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    Subject Term: "Financial literacy"

    2 publications with a total of 8 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Jeszeck, Charles A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    6 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To ensure that key information provided by claims specialists to potential claimants of Social Security retirement benefits is clear and consistent with POMS, the Commissioner of the SSA should take steps to ensure when applicable, claims specialists inform that delaying claiming will result in permanently higher monthly benefit amounts, and at least offer to provide claimants their estimated benefits at their current age, at full retirement age (FRA) (unless the claimant is already older than FRA), and age 70.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: On 10/19/16, SSA sent a message to technicians (including claims representatives who discuss claiming with clients in field offices or over the phone) reminding them to 1) inform claimants that delaying results in permanently higher benefits; and 2) provide estimated benefits at different claiming ages. While the reminder message to claims specialists is a positive step by the agency, SSA should continue to send periodic messages about these requirements to claims specialists. Further, SSA should have field office managers periodically discuss best practices for providing this information to potential claimants at office training sessions.
    Recommendation: To ensure that key information provided by claims specialists to potential claimants of Social Security retirement benefits is clear and consistent with POMS, the Commissioner of the SSA should take steps to ensure claims specialists understand that they should avoid the use of breakeven analysis to compare benefits at different claiming ages.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: On 10/19/16, SSA sent a message to technicians (including claims representatives who discuss claiming with clients in field offices or over the phone) reminding them not to use breakeven analysis or discuss breakeven points with claimants to compare benefits at different claiming ages. While the reminder message to claims specialists is a positive step by the agency, SSA should continue to send periodic messages to claims specialist to ensure that they understand the requirement to avoid use of breakeven analysis to compare benefits at different claiming ages.
    Recommendation: To ensure potential claimants are consistently provided with key information during the claiming process to help them make informed decisions about when to claim benefits, SSA should take steps to ensure that when applicable, claims specialists inform claimants that monthly benefit amounts are determined by the highest (indexed) 35 years of earnings, and that in some cases, additional work could increase benefits.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA reported that, as appropriate, it will issue a reminder to technicians or include instructions in SSA's Program and Operations Manual System (POMS) to reinforce the instructions. The agency did not provide information on how it plans to include this information in the online claims process.
    Recommendation: To ensure potential claimants are consistently provided with key information during the claiming process to help them make informed decisions about when to claim benefits, SSA should take steps to ensure that when appropriate, claims specialists clearly explain the retirement earnings test and inform claimants that any benefits withheld because of earnings above the earnings limit will result in higher monthly benefits starting at FRA.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: On 10/19/16, SSA sent a message to technicians (including claims representatives who discuss claiming with clients in field offices or over the phone) reminding them to inform claimants that any amounts withheld due to earnings (over limits) will result in higher benefits later on. While the reminder message to claims specialists is a positive step by the agency, SSA should continue to send periodic messages to claims specialist reinforcing the importance of explaining the earnings test, and informing potential claimants that any benefits withheld due to earnings will result in higher benefits starting at FRA. Further, SSA should have field office managers periodically discuss best practices for providing this information to potential claimants at office training sessions.
    Recommendation: To ensure potential claimants are consistently provided with key information during the claiming process to help them make informed decisions about when to claim benefits, SSA should take steps to ensure that claims specialists explain that lump sum retroactive benefits will result in a permanent reduction of monthly benefits. For the online claiming process, SSA should evaluate removing or revising the online question that asks claimants to provide a reason for not choosing retroactive benefits.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA stated that it will issue a reminder to technicians, instructing them to explain that a lump sum retroactive benefit would result in a permanent reduction in monthly benefits; or include instructions in SSA's Program and Operations Manual System (POMS). As for the question included in the online process, SSA said it will explore the underlying rationale for this question and consider modifying the question.
    Recommendation: To ensure potential claimants are consistently provided with key information during the claiming process to help them make informed decisions about when to claim benefits, SSA should take steps to ensure that the claims process include basic information on how life expectancy and longevity risk may affect the decision to claim benefits.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA updated Pub No. 05-10147 to mention that: 1) monthly benefits are higher for the rest of one's life the longer one delays claiming; 2) retirement may be longer than you think; and 3) for married couples, delaying claiming may increase survivor benefits. SSA also added a new question on this topic to its frequently asked questions (FAQ) page, "At what age should I start receiving my Social Security Retirement benefits?" The answer provides key information for individuals to consider, and links to the newly updated publication, the Retirement Estimator tool, and other resources that SSA offers. Updating and improving a key publication on this topic is a positive step by the agency. However, it is not clear if claimants will be able to access this information while they are applying for retirement benefits online. Further, SSA did not specify how it plans to instruct claims specialists to provide information on life expectancy and longevity risk during the in-person claims process.
    Director: Cackley, Alicia P
    Phone: (202)512-8678

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure effective and efficient use of federal financial literacy resources, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in their capacity as Chair and Vice Chair of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, and in concert with other agency representatives of the commission should identify for federal agencies and Congress options for consolidating federal financial literacy efforts into the activities and agencies that are best suited or most effective.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Financial Literacy and Education Commission and its member agencies have taken actions to avoid potential duplication, but the Commission has not yet identified options for consolidating federal financial literacy efforts. The Commission has made significant progress in coordinating federal financial literacy programs. Moreover, the Commission and its committees have promoted collaborations that delineate appropriate roles among agencies. For example, in recent years, CFPB signed memorandums with several federal agencies clarifying respective roles in financial education for specific subpopulations, and the Commission led an initiative that sought to coordinate and avoid overlap in federal financial literacy research efforts. Such efforts have helped avoid duplication and inefficiency, which also is a key goal of consolidation. However, as of March 1, 2017, the Commission still has not specifically examined options for consolidation of federal financial literacy efforts. In August 2016, a representative of the commission told GAO it believes that identifying options for consolidation would be outside the commission's scope. GAO maintains that identifying options for consolidating federal financial literacy efforts is needed to help ensure the most efficient and effective use of resources.
    Recommendation: To help ensure effective and efficient use of federal financial literacy resources, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in their capacity as Chair and Vice Chair of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, and in concert with other agency representatives of the commission should revise the commission's national strategy to incorporate clear recommendations on the allocation of federal financial literacy resources across programs and agencies.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: No executive action taken as of March 1, 2017. The Financial Literacy and Education Commission has not made clear recommendations on allocation of federal financial literacy resources. In November 2016, the Commission updated its national strategy. The update describes activities that the Commission and federal agencies have taken to advance financial literacy in the areas of policy, education, practice, research, and coordination, and identifies next steps in these areas. In addition, in a 2016 report describing its progress, the Commission states that it will consider whether actions are needed to streamline, improve, or augment federal financial literacy programs, grants, and materials. However, these reports do not specifically make recommendations on allocation of federal resources. Without a clear discussion of resource needs and where resources should be targeted, policymakers lack information to direct the strategy's implementation and help ensure efficient use of funds.