What Every Woman Should Know About Social Security
Generally speaking, women tend to have longer lifespans, shorter working years and lower wages than men. Add this up, and this means that many women have less money and fewer years to save up for a longer retirement than their male counterparts. That presents a financial planning challenge.
Government programs like Social Security help fill in the gaps left by traditional retirement and investment accounts. Because women may have different retirement concerns than men, here’s what every woman should know about Social Security:
First of all, nearly 55 percent of people receiving Social Security benefits today are women. And although Social Security was designed to replace only 40 percent of a person’s pre-retirement earnings, it still is an important component in retirement planning. Social Security rises with inflation, guarantees benefits for life and encompasses protections that extend beyond just retirement benefits.
Below, we’ll share 6 specific things women should know about these benefits.
1. You’ll Boost Your Benefit Amount If You Wait Until Age 70
You can start receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but you won’t receive 100 percent unless you wait until full retirement age (which varies by year of birth). If you are starting your Social Security benefits currently, you have to be at least age 66 and a few months in order to collect 100 percent of your calculated benefit. But, if you wait until age 70, your monthly benefit amount goes up even more.
For example, let’s say your standard monthly benefit is $2,000 and your full retirement age is 66. If you collected benefits starting at age 62, you’d receive $1,500. If you waited until age 67, it’d bump up to $2,160. But wait until age 70, and you’d receive $2,640 – a 76 percent increase over the age 62 payment.
Delaying benefits has its pros and cons, but it’s something all women should consider as they could live into their late 80s or 90s. Talking with a financial advisor who knows your situation can pay huge benefits in the long run, in ensuring you receive the benefits you have a right to expect.
2. You Can Receive Spousal Benefits, Even If You’re A …
Stay-At-Home Mom or Caregiver
Did you know that 60 percent of caregivers are women? Many of these women fall into the “sandwich generation,” where they’re taking care of both adult family members and children.
If you’re one of these women who are working at home instead of joining the formal workforce, you may think you don’t qualify for Social Security. But that’s not necessarily true. As long as your spouse is at least 62 and receives retirement or disability benefits, you may be eligible for benefits – up to 50 percent of your spouse’s monthly payment.
If you’re currently caring for a disabled or elderly loved one who’s already receiving Social Security benefits, you can help them manage their funds by applying to be their representative. If approved, Social Security gives you their monthly payment so you can pay for food, shelter, medical bills or whatever else they may need.
If you’re a divorced woman, you may qualify for up to 50 percent of your former-spouse’s Social Security benefit as long as:
- You were married for at least 10 years
- You’re not currently remarried
- You’re age 62 or older
- Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security benefits
- The benefit you’d receive on your own is less than the benefit you’d receive from your divorced spouse
Many divorcees and widows qualify for the same survivor benefits upon the death of a current or former spouse.
The amount varies by your age and your spouse’s benefit amount. As with regular Social Security payouts, you’ll receive a higher amount if you wait until your full retirement age. But unlike regular payouts, the rate doesn’t increase if you wait until age 70.
Look at the chart below to see how much benefits would be:
Note: You no longer qualify for spousal benefits if you remarry before age 60, or age 50 if disabled. Benefits aren’t affected if you remarry after this age.
3. Working Married Couples Receive Their Own Benefits
As long as both you and your spouse have paid taxes into Social Security for at least 10 years and have earned at least 40 credits, you both qualify for your own benefits. Benefits aren’t reduced or penalized because you were a two-person working household. So, if your Social Security payout is $1,500 and your spouse’s is $1,700, together, you’d receive $3,200 per month in benefits.
Note: If you’re eligible for two different benefits, say your own benefit and a separate benefit based upon your spouse’s earnings, you’ll receive the benefit with the highest amount.
Again, talking with a financial advisor about how these benefits work can be wise and help ensure you don’t miss out on money you’re entitled to.
4. The Age At Which Your Spouse Receives Benefits Could Impact You
Married couples should consider both spouses when filing for benefits, as it could impact spousal and survivor benefits down the road.
For example, if you stayed home to raise kids and never entered the workforce yourself, you’d qualify for spousal benefits. If your spouse receives benefits at age 62, your spouse will receive lower monthly payments and so do you. But the longer your spouse waits to collect benefits, the higher both of your payouts will be.
5. You Can Track Potential Benefit Amounts Online
Ever wonder how much Social Security you qualify for? Turns out, there’s an online portal for that. As long as you’re a worker over age 18, you can create an account online to view your Social Security Statement.
This statement tells you:
- Your average benefit at different retirement ages
- Your pre-retirement disability benefit
- The survivors benefit your loved ones would receive if you die
You can also run "what-if" scenarios to see how much your benefit would be if you stopped working at various dates or received higher future income.
6. Victims of Abuse Can Apply For a New Social Security Number
Sadly, one in four women are victims of domestic violence. If you’ve relocated or established a new identity as a result of family abuse, Social Security can issue you a new Social Security number.
This isn’t a routine procedure, but it is an option under certain extreme circumstances where there’s proof of life endangerment.
The Bottom Line
Social Security works every day to improve benefits, including benefits for women. Take time to learn about these benefits now, so you’ll be prepared to make the most of them later on. There are a lot of factors to consider, so you may want to discuss your options with a financial advisor.
For almost 50 years, the advisors at Linscomb & Williams have helped men, women and families plan for the best retirement imaginable. Whether you need help understanding Social Security’s retirement benefits, spousal benefits or even Medicare, we’re here to help you sort through the confusion. To get started, contact us today. Imagine the peace of mind that comes from a well-considered decision about important retirement benefits from Social Security.