Thursday, March 1, 2012

What People Know ... About Social Security

As folks near retirement age, they know less about social security benefits than they should, according to a survey by the people who know a little something about retirement (AARP).

The survey says that while people know the basics, they "remain unaware of different claiming strategies that could have a significant impact on their income throughout retirement."

In other words, people getting near retirement don't know as much about social security as they should.  Only 29 percent, for example, knew that by waiting until age 70 they could get the highest monthly retirement benefit.  Even worse, 1-out-of-5 thought they could get the maximum benefit amount before retirement.

So yeah, yet another survey that shows people don't know as much as they should about insert favorite topic here.  I'm shocked, shocked to find this out.

A few words about methodology.  Unlike a lot of these "surveys" done by special interest groups, this one seems legit.  According to this page, the survey was of 2,000 adults ages 52-70.  It's not immediately obvious how they found and surveyed these lucky 2,000 respondents.  But don't worry, I'm nothing if not annoying about methodological details, so there's this fat pdf with more info.  There's some cool stuff buried in this file.  For example, the survey asked respondents not only questions about knowledge, but also perceived knowledge.  That is, what they think they know about the topic to compare with what they actually know.  Nearly half considered themselves either "very" or "somewhat" knowledgeable.  As you may know, perceived knowledge and actual knowledge tend to be correlated imperfectly with one another.  Simply put, a lot of people are good at judging their knowledge, but a lot of them aren't.  It's that latter group that's always interested me.

There is some neatly done methodology in how they create a "knowledge score" here, so I applaud that.  Indeed, the report is full of interesting graphs if you happen to study this sort of thing.  I don't, but the report is a good, solid example of reporting findings in a non-academic sense.  They even include oversamples of blacks and Hispanics to examine more closely those ethnic/racial groups.

Finally ... there is a media question or two here, and I'll report on those results later.

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