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Consumer Knowledge about Social Security Claiming Decisions and the Role of Certified Financial Planners

Since enacted in 1935, Social Security’s contribution to the financial security of older Americans is unparalleled.  Yet the program has numerous rules, policies, and intricacies that may not be well understood and that could ultimately have real dollars and cents impacts on beneficiaries.

AARP, together with The Financial Planning Association (FPA®), sought to explore how the experiences and knowledge of future Social Security beneficiaries compare with the experiences and recommendations of professional financial planners related to Social Security’s role in retirement income. How do the opinions, knowledge, and intentions of these two groups compare and contrast?  Do future beneficiaries have enough knowledge about how their benefits are calculated to make the best decisions for themselves and their families?  What do CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ ® professionals consider when making recommendations?  

Overall the results of these two surveys show that Social Security knowledge is lacking for Americans ages 45-64 in ways that could severely impact benefits and retirement decisions.  This includes knowledge around the impact of claiming age, spousal benefits, widow benefits, benefits for ex-spouses, and working while collecting Social Security.  Retirement planning and the gathering of information related to Social Security benefits, whether done on one’s own or with the help of a professional, is an important step in planning for one’s financial future. 

Widespread education for all beneficiaries can help Americans make the best decisions and lead to more secure finances in retirement.  CFP® professionals may be a useful resource in the retirement planning process, but they are certainly not the only way to learn about Social Security policies.  Many well-respected entities, including the Social Security Administration and AARP, offer a wide range of resources to help current and future Social Security beneficiaries. 

Conducted by the Financial Planners Association together with AARP, this study surveyed 1,279 CFP® professionals and 1,215 future Social Security beneficiaries ages 45-64. The survey was sent out to all members of FPA who are CFP® professionals, who have agreed to receive emails related to research, and whose client base includes those ages 45-64. For more information, contact