Social Security was created in the 1930s to address economic security issues of elderly Americans. It was designed for the typical family structure, but times have changed, and the traditional family has shifted in many ways. Most notably, women now play a bigger role in both the workforce and in their family’s finances. Women have to claim Social Security benefits more carefully because they have historically lower pay, longer life spans, and fewer years in the workforce than many of their male counterparts.
The stakes are even higher for single, divorced, and widowed women because they are more dependent on Social Security than any other demographic. Nearly 50% of single elderly women receive at least 90% of their income from Social Security, compared to only 21% of married women. (1) If you fall into this category, here’s what you need to know about claiming your benefits.
For Single Women
Many women make the mistake of claiming Social Security as soon as they’re eligible. Few wait until full retirement age, and even fewer wait until age 70. But your benefit amount increases by 8% each year from 66 to 70, plus cost of living increases for inflation, so it pays to wait. (2)
For example, let’s say your full retirement age is 66 and your monthly payment is estimated to be $2,000. The chart below shows how much you’d get every month if you started collecting at age 62 (reduced benefits), 66 (full benefits), and 70 (increased benefits).
If you start collecting benefits at this age…
your monthly payout will be this much…
Just by waiting until age 70, your monthly payout increases by 32%, which could lead to thousands of more dollars throughout your retirement. (3)
But when you should claim benefits isn’t as simple as waiting until age 70. Your health, home, and personal circumstances could indicate otherwise. Maybe you find out you have advanced-stage breast cancer, so you start taking benefits at age 62. Or maybe you are in good health and have plenty of other resources, so you use other accounts to fund retirement while you wait until age 70. Tailoring your claiming strategy to your unique life circumstances is key, and a professional can help you take all factors into account.
For Divorced Women
This may come as a surprise, but divorcées can claim their ex-spouse’s benefits as long as they were married for at least 10 years. The amount you receive is equal to 50% of your ex’s benefits. If you qualify for your own benefits, you either receive 100% of your benefit amount or 50% of your ex’s, whichever is higher. (4)
If your ex passes away, you receive benefits as a widow, which means you get 100% of your ex’s payout. The best part? Your ex never has to know you’re collecting spousal benefits. Social Security doesn’t notify them and you’re not required to reach out. There is one caveat to this rule, however. You won’t qualify for spousal benefits if you remarry. Your ex can, but you can’t. Although, if you happen to remarry and your second marriage ends in divorce or your spouse dies, you’d once again be eligible for your first spouse’s benefits.
Widows and divorcées who were married for at least a decade are eligible for survivor benefits when a spouse dies. Just keep in mind that you won’t qualify for survivor benefits if you remarry before age 60.
As with regular Social Security payouts, you receive reduced benefits if you claim them before you reach full retirement age. But unlike regular payouts, you don’t have to wait until you’re 70 to get the highest amount.
The chart below shows what percentage of survivor benefits you’d get based on your situation: (5)
Benefit Amount Before Retirement Age
Benefit Amount At Full Retirement Age
71.5% to 99% (starting at age 60)
71.5% (starting at age 50)
Widow With Child Under Age 16
75% (at any age)
Partner With a Financial Professional
Attempting to navigate Social Security on your own may not be the wisest course of action. Social Security is an important piece of the retirement puzzle, but it’s just one of many. Putting together an intricate puzzle is always easier with help, so to gain clarity and help maximize your benefits, it’s best to work with a financial professional.
At Favor Wealth, we’re here to help you make sense of Social Security, evaluate your options, and choose a claiming strategy based on your unique situation. If you have questions about Social Security or you need help developing a big-picture financial plan, don’t hesitate to reach out. Call us at 626-529-0445 or email Ricky directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if our services are right for you.
Ricky Biel is founder, wealth manager and Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor℠ professional at Favor Wealth, an independent financial advisory firm serving individuals and families near Pasadena, California. Ricky Biel founded Favor Wealth with a desire to provide unbiased, client-centered, community-based financial advice. Ricky and his team of caring, smart professionals want their clients to feel like they’ve done them a favor, making it easier than ever to accomplish their financial goals by blending proven investment methodologies with creative financial technologies. He is on a mission to help his family of clients feel both a sense of relief and excitement about their future. Favor Wealth takes care of their clients’ needs first and foremost and goes the extra mile to make their clients’ finances grow. To meet and see how the Favor Wealth team may be able to help, contact them today at 626-529-0445 or email Ricky directly at email@example.com.
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