According to a recent MassMutual online survey, almost half of all Americans over the age of 50 can’t answer the most basic questions about Social Security benefits and eligibility.
That’s a pathetic statistic, but it gets worse…
Our Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits can be the equivalent of as much as a million-dollar retirement portfolio. One million dollars! Yet most won’t take the time to understand the most basic elements of the plan.
One million dollars from Social Security sounds nuts, I know. But it’s true.
At age 70 (the age when you receive the highest benefit), the maximum amount paid by the SSA is around $3,500 per month.
That’s $42,000 per year.
Using the 4% rule (withdrawing 4% per year from your retirement account), you would need a $1 million nest egg to generate that kind of payout.
Even if you receive only the average monthly check of $1,300, you’d have $390,000 in your account. Not many folks have anywhere close to that amount saved for retirement.
With that kind of money on the line, wouldn’t you think the average person would put a little more effort into understanding how to maximize his or her benefits?
One thing that stumps a lot of people is when they can start receiving full benefits.
Only 49% surveyed knew that – depending on your birth year – it is at either 66 or 67. Before that age, you take a cut in benefits. (Though we strongly encourage people to wait until age 70 to receive the highest benefit.)
The other area that people had little understanding of was spousal benefits. Can a spouse claim benefits even if they haven’t contributed?
About 46% of survey respondents got this one wrong. (The correct answer is yes; spouses who have never contributed can still receive benefits.)
It isn’t just a lack of knowledge… it’s also a lack of action.
There’s as much as a million-dollar asset on the line… and 60% of people surveyed haven’t even set up their online account with Social Security.
Excuse me for being blunt, but that is just dumb.
The easiest way to get started is to go to ssa.gov and open your online account. That will give you an excellent summary of the benefits you are entitled to and what you need to do to maximize them.
This is the only retirement safety net we have, and it is worth a whole lot more than most people realize. Make sure you understand how to make the most of it.