How long is it really worth waiting to file social security claims? If you ask these utility questions incorrectly, there can be costs

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Chances are that deciding when to file social security claims will be one of the biggest retirement decisions you will ever make.

However, a recent survey by MassMutual found that many early retirees misunderstand key facts about the program rules – and one mistake can hurt you financially.

The company recently gave a 12-question right or wrong quiz to 1,500 people between the ages of 55 and 65 who have not yet used their services.

Only 54% of the respondents were able to correctly determine whether their benefits will continue to increase if they delay the use of retirement benefits beyond the age of 70. The answer is no.

If you’re late past 70, you can go back just six months to make up for lost monthly checks, said David Freitag, financial planning advisor and social security expert at MassMutual.

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“You will never see the benefits you missed,” he said.

Overall, the results showed that 35% of respondents failed the quiz and 18% received a “D” grade.

Only 3% of the respondents were able to answer all questions correctly.

Certain questions tended to surprise people more.

Respondents were generally unable to distinguish the rules for spouse benefits after divorce and survivor benefits after the death of a spouse.

The results showed that 22% of retirees did not know that having a deceased spouse would not allow you to receive both your own and your spouse’s benefits. (You will usually get either yours or your spouse’s, whichever is greater.)

In the meantime, 30% of those surveyed did not know that they might be able to use benefits from their ex-spouse’s work file. (Among other things, you must have been married for at least 10 years.)

Each of these benefits has different rules, Friday said, which means it’s important to understand them before making any claims.

“Although survivor benefits sound like spouse benefits, they are completely different,” he said.

The results weren’t all bad.

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

A majority – 86% – were also able to accurately confirm that their social security benefits can be cut if they collect their monthly checks and continue working before full retirement age.

Test your knowledge

Curious how well you would do on the quiz? Decide whether each of the following statements is true or false and check your answers against the answer key below.

  1. If I receive benefits before my full retirement age, they will be reduced for early filing.
  2. If I receive benefits and keep working before I reach full retirement age, my benefits may decrease based on my earnings.
  3. Once I start collecting Social Security, my benefit payments will never change.
  4. If I have a spouse, he or she can receive benefits from my record even if he or she does not have an individual earnings history.
  5. If I have a spouse and he dies, I will receive both my full benefit and the full benefit of my deceased spouse.
  6. The money that comes from my Social Security paycheck goes into a designated account for me and stays there to earn interest until I start receiving Social Security benefits.
  7. According to the current social security law, the full retirement age is 65 years, regardless of when you were born.
  8. As a divorced person, I may be able to receive social security benefits based on my ex-spouse’s earnings history.
  9. Under current law, social security benefits could be cut for everyone in 2035.
  10. If I am applying for a retirement pension and have dependent children aged 18 or under, they may also be eligible for Social Security benefits.
  11. If I delay claiming social security benefits beyond the age of 70, I will receive a delayed increase in retirement savings every year if I wait.
  12. I must be a US citizen to receive Social Security benefits.


  1. True
  2. True
  3. Not correct
  4. True
  5. Not correct
  6. Not correct
  7. Not correct
  8. True
  9. True
  10. True
  11. Not correct
  12. Not correct

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