This week, Social Security officially released its new online version of the Social Security Statement. You can find it on the left-hand side of SocialSecurity.gov, about five links down. It's a great retirement planning tool.
The information available includes your annual income since you started paying into Social Security (up to the Social Security limit); a calculation of how much Social Security you'll be eligible for when you hit retirement at 62, 66/67 and 70; how much money you and your dependents would qualify for if you were disabled; and how much your spouse and family would be eligible for if you died.
The information has been available online for several months, but you had to stumble upon it. Now that it's officially released, the security is tighter, so you'll need to go there prepared to sign up. Besides your Social Security number and date of birth, you'll have to devise a fairly complex login name and password. I had to write mine down because I'll never remember it otherwise.
If you're still nervous about someone accessing your information -- I'm not sure why you would be because it doesn't include your Social Security number -- you can block electronic access altogether, and ask to have the information sent to you via U.S. mail.
What's not there is a calculator that lets you examine all the claiming possibilities. For that, you'll have to turn to a paid calculator such as MaximizeMySocialSecurity.com. That seems ridiculous to me. Social Security's actuaries could do these same calculations and put them on its website for all of us taxpayers to use at no charge.
While you're on the Social Security website looking at your income over the years, try plugging some of those numbers into an inflation calculator. I was surprised to see that I made the equivalent of almost $37,000 my first year out of college in 1973 -- working in journalism, which has never been a high-paying occupation. I wasn't a star -- that's just what the job paid. But I don't think my children made that much on their first jobs. Making a living is tougher these days.