Basketball, beer, and Social Security

Does it seem like every passing year gets a little shorter, while every basketball season is a little longer? And that’s not all. Closer to home for the retirement-minded, National my Social Security Week now runs for ten days, from April 4 through 13 this year.

It’s also national Organize Your Files Week, which is appropriate given the approach of Tax Day. It’s Karaoke Week as well, so if that’s your thing you can blow off a little steam when you’re done. Plus all of April is Stress Awareness Month. Of course.

Many fine things get less appreciation than they deserve. So just as tweed, Scrabble, school librarians, bats, and pecans each have their appointed moment of glory this month, so does Social Security.

The program began rather humbly as a sort of national widows-and-orphans fund, among the many changes of the New Deal. It’s grown into a huge, universal quasi-pension that most Americans are counting on. Still, many of us mistakenly believe these common myths about it. We make grim jokes about its demise. Sometimes we forget about it entirely. Perhaps most often, we more or less assume it will be there, make up some approximate amount, and move on.

The point of this week is to raise visibility a bit by encouraging people to use their mySocialSecurity accounts. If you don’t have one already, think of it as a companion to the 401(k), brokerage, or pension accounts you already access online. It’s a free, secure, and gives you direct access to your personal Social Security information. You can open yours here, right now.

Perhaps the best thing about the site is access to your Social Security Statement. This summarizes your entire earnings history and the Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid, and gives detailed estimates of your future benefit amounts.

This information is a huge help for retirement planning. While financial planners can make an educated guess about your benefit (as GuidedSavings does if you don’t have your statement,) it’s much better to know than to guess. So sign up, get your numbers, and plug them into your financial plans, since you’re probably revisiting these around tax season anyway – right?

When you’re done, why not enjoy a cold one? April 7 is both Check Your Statement Day and National Beer Day. Like Social Security, this event was also established in the 1930s by FDR – though we’re pretty sure he preferred martinis.

Image courtesy DonkeyHotey via Flickr Creative Commons