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Nearly HALF of Americans age 50+ FAIL a basic Social Security quiz

May 15th, 2018

MassMutual consumer poll takes another pulse on what near-retirees still don’t know about Social Security retirement benefits

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., — Near-retirees still have a lot to learn about Social Security retirement benefits and may be leaving money on the table according to a new nationwide consumer poll released today by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

Nearly half (47 percent) of Americans age 50+ failed a basic 5 true/false question quiz on Social Security retirement benefits. Three years ago when MassMutual surveyed the nation with a broader 10 true/false question quiz in 2015, 62 percent age 50+ failed, and out of the general adult population, 72 percent failed.

“There’s improvement, but the scores are still alarming,” said Mike Fanning, head of MassMutual. U.S. “Knowledge is power when it comes to Social Security retirement benefits. For many, thousands of dollars could be left on the table at a time when it really counts.”

Want to see how much you know about Social Security retirement benefits? Take the full MassMutual quiz here and see for yourself.

So what else has changed since MassMutual’s last nationwide poll in 2015? The Social Security Administration stopped mailing Social Security statements to those under the age of 60, meaning the only way to access information is online. To take a pulse check to see if near-retirees were paying attention, MassMutual asked: “Have you created an account on the Social Security Administration Web site to view your earnings history to ensure it is accurate now that the administration no longer mails statements to people under the age 60?”

A whopping 86 percent of those age 50-59 who are affected by this change answered NO, they have not created an account yet. Of the total pool surveyed of those age 50+, the majority (60 percent) have not created an account yet.

So what’s the risk? Not only can establishing an account help ensure that your Social Security retirement benefit calculations are accurate, it can also help with identity theft protection because only one account per Social Security number is allowed.

“Getting Social Security right is critically important to inform plans for other income stream needs later in life as it may be difficult, and sometimes not even possible, to hit the reset button,” said Fanning. “This is not a retirement planning conversation. This is a longevity planning conversation, and near-retirees have the power and responsibility to ensure that they protect and receive every dollar they deserve in Social Security retirement benefits when the time comes.”

When you have a Social Security online account, it is easy to see if your earnings history is accurate and up to date. This is important because corrections are generally limited to a short period of time.

If you do not have an online Social Security account, go to the Social Security Administration Web site to create one.


Specific findings of the 2018 MassMutual Social Security survey:

  • Under current Social Security law, my benefits will not be reduced if I claim them at age 65. 49 percent answered correctly: FALSE.
  • My spouse is eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits, even if he or she has no individual earnings history. 54 percent answered correctly: TRUE.
  • If my spouse dies, I will continue to receive both my own benefit and my deceased spouse’s benefit; the total Social Security benefits I receive will not change. 80 percent answered correctly: FALSE.
  • Social Security retirement benefits are based on my earnings history; I’ll receive the same monthly benefit amount whether I start collecting before or after my full retirement age. 83 percent answered correctly: FALSE.
  • If I am still working when I claim my Social Security, my benefit might be reduced, depending on my earnings and my age. 85 percent answered correctly: TRUE.


The MassMutual Social Security retirement benefits surveys were conducted by KRC Research. This year’s survey was conducted in March 2018 via an online survey among 1,007 Americans age 50+. The last survey was conducted in February/March 2015 via an online survey among 1,513 American adults. A failing score is 60 percent or lower.

About MassMutual
MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit