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MassMutual takes another pulse and one-third of near-retirees FAILED a basic Social Security quiz

April 7th, 2020

Another 19% barely passed with a D grade

  • 1,500 Americans age 55-65 who have not filed for Social Security retirement benefits were presented with 12 basic true/false statements
  • The good news: 3% got an A+ -- a perfect score
  • The bad news: Too many near-retirees should know more – 33% failed and 19% barely passed with a D

Springfield, Mass., April 7, 2020 – For the third time since 2015, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) commissioned a consumer poll to quiz near-retirees on their basic knowledge of Social Security retirement benefits. The results are better but still not great.

For this year’s consumer poll, the age bracket was raised from 50+ to 55-65 to truly hone in on those nearest retirement but not yet collecting Social Security retirement benefits.

“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,” said Mike Fanning, head of MassMutual US. “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.”

The first time that MassMutual conducted a very similar consumer poll in 2015 only one person got all answers correct and 62% of those age 50+ FAILED. In 2018, nearly half (47%) FAILED.

Key findings from 2020 consumer poll:

• One third (33%) of Americans near retirement (age 55-65) FAILED a basic knowledge quiz about Social Security retirement benefits, while another 19% barely passed with a D – that’s over half (52%) with an opportunity to firm up their knowledge base. On the other side of the spectrum, only 3% got an A+ by answering all 12 true/false statements correctly.

• Almost all Americans (94%) are able to correctly answer that if they take benefits before full retirement, they will be reduced for early filing – but only 69% responded correctly to a statement about full retirement age under current law.

• The least accurately identified statement (which only 28% got right) is the false statement that one must be a U.S. citizen to collect social security retirement benefits.

• The most significant differences between 60-65 and 55-59 year olds is that more 60-65 year olds answered correctly on statements related to full retirement age, spousal benefits and ex-spouse benefits.

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

One such opportunity is voluntary suspension. With Voluntary suspension, if there is a dire need for immediate retirement income, one can take Social Security benefits before full retirement age and then when they reach full retirement age, suspend benefits and draw from other income sources for a period of time to basically fill their Social Security credit bucket back up to become whole (or near whole) for Social Security benefits for the rest of their lifetime. “This is an old Social Security concept that in these challenging times and need for income now, it could be a true life saver for some,” added Freitag. “Net net, the more people know, the more options they can uncover and the better decisions they can make that can affect them for decades to come.”

For helpful resources, visit the Social Security Administration and


An online poll (of 12 true/false statements) commissioned by MassMutual and conducted by PSB Research from March 17 to 30, 2020 of 1,500 Americans closest to retirement age 55-65 (who have not filed for Social Security retirement benefits) reveals a general current understanding – and lack of understanding – of Social Security retirement benefits. For full results, visit

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