5 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About Social Security

Social Security Benefits form with pen, glasses, and calculator.
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So you think you know all you need to know about Social Security? If so, congratulations — you are in the minority when it comes to knowledge of the nation’s biggest retirement benefits program.

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A new study released by the Nationwide Retirement Institute found that most Americans are sorely lacking in knowledge about the most basic functions of Social Security. The study was based on a survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Nationwide Retirement Institute, part of the Nationwide insurance and financial services company.

“It’s indisputable that Americans across all generations need more Social Security education,” Tina Ambrozy, senior vice president of Strategic Customer Solutions at Nationwide, said in a press release. “Unfortunately, failing to close the knowledge gap and correct some of these misconceptions can have costly repercussions. Financial professionals must help their clients understand this bedrock of retirement security in America and plan properly to maximize their Social Security benefit.”

Here are five things most Americans don’t know about Social Security:

  • Eligibility age: Two in five (39%) of respondents don’t know the eligible age to receive full benefits
  • Payments: Just more than half of those not already receiving Social Security (51%) don’t have a clear sense of how much they will get in Social Security income
  • Spousal/child benefits: 30% don’t know that Social Security may offer benefits for spouses and children
  • Inflation protection: More than a third (37%) incorrectly believe that Social Security benefits are not protected against inflation
  • No adjustments: 45% mistakenly believe that if they claim benefits early, their benefits will go up automatically when reaching full retirement age, or they don’t know this is false.

Retire Comfortably

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The study found that many Americans aren’t educating themselves about Social Security because they don’t think it’ll be around when they’re ready or need to claim their benefits. Seven in 10 adults ages 25 and older worry that the program will run out of money in their lifetimes. This is especially true of millennials (77%) and Gen Xers (83%). But even 61% of baby boomers worry about the same thing.

In addition, nearly half of millennials (47%) believe that they “will not get a dime of the Social Security benefits they have earned.”

About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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