I don't pay much attention to the "Estimated Benefits" section. I figure that would be a lot like trekking thru the Mojave desert, seeing a palm-tree lagoon over a distant sandhill, and heading right for it. But get close enough, and the thing vanishes. A mirage.
The way I see it, there's pretty much one useful part to this statement, and that's the "Your Earnings Record at a Glance" section on the third page. In the wonderful book Your Money or Your Life (YMOYL), authors Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin suggest that each of us tally up just how much money we've earned throughout the course of our lives. Among the purposes of this:
The Social Security statement's "Earnings Record" makes such an estimation pretty much a snap. Once this is done, if we follow the path of YMOYL, we would next create our balance sheet, thus determining our current net worth.
"[Your net worth] is what you currently have to show for your total lifetime income," Dominguez and Robin write. "The rest is memories and illusions, as far as the reality of balance sheets is concerned."
Illusions, huh? Looks like mirages — those induced by data from your Social Security statement, anyway — are tough to avoid, no matter what.