The Redesigned Social Security Statement’s Short-Term Impacts on Near Retirees

General Information

The Redesigned Social Security Statement’s Short-Term Impacts on Near Retirees
Philip Armour, Katherine Carman, and Mandlenkosi Dube
Publication Type
Working paper
Michigan Retirement and Disability Research Center Working Paper Series
In October 2021, the Social Security Administration (SSA) implemented a redesigned Social Security Statement for workers scheduled to be sent a paper Statement or checking their my Social Security online accounts. The new statement is half the length of the prior Statement, and instead of solely numerical estimations of future benefits, the redesigned Statement includes a graphical depiction of how claiming later affects monthly benefits. This redesign holds the promise of effectively presenting both general and personalized Social Security knowledge, even more so than the prior Statement, which was shown to increase knowledge, change expectations, and increase disability claiming rates (Smith and Couch 2014b, Armour 2018, Armour 2020). In this study, we field a new survey module in the long-running Understanding America Study, where approximately half of respondents were exposed to the redesigned Statement due to their birth month, and the other half were sent the prior design. We elicit preferences over the features of the redesigned Statement, as well as how the redesigned Statement affected knowledge, planned claiming and retirement ages, and actual claiming behavior. Respondents strongly preferred the new format. This format changed planned claiming and retirement ages, and it delayed actual benefit claiming. Effects were strongest among those with low levels of Social Security knowledge prior to receipt. Our findings add to a growing literature on how the Social Security Statement can be an effective channel for Social Security’s communications about future benefits.