Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) announced the results of a survey aimed to understand how much U.S. Hispanics know about Social Security retirement benefits. The results of the survey, which included a true/false quiz about Social Security facts, are concerning: Forty-seven percent of Hispanic respondents answered more than half of the basic questions about Social Security retirement benefits incorrectly. Also troubling is that only 11 percent consider themselves to be "very knowledgeable" about Social Security retirement benefits.
"Perhaps the greatest Social Security deficit in this country is the lack of education around the retirement benefits of the program, which presents an opportunity and responsibility to financial professionals," said Michael R. Fanning Executive Vice President, U.S. Insurance Group, MassMutual. "As the Hispanic population in the U.S. continues to grow, so does the need for a solid understanding of the role that Social Security will play in their personal retirement plans."
While many Hispanic respondents understand basic facts about Social Security retirement benefits, the findings show larger gaps in knowledge of eligibility requirements:
ÔÇó Citizenship is not a requirement: Over three-quarters of Hispanic respondents (77 percent) think that being an American citizen is necessary to receive Social Security retirement benefits, which is incorrect.
ÔÇó Retirement age is a mystery: Nearly four in five Hispanic respondents (79 percent) incorrectly believe full Social Security retirement age is 65, when it actually varies depending on birth year.
ÔÇó Social Security retirement benefits are only paid while you are alive: More than half (53 percent) of Hispanic respondents incorrectly believe that if their spouse passes away, they will continue to receive both their own benefit as well as their deceased spouse's benefit. In reality, assuming qualification criteria is met they would receive the greater of their own benefit or their spouse's benefit, but not both.
Still, Hispanics remain optimistic about the future of Social Security. Seven out of ten Hispanic respondents (71 percent) believe Social Security will be available to them when they retire, compared to 63 percent of the general population. But, only half (52 percent) think the program will have sufficient funding when they retire. This may explain why just one-fourth expect to rely more heavily on Social Security than their personal savings or other sources of retirement income, with six percent expecting to rely on Social Security alone.
"Americans who lack the proper knowledge and information about Social Security may be putting their retirement planning in jeopardy," said Phil Michalowski, Vice President, U.S. Insurance Group, MassMutual. "In fact, many may be leaving Social Security retirement benefits they're entitled to on the table, or incorrectly assuming what benefits may be available in retirement."
MassMutual offers an educational guide for individuals to help make the most of your Social Security retirement benefits. Additional information is available from the Social Security Administration.
The research was conducted by KRC Research on behalf of MassMutual from February 26 to March 2, 2015 via an online survey among 1,513 Americans (1,000 non-Hispanic age 25 to 65; 513 Hispanic age 18+).