We asked David Freitag, a financial planning consultant with MassMutual, and this is what he had to say:
As the calendar moves into the New Year, it is always a good idea to add some essential to-do’s to your resolution list. Some of those important to-do’s involve your Social Security account and your Medicare choices.
Resolution #1 —
Open your own my-Account on socialsecurity.gov.
With a my-Account in place, you can download your full Social Security statement and see what your projected benefits will be at age 62, your full retirement age, and at age 70. Importantly, opening a Social Security my-Account also helps protect your Social Security record from data thieves. With your specific username and password in place, gaining unauthorized access to your Social Security account is much more difficult.
Resolution #2 —
Review your earning history.
Your Social Security benefits are based on 35 years of earnings. Be sure that the Social Security Administration is tracking your contributions and recording the correct amount of FICA tax you have paid in the past year. If there is an error, you have time to get that error fixed. People who have multiple employers, or have changed jobs in the past year, are more likely to find a mistake in their earnings report. In almost all cases, the error will not be in your favor. If you have paid the taxes, then you should receive the correct benefit.
Resolution #3 —
Learn about Social Security optimization strategies.
If you were born on or before January 1, 1954, you will want to understand how access to a restricted filing might benefit your retirement income plan. If you were born after January 1, 1954, you need to understand early filing penalties and the Social Security earnings test. Both can have a significant impact on your retirement benefits.
Resolution #4 —
Learn about your Medicare choices.
There are two basic Medicare programs to review. One option is “Traditional Medicare”: Medicare Part A, B, D, and a supplement. Another choice is “Medicare Advantage,” which is a combination of Part A, B, and D. Each program has advantages and disadvantages. Be sure you understand the differences and how they might apply to your unique situation.