Photo: AP

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.

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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.

And only 15 percent say they’ll be relying solely on Social Security for retirement income.