Most Americans ‘Contribute’ to Social Security But Do Not Understand Benefits

Americans demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge about the workings of Social Security in a study earlier this week.  The ‘quiz’ was conducted by the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, and only 28% scored a passing grade.  The vast majority of American citizens are forced to contribute to Social Security, yet very few are educated about where their money goes and what they can expect in return for their involuntary participation in the program.

For the statistics from the quiz let’s take a look at Many Americans clueless about Social Security benefits:

Americans resoundingly flunked a recent quiz about Social Security retirement benefits. Not just that–only a pitiful 8 percent feel that they are very knowledgeable about the program.

The true/false quiz was part of a survey conducted by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company to better understand how much Americans know about their Social Security retirement benefits. And just 28 percent of respondents got a passing grade on basic questions about Social Security.

A single respondent answered all the true/false questions correctly, while everyone else had at least one misperception about Social Security.

And that’s probably not surprising, considering the lack of education around the program—which is “[p]erhaps the greatest Social Security deficit in this country,” according to Michael R. Fanning, executive vice president, U.S. Insurance Group, MassMutual.

Fanning said in a statement, “With millions of Americans nearing retirement each year, many may be at risk of underutilizing a critical component of their retirement income stream.”

  • Three quarters of respondents believe that you have to be a U.S. citizen to qualify for benefits. This is not true.
  • And nearly as many—71 percent—said that the full Social Security retirement age is 65. Also not true; the full retirement age has become a moving target, depending on one’s year of birth.
  • And more than half of respondents—55 percent—erroneously believe that they can continue working and collect full retirement benefits regardless of how old they are. They could be in for an unpleasant surprise, since benefits will be affected by earnings depending on their age.
  • And while Americans are optimistic about the future of Social Security, they’re not so sure about how much good it will do them personally. Sixty-three percent believe that they’ll be able to collect a Social Security check when they retire, and a quarter of those strongly believe that.
  • But 45 percent say the program will not have enough funding when they retire, and only 39 percent expect to depend more on Social Security than on their personal savings or income during retirement.


Much like the discrepancy that we’ve seen in a recent Pew poll, most Americans believe that Social Security will exist when it’s time for them to retire, but nearly half think that there will not be enough money to pay them. An entire cottage industry has sprung up around the need for senior citizens to maximize their Social Security, but very few sources seem are intent on educating Millennials and Gen X’ers on what’s best for them.  I hope that this site will become a place where anyone can learn about where their six percent has gone to and how they can do what is in their personal best interests.  With few Americans aware of what is really happening in Social Security, the best chance for Millennials and Gen X’ers is to demand the chance to opt-out of the system entirely.

-R.J. Renza, Jr.

It is time that we all demanded better.  Virtually none of us have the chance to opt out of the Social Security program. It is time that we demand that every American citizen be given the choice to remain in the program or not.  Take a moment and sign our petition.  Stop back later on this week and check out my first book “How Are You Not Angry Yet,” a must-read for any Americans 45 years or younger about how we can save ourselves from the Social Security crisis.


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