78% Failed a Quiz on Retirement Planning & Social Security
A new MassMutual poll quizzed near-retirees about Social Security...and 41% of respondents got an F.

We’ve got our work cut out for us in terms of helping clients understand retirement planning and Social Security. In the latest iteration of their yearly survey, MassMutual quizzed 1,500 people age 55-65 who haven’t filed for Social Security yet. (Click here to download the quiz & results.) The quiz asked them specific questions about Social Security benefits, retirement planning, and estate planning. The results were…not good. We'll go over the questions below.

No time to read? Watch our video overview:

The Quiz

Part 1: True or False Questions on Social Security

  • In most cases, if I take benefits before my full retirement age, they will be reduced for early filing.
  • If I am receiving benefits before my full retirement age and continue to work, my benefits might be reduced based on how much I make.
  • If I have a spouse, he or she can receive benefits from my record even if he or she has no individual earnings history.
  • If I have a spouse and he or she passes away, I will receive both my full benefit and my deceased spouse's full benefit.
  • Generally, if I am in a same-sex marriage, there are different eligibility requirements when it comes to Social Security retirement benefits.
  • The money that comes out of my pay check for Social Security goes into a specific account for me and remains there, earning interest, until I begin to receive Social Security benefits.
  • If I get divorced, I might be able to collect Social Security benefits based on my ex-spouse's Social Security earnings history.
  • Under current law, Social Security benefits could be reduced by 20% or more for everyone by 2035.
  • Under current Social Security law, full retirement age is 65 no matter when you were born.
  • If I file for retirement benefits and have dependent children age 18 or younger, they also may qualify for Social Security benefits.
  • If I delay taking Social Security benefits past the age of 70, I will continue to get delayed retirement credit increases each year I wait.
  • Social Security retirement benefits are subject to income tax just like withdrawals from a traditional IRA account.
  • I must be a U.S. citizen to collect Social Security retirement benefits.

Part 2: Multiple Choice Retirement & Estate Planning Questions

  • Do your retirement income plans account for inflation and market volatility? (Yes | No | I hope so | I have no idea)
  • Based on what you know today, how many years do you believe your income in retirement can sustain you? (0 – 10 years | 11 to 20 years | 21 to 30 years | 31 to 40 years | More than 40 years)
  • Approximately what percentage of your income in retirement do you believe will be coming from your Social Security retirement benefits? (25% or less | 26%-50% | 51%-75% | 76%-100% | Don’t know)
  • What do you believe will be your largest source of income in retirement? (Social Security | 401k or 403b | Pension | Investments | Savings | Other | Sale of home | Annuities | Life Insurance
  • How exposed are you to stock market fluctuations in retirement? (Extremely | Somewhat | Not too much | Not at all | Don’t know)
  • In addition to Social Security, how much money do you think you'll need to retire comfortably? ($100k | $500k | $1M | $2M+ | Don’t know)
  • Do your retirement income plans account for inflation and market volatility? (Yes | No | I hope so | I have no idea)
  • Have you documented all of your financial information and online usernames and passwords in one place as part of your estate plans? (Yes | Not yet, but I plan to | No)
  • Do you have the following estate planning documents in place? (Will | Living will | Health care durable power of attorney | Financial durable power of attorney)

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The Results

Here are the results for the 1,500 respondents:

Grade % of Respondents Compared to Previous Years
A, 0 incorrect, 100% <1% Same as 2023/2022
A, 1 incorrect, 92% 2% 1% higher than 2023/2022
B, 2 incorrect, 85% 7% Same as 2023/2022
C, 3 incorrect, 77% 13% 1% higher than 2023, 1% lower than 2022
D, 4 incorrect, 69% 17% 1% higher than 2023/2022
D, 5 incorrect, 62% 20% 4% higher than 2023/3% higher than 2022
F, 6+ incorrect, 54% or lower 41% 6% lower than 2023/3% lower than 2022

78% of respondents received the equivalent of a D or F.

Those results speak for themselves.

Key Take-Aways

  • 45% of respondents didn’t know their current full retirement age. 52% didn’t know that you only rack up delayed retirement credits until age 70. These are basic facts that have a huge impact on retirement planning – and about half the folks out there don’t have the information they need.
  • The majority of respondents - 36% - believe their income in retirement can only sustain them for 0-10 years. That’s down from 2023, when the majority (31%) believed their income would last 11-20 years.
  • The majority of respondents – 40% – believe Social Security will be their largest source of income during retirement. However, in a different question, only 21% of them said they believed Social Security would make up 51%-100% of their retirement income. The majority – 44% - said they didn’t know how much of their retirement income Social Security would make up. There’s a lot of confusion for people about exactly where their retirement income will come from and how much it will amount to.
  • Most respondents didn’t know how much income they’d need to retire comfortably (31%). Of those who selected an amount, 23% selected $500,000 and 22% selected $1,000,000.
  • About one-third – 35% - of respondents had already created a will. A similar percentage (33%) had a living will (medical advance directive) in place. But the numbers slipped when it came to power of attorney for both health care and finance (29% and 25% respectively).
  • Only 2% of respondents believed their largest source of retirement income would be from an annuity. Only 1% believed it would come from life insurance. That signifies very little awareness about the role our products play in retirement.

What We Can Do About It

These results indicate that we need a form of triage. Clearly, people approaching retirement still need lots of help with the basic concepts of retirement planning. They need our help the most since they have less time to prepare. However, if we could reach people a decade or two earlier – in their 30s and early 40s – they might not be in such a dismal position as near-retirees.

For clients in their 50s and 60s

    Reach out proactively. There’s no time to waste. Use the results of this quiz to generate curiosity and maybe a little anxiety. Ask a question like, “Are you one of the 78% of near-retirees who’d fail a quiz on Social Security and retirement planning?” Their retirement and their money are at risk – but you can help. Need planning ideas, quotes, or illustrations? Our Brokerage Managers are here for you. Reach out to talk strategy or marketing so you can give your clients the best possible options for their situation.

For clients in their 30s and 40s

    Bring up retirement and estate planning during your annual reviews, or when a client first buys a policy. Use the statistics from this quiz to show them how crucial it is to take a few minutes now to talk about a plan. Say something like, “78% of people age 55-65 failed a quiz on Social Security and retirement planning. I want to keep you from becoming that statistic. If you have 10 minutes, let me walk you through a few ideas. It won’t take long, but it could make a huge difference for you later.”

That’s our look at MassMutual's latest Social Security and retirement planning quiz!

Do any of these survey results surprise you? How would you have scored on the quiz?

Need help with quotes, illustrations, or selecting the right product?

Our Brokerage Managers - Dave, Joshua, and David - can help. They have incredible depth and breadth in terms of product knowledge. Call 800-823-4852 and ask for a brokerage manager, or click the button below to email us!