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Retirement Planning > Social Security

Most Near-Retirees Can’t Answer Basic Social Security Questions

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MassMutual recently repeated a poll it first conducted in 2015, quizzing Americans near retirement on their basic knowledge of Social Security retirement benefits.

The best that can be said about the results of the new survey is that they were an improvement on the previous ones.

One third of near-retirees failed the basic knowledge quiz, while another 19% barely passed with a grade of D — in other words, 52% of Americans approaching retirement need to beef up their knowledge base.

Take ThinkAdvisor’s Quiz: How Well Do You Know Social Security?

On the other side of the spectrum, only 3% of respondents answered all 12 true/false statements correctly.

In MassMutual’s 2015 poll, only one person got all answers correct and 62% of those 50 and older failed. In 2018, 47% failed.

“Hats off to those who got perfect and passing scores, as that’s a promising signal that when it comes time to file for Social Security retirement benefits, they’ve got a good handle on the basic facts,” Michael Fanning, head of MassMutual U.S., said in a statement.

“Our job now is to hone in on those who didn’t do so well as they are the ones that could be leaving money on the table if they do not make the optimal filing decision for their personal needs, which could impact their retirement income stream for the rest of their life.”

PSB Research conducted an online poll consisting of 12 true/false statements from March 17 to March 30 among 1,500 Americans between 55 and 65 (raised from 50+ in earlier polls) who had not filed for Social Security retirement benefits.

Respondents’ answers to the true/false statements were graded by the number incorrect, ranging from A+, none incorrect, to F, five or more incorrect.

Ninety-four percent of poll participants correctly answered the true statement “If I take benefits before my full retirement age, they will be reduced for early filing.” However, only 69% responded correctly to a statement about full retirement age under current law.

The least accurately identified statement — only 28% answered it correctly — was the false statement that a person must be a U.S. citizen in order to collect social security retirement benefits.

The poll results showed significant differences between older and younger respondents on statements related to full retirement age, spousal benefits and ex-spouse benefits. More of those between 60 and 65 answered correctly than did those between 55 and 59.

“Today, Social Security is the primary guaranteed retirement income stream for Americans, besides pensions and annuities,” David Freitag, a financial planning consultant with MassMutual, said in the statement.

“In today’s unprecedented environment, Social Security may be a safety net for many if they know the basics and some of the lesser known opportunities open to them.”

— Check out 5 Common Blind Spots on Social Security  on ThinkAdvisor.


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