Getting these Social Security questions wrong can cost you dearly – Community News
Social Security

Getting these Social Security questions wrong can cost you dearly

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Chances are, deciding when to claim Social Security is probably one of the biggest retirement choices you’ll ever make.

But a recent study by MassMutual found that many pre-retirees get important facts about the program’s rules wrong — and just one mistake can hurt you financially.

The company recently gave a true-or-false 12-question quiz to 1,500 people aged 55 to 65 who have not yet taken advantage of their benefits.

Only 54% of respondents were able to correctly determine whether their benefits will continue to rise if they delay applying for retirement benefits after age 70. The answer is no.

Plus, if you delay 70, you can only go back six months to make up for the lost monthly checks, said David Freitag, a financial planning consultant and social security expert at MassMutual.

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“The benefits they’ve missed, they’ll never see,” he said.

Overall, the results showed that 35% of the respondents failed the quiz at all and 18% got a ‘D’ grade.

Only 3% of the respondents could answer all questions correctly.

Certain questions tended to prod people more.

The survey respondents were generally unable to distinguish the rules for partner benefits after divorce and survivor benefits after the death of a spouse.

The results showed that 22% of near-retired people did not know that if a spouse died, you would not be able to collect both your own benefit and that of your spouse. (Normally you get yours or your spouse’s, whichever is higher.)

Meanwhile, 30% of respondents were unaware that they might be able to claim benefits on their ex-spouse’s work record. (You must have been married for at least 10 years, among other things.)

Each of those benefits has different rules, Freitag said, meaning it’s important to understand them before claiming.

“While survivor benefits sound like partner benefits, they are completely different,” he said.

The results weren’t all bad.

Most respondents – 94% – could correctly say that their retirement benefits will be reduced if they claim them before full retirement age (usually 66 or 67, depending on your year of birth).

A majority – 86% – could also accurately confirm that their Social Security benefits can be reduced if they collect their monthly checks before full retirement age and continue to work.

Test your knowledge

Curious how well you would do on the quiz? Determine whether each statement below is true or false and compare your answers with the answer key below.

  1. If I receive benefits before full retirement age, they will be reduced for early filing.
  2. If I receive benefits before full retirement age and continue to work, my benefit may be reduced based on how much I earn.
  3. Once I start collecting Social Security, my benefits never change.
  4. If I have a spouse, he or she can receive a benefit from my file, even if he or she has no individual income history.
  5. If I have a spouse and he or she dies, I will receive both my full benefit and the full benefit from my deceased spouse.
  6. The money that comes out of my Social Security paycheck goes into a specific account for me and stays there, earning interest, until I start receiving Social Security benefits.
  7. Under current Social Security law, the full retirement age is 65, regardless of when you were born.
  8. As a divorced person, I may be able to collect Social Security benefits based on my ex-spouse’s income history.
  9. Under current law, Social Security benefits could be reduced for everyone by 2035.
  10. If I am applying for retirement benefits and have dependent children aged 18 or under, they may also be eligible for Social Security benefits.
  11. If I delay taking Social Security benefits after age 70, I will get deferred pension increases every year I wait.
  12. I must be a US citizen to receive Social Security retirement benefits.


  1. True
  2. True
  3. not true
  4. True
  5. not true
  6. not true
  7. not true
  8. True
  9. True
  10. True
  11. not true
  12. not true