in your name, even if they have your Social Security number.
If a thief succeeded, they could claim and divert benefits to their own bank account without your knowledge. The simple act of making an account before you technically need it prevents that, and the SSA provides ways to beef up protections on your account after you set it up.
2. Estimate your future benefits
It’s hard to plan for retirement if you’re not sure what income you’ll have to draw on. At least part of it may come from Social Security, so it’s worth setting up an account.
Those who do can plan with retirement calculators and test what their benefit might look like if they claim early, at full retirement age, or as late as age 70.
3. Estimate spousal benefits
For an even fuller retirement picture, it’s helpful to know what benefits you might be entitled to through your spouse. But as we explain in “Why You Must Sign Up for a Social Security Account Now,” Social Security statements don’t mention spousal benefits.
If both you and your spouse have online accounts, however, you can plan your benefits together.
4. Get a replacement card
If you need to get a new copy of a lost or damaged card, you may not need to visit a Social Security office at all. Through your online account can request a replacement card and “receive it in 14 days,” the SSA says.
If you want to make corrections to a card or receive one for the first time, you can at least start the process online to expedite things. But you will still end up visiting an office.
5. Check your earnings history
If you’re curious how much money you made in the past, you don’t need to dig up ancient pay stubs. A Social Security account makes it easy to check.
Simply log in and open your Social Security Statement, where you’ll be able to review your record and also learn how to report any errors that could shortchange you in the future.
6. Prove your income
As we detail in “8 Services You Didn’t Know Social Security Offers,” you may need proof of income when applying for government assistance, an apartment, a mortgage or another loan.
One place to get that proof is through your Social Security account, which can provide what’s called a “benefit verification letter.” This is available whether or not you are receiving any benefits.
7. Set up direct deposit
For those who are already receiving Social Security benefits, one of the most useful features of an online account offers is the ability to set up direct deposit or change where your money is sent. All you’ll need is your Social Security number and the details of your bank account such as the account and routing numbers.