For all the concerns policymakers have about the financial health of Social Security in the future, they also should be troubled about Social Security in the present, because too many people know too little about it.
A recent annual survey by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. reveals a disturbing lack of knowledge by people ages 55-65 who haven't yet filed for benefits.
Thirty-five percent of respondents had six or more incorrect answers among 13 true-false questions. That's an F on the company's scorecard. Twenty-nine percent received an F in last year's survey.
Thirty-four percent scored a D by getting four or five answers wrong vs. 36% last year.
There were few perfect scores with 1% receiving an A this year, just like last year. MassMutual also credited 3% of respondents with an A if they missed only one answer, compared with 5% last year.
"One of the most concerning findings was that 43% of near retirees do not know what percentage of their income will be coming from Social Security benefits," Paul LaPlana, MassMutual's head of product, said in a May 2 news release describing the survey results.
MassMutual conducted an online poll of 1,500 people from March 31 to April 5, concluding that near retirees' knowledge about Social Security "is lower than in 2022," when the firm surveyed the same number of people.
The toughest question – which 29% answered correctly – asked if a person must be a U.S. citizen to collect Social Security benefits. The correct answer is False.
The easiest question for which 84% answered correctly: In most cases, if someone takes benefits before his or her full retirement age, benefits will be reduced for early filing. The correct answer is True.