Nearly 70% of near-retirees failed or barely passed a basic Social Security quiz from MassMutual

SPRINGFIELD, Mass.--()--The latest Social Security retirement benefits quiz of near-retirees from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) exposes that too many – 69% -- failed or barely passed. In fact, more than one-third (35%) failed (vs. 29% last year) and another one-third (34%) barely passed with a grade of D (vs. 36% last year).

“One of the most concerning findings was that 43% of near retirees do not know what percentage of their income in retirement will be coming from Social Security benefits,” said Paul LaPiana, CFP, head of product with MassMutual. “Knowing your total retirement income and where it will come from is part of the foundation of retirement planning.”

One of the most misunderstood and asked about nuances when it comes to Social Security has to do with benefits for married and divorced couples. More than a quarter of near-retiree respondents (28%) did not know that if they have a spouse, the other spouse can receive benefits even if the spouse has no individual earning history. More than one-third (35%) did not know that if they have a spouse and the spouse passes away, the surviving spouse will not receive both their full benefit and their deceased spouse’s full benefit. And 44% did not know that if they get divorced, they might be able to collect Social Security benefits based on their ex-spouse’s Social Security earnings history.

Other key findings (link to full report):

  1. The majority (84%) know that if they take benefits before full retirement, their benefits will be reduced (vs. 89% last year). Fewer (77%) know that if they receive benefits before their full retirement age and continue to work, their benefits may be reduced based on how much they make (vs. 82% last year).
  2. Two out of five (42%) plan to rely on Social Security as their largest source of income in retirement, despite the possibility that benefits could be reduced by 2035. Just over one half (55%) are aware that Social Security benefits could be reduced by 2035 (vs. 60% last year).
  3. Over one quarter (27%) believe that their income can sustain them 10 or fewer years in retirement. Less than half (42%) believe their income can sustain them 21 years or more. More than a quarter (28%) of near retirees do not know how much money, in addition to Social Security benefits, they will need to retire.
  4. More than one quarter (28%) believe their retirement income plans account for inflation and market volatility (vs. 17% last year). Just under one quarter (24%) feel they are not at all exposed to stock market fluctuations in retirement.
  5. Just under one quarter (24%) have documented their financial information and online usernames and passwords in one place as part of their estate plans. Nearly one quarter (22%) have not, and never plan to.

“There are two key things to remember when it comes to retirement: Knowledge is power and planning is powerful,” said LaPiana. “For those nearing retirement, the questions you need to ask yourself are, ‘where is my income going to come from and what do I need to do to ensure that I do not leave anything on the table?’ With Social Security and all of your other retirement income streams, know the nuances. Carefully plan. And make decisions on purpose and not by accident.”


An online poll about Social Security commissioned by MassMutual was conducted by PSB Insights from March 31 to April 5, 2023, among 1,500 Americans nearing retirement (age 55-65) who have not filed for Social Security retirement benefits. The results indicate that near retirees’ knowledge about Social Security benefits is lower than in 2022.

About MassMutual

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. Founded in 1851, the company has been continually guided by one consistent purpose: we help people secure their future and protect the ones they love. With a focus on delivering long-term value, MassMutual offers a wide range of protection, accumulation, wealth management and retirement products and services. For more information, visit


Media: Paula Tremblay,

Release Summary

Nearly 70% of near-retirees failed or barely passed a basic Social Security quiz from MassMutual.


Media: Paula Tremblay,