Since 2015 Mass Mutual has been conducting a poll of individuals nearing retirement to test their knowledge of Social Security Retirement benefits. Their most recent poll results were released in April of 2020, and while results have slightly improved over the last five years, the poll reveals that most individuals age 55-65 that are nearing retirement don't fully understand the basics of Social Security Retirement Benefits. In the 2020 poll, 33% of near-retirees failed the poll, and 19% barely passed.

The categories below were among the most commonly missed in the poll.


Spousal and Dependent Benefits

When polled, most people incorrectly answered questions regarding spousal benefits under the Social Security Retirement Benefits program.

Under this program, spousal benefits are offered, meaning that current spouses, surviving spouses, or ex-spouses may qualify for benefits even if they have never worked under Social Security. Spouses who are eligible for a spousal benefit could be eligible to receive up to 50% of their spouses’ Full Retirement Age benefit.  See our resource "Am I eligible for Social Security Benefits As A Spouse."

Dependent benefits were also a commonly misunderstood topic in the poll. Most people did not know that if you file for Social Security Benefits and have an 18-year-old or younger, they might also qualify for Social Security Benefits. In this scenario, the child must be unmarried, under age 18, a full-time student, or have a disability.


The number one question missed on the Mass Mutual Poll was regarding U.S. citizenship. Most people answered that you must be a U.S. citizen to collect benefits. That is not true.

To collect benefits under this program, you must be a permanent legal resident, have a work visa, or have been allowed into the U.S. under specific immigration laws.

Full Retirement Age

In the 2020 poll, most individuals age 60-65 more often accurately answered questions regarding their Full Retirement Age than individuals age 55-59. The 60-65-year-old age bracket more often knew that it was incorrect when stated that the Full Retirement Age is 65 no matter when you were born. Full Retirement Age varies depending on the year in which you were born. See the chart below:

But what about when it comes to collecting benefits before or after Full Retirement Age?

Most people polled correctly answered that by taking benefits before an individual’s Full Retirement Age, that individual benefit will be reduced for early filing. However, most individuals did not know that if you delay taking Social Security benefits past the age of 70, you will not receive retirement credit for each of those years. If you choose to delay receiving benefits past your Full Retirement Age, your benefit will increase with delayed retirement credits, but these credits do not continue after age 70.


Did any of this information surprise you? How do you think your answers would compare if you were polled? Social Security Retirement Benefits can be challenging to navigate, but they do not have to be.  Be sure to check out our Social Security video classes.

Social Security