Social Security is the cornerstone of retirement for millions of people. Yet some Americans remain largely ignorant about key aspects of how this program works, a new survey has found.
Among those ages 55 to 65 — characterized as “near-retirees” — 29% know so little that they failed a basic knowledge quiz about Social Security retirement benefits, according to the latest MassMutual Social Security consumer poll. The poll surveyed 1,500 Americans who are nearing retirement but have not filed for Social Security retirement benefits yet.
Doing a bit better than those who failed, 36% of respondents earned a grade of D. Only 1% answered all 12 true/false statements on the quiz correctly to receive an A+.
Such a lack of knowledge about Social Security can set up retirees to make some poor decisions.
Fortunately, the news from the poll was not all bad. For starters, knowledge about Social Security seems to be improving. Since 2015, the percentage of survey respondents who failed the MassMutual test has shrunk dramatically:
- 2015: 62%
- 2018: 47%
- 2020: 33%
- 2021: 35%
- 2022: 29%
Those in the 55-to-65-years age bracket also have a solid understanding of some key aspects of Social Security. For example:
- 89% of respondents understood their benefits would be reduced if they received Social Security benefits before reaching their full retirement age.
- 82% knew taking benefits while continuing to work before full retirement age might result in reduced monthly checks.
- 72% understood that spouses can receive Social Security benefits even if they have no work history.
Still, near-retirees have some work to do if they are to better understand a program that will have a deep and lasting impact on most of their lives.
For example, the online poll found that 32% of near-retirees did not know that when a spouse dies, the surviving spouse cannot collect both his or her full benefit and the late spouse’s full benefit.
Under Social Security rules, the surviving spouse receives the larger of the two benefit amounts.
Getting answers to Social Security questions
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Learn more about the service in “A Simple Way to Maximize Your Social Security.”
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