Personal Finance

Millions of Americans aren't receiving Social Security statements in the mail. A new bill aims to change that

Key Points
  • The Social Security Administration used to mail workers annual statements that detailed their earnings and estimated future benefits.
  • That tradition stopped in 2011. Today, paper statements are mailed only to individuals ages 60 and up who have not created an online account.
  • Now some Congressional lawmakers are pushing to reinstate those statements for all workers ages 25 and up, unless they choose to access that information online instead.
Jim McGuire | Getty Images

A new proposal in Congress aims to resurrect an old tradition: mailing Social Security statements to your home.

Since 2011, the Social Security Administration has cut back on the number of paper statements it puts in the mail in order to save money.

A new bill, called the Know Your Social Security Act, aims to reinstate those statements for all workers ages 25 and up.

Currently, workers ages 60 and up who are not receiving benefits and who have not signed on for online accounts still receive those mailings. In past years, the agency has also tried mailing statements to individuals every five years starting from age 25.

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The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Reps. John Larson, D-Conn., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., along with Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Larson has also proposed another bill, the Social Security 2100 Act, that would be a sweeping overhaul of the program in order to restore its solvency to the year 2100.

All workers can access the information contained in the statements — including earnings, contributions and estimated future benefits — by creating an online account at the MySocialSecurity website.

However, the bill sponsors argue that online access is inadequate. That's because just 2 out of 5 people with My Social Security accounts accessed their online statements in 2018.

In 2019, statements were mailed to about 15 million people. Currently, more than 175 million workers have earnings that are covered by the Social Security program.

In addition to reinstating mailed statements, the Know Your Social Security Act also seeks to clarify the procedures the Social Security Administration should follow in the digital age.

How Social Security benefits are calculated on a $45,000 salary
How Social Security benefits are calculated

For example, under the proposal, the agency would not have to send a paper statement to individuals who view that information online and actively decline to receive a mailed document for that year. Mailed statements would be provided if a worker requests it.

The legislation's future is uncertain as it has yet to be considered by the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees.

It echoes another proposal introduced earlier this year, the BETTER Act, which also included a provision to reinstate paper mailings.

Groups, including the Coalition for Paper Options, which advocates for paper-based financial notices, support this latest proposal.

"Millions and millions of people are making better decisions when they have this piece of paper in front of them," said John Runyan, executive director of the Coalition for Paper Options.

Research shows that workers have been prompted to change their plans to add additional sources of retirement income or consulted a financial advisor after looking at the statements, Runyan said.

"The evidence is clear that this statement works, and it moves people toward a better retirement future," Runyan said.

Other groups who support the proposal include AARP, the Association of Mature American Citizens and Justice in Aging, among others.

Social Security projected to be depleted in 2035: Report
Social Security projected to be depleted in 2035: Report