Sunday, August 21, 2016

Social Security Statements

Back in 2013 I noted that although the government had stopped mailing out annual Social Security Statements it was possible to obtain your statement by setting up an online account.  Unfortunately the government has recently made changes that make it impossible for me to use my online account. Near the end of July I received an email from the government stating that starting in August they were upgrading their security by requiring you to enter a code which they would send as a text message to your cell phone whenever you logged on.  Since I don't have a cell phone this means I can no longer use my online account.  And my attempt to get a statement before the changes took effect was unsuccessful as apparently they actually started sometime in July.

I found this rather annoying.  I have several online accounts with financial institutions which I can use without owning a cell phone.  So I think the government could provide acceptable security without requiring me to be able to receive text messages.  Furthermore they could at least allow you to request a mailed statement online.  Instead to be mailed a statement you have to fill out and mail in a form.  I was annoyed enough to do this and finally received my statement Saturday. My mood was not improved by the fact that it was all in Spanish. Although since the format is similar to previous statements in English it was not too hard to decipher.

My earnings for 2013-2015 seem to be correctly recorded.  I was a bit surprised that my Medicare earnings for my new job are still well under those for my final years with IBM since I had thought several years of regular (albeit small) raises had largely recovered the pay cut I took in changing jobs. There seem to be several factors that explain this.  At IBM in addition to my base salary I regularly received a small bonus (perhaps 4% or so) which I was not accounting for while comparing salaries. And my new job has a mandatory 5% 403b contribution which is exempt from Medicare tax.  As is the 1% or so I contribute my health insurance (IBM paid the entire cost).  And I won't have received my current salary for an entire year until some time in 2017.

Taking all this into account my current salary is about the same as my final salary with IBM.  Of course since 2008 the annual Social Security earnings limit (which is derived from average wage index) has increased from $102,000  to $118,500 so in a sense I am still behind.  On the other hand I have also been collecting a pension from IBM while working at my new job so I didn't really suffer a loss of income.

Added 9/8/2016:  As of September 1, 2016 the new security feature has been made optional (at least for now).  See next post.

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