By Mark Pitts
AF&PA Executive Director, Printing-Writing, Pulp and Tissue
Haven't checked your retirement benefits statement lately? Due to changes made by the Social Security Administration (SSA), you are not alone. A closer look at the picture proves the value of paper in the digital age.
Many of us who have been working for several decades dream of the day when our work life ends and retirement begins. Our vision may be to spend more time with loved ones, take that bucket list adventure trip or leisurelywatch more sunsets melt below the horizon. But for dreams to become reality, financial planning is necessary.For many, that Social Security paycheck deduction over many years will play a vital and perhaps the most important role that retirement life will depend upon.
While the requirement to pay your Social Security taxes has not changed over the years, the method the SSAchooses to inform you of your accumulated benefits has. There was a time when every working American 25 and older not already receiving Social Security benefits would receive a statement by mail annually from the SSA,informing individuals of their benefits and providing a chance to ensure accuracy of earnings records. In 2010, 155 million statements were mailed.
In 2012, SSA implemented my Social Security, an online account where registered users can access theirstatements online at any time. Nearly 2 million people registered, and 96 percent of users accessed their statement online. A great start, right?
Since then, SSA has modified the age groups to whom it sends statements. In 2018, only individuals aged 60 and older who are not already receiving Social Security benefits are issued paper statements. The number of individuals registered on my Social Security has grown to 38.8 million and the cost of issuing statements has been reduced from $64.5 million on 2010 to $7.6 million in 2018. Sounds like a triumph for both digital solutions and the budget.
But hold on. While 96 percent of my Social Security users accessed their online statement in 2012, only 43percent of users in 2018 did so. That leaves 22 million people in the dark regarding the Social Security benefits upon retirement, or disability benefits should they become disabled.
So while technology may provide a lower cost solution for government agencies, this is another example where the digital solution has failed the mission of the SSA statement: to inform individuals about their Social Security benefits, help individuals plan for their financial futures and ensure individuals' earnings records are accurate.
Once again, paper works just fine.