The Social Security Administration is now providing workers with online statements of the estimated benefits they will get when they retire, replacing the paper ones the agency used to mail out.
Until last year, the agency mailed yearly statements that showed the benefits a worker would collect if he or she retired at age 62, age 66 or age 70. It stopped the mailings to save an estimated $70 million a year.
This year, the agency resumed mailing the statements to people age 60 and above, but younger workers were left out.
The agency announced Tuesday that workers 18 and older can now go to www.ssa.gov, where they can create a secure account to see their information.
The online statements are part of a broader government effort to use new technologies to communicate with taxpayers and distribute benefits. The federal government is phasing out paper checks for all benefit programs, including Social Security.
New beneficiaries had to start receiving electronic payments last year. Almost all beneficiaries will have to switch to electronic payments by next March.
The online Social Security statements include a year-by-year history of taxable earnings — so people can check for mistakes — as well as the total amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes paid over a worker’s lifetime.
The statements provide estimates of monthly benefits, based on current earnings and when a worker plans to retire. Workers can claim early retirement benefits starting at age 62. Full benefits are available at 66, a threshold that is gradually increasing to 67 for people born in 1960 or later.
Workers can get higher benefits if they wait until they turn 70 to apply.
“Our new online Social Security statement is simple, easy to use and provides people with estimates they can use to plan for their retirement,” Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue said. “The online statement also provides estimates for disability and survivors benefits, making the statement an important financial-planning tool. People should get in the habit of checking their online statement each year, around their birthday, for example.”
Advocates for older Americans were unhappy when the paper statements were discontinued last year, and some don’t think the online statements are an adequate substitute, said Web Phillips, a senior policy adviser for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
“The whole purpose of the statement was to make sure everyone got important information about Social Security,” Phillips said. Without a paper statement, many Americans won’t get the information, he said.