5 Things Women Must Know About Social Security
Here is a harsh reality: women tend to earn less over their lifetime, AND live longer than men. That is not a great scenario for women’s long-term financial security. This makes income from sources such as social security incredibly important.
However, social security payments and benefits are also commonly misunderstood. So, here we share 5 things women MUST know about their social security benefits. Please note that much of this information applies to both men and women. However, this information is particularly relevant to many women who may not have stayed in the work force as long or as consistently as their male counterparts.
Timing is Everything
Deciding to claim social security too soon can cost you thousands of dollars. The longer you wait to receive social security payments the higher your monthly payment can be. The amount you get when you first start receiving social security payments is the amount you will continue to get. There will be no increase. It doesn’t matter what your benefit would have been at 65 or 70 years of age. The amount of social security you get at the age of 62 is all you’ll ever qualify for.
For example, let’s say your payments are potentially $1200 at the age of 62, $1600 at the age of 65 and $2000 at the age of 70. If you start collecting at the age of 62, you will never receive more than $1200 per month. Because women typically have longer life spans, this mistake can be even more costly.
You could be eligible for ex-spouse’s benefits
If you are divorced, you may be eligible for some of you ex-spouse’s social security benefits. If you were married for ten years or more, you are still unmarried and both you and your ex-spouse are over age 62, you can claim spousal benefits. Also, in order to claim this benefit, your retirement benefits at full retirement age must be less than one-half of your ex-spouse’s benefits.
Stay at Home Parents can still Qualify for Social Security
For generations of women, their primary career was unpaid work as the head of household and primary caregiver for children. However, this does not preclude them from obtaining social security benefits. If a woman worked for at least 10 years – and it’s important to note – they do not need to be consecutive years – she will qualify for some social security benefits.
Additionally, for women who were not in the workforce for at least 10 years, there is a spousal benefit that entitles her to half of her husband’s benefits. In fact, the spousal benefit was designed to support stay at home parents.
In recent years, gender has been taken out of this equation, so the spousal benefit applies to same sex couples as well.
Widows Lose Spouse’s Benefits Immediately
For many retired couples, social security is their main source of income. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for the husband to be receiving higher social security payments than his wife. So, it comes as a complete (and unpleasant) shock to many women to find out that her husband’s benefits end immediately if he dies.
In many cases, this cuts income in half, while other expenses, such as electric bills, real estate taxes, cable bills, and car payments remain the same. Simultaneously, depending on the husband’s age – life insurance payouts may be far less than anticipated. This leaves many women unable to keep up with their expenses and bills at a most vulnerable time.
With this in mind, be sure to save as much money as possible, maximize your own social security benefits, and meet with a financial advisor to have a plan in place so you can maintain your cost of living even if you lose your spouse’s social security payments.
The more knowledge and confidence you have about retirement and investing, the more security you can provide for yourself. If you have any questions or want more information, contact one of our specialists at 610-422-3530.