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Wealth & Well-Being

5 Things Every Woman Should Know About Social Security

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Nearly 60 percent of the people receiving Social Security benefits are women. While Social Security benefits are completely neutral when it comes to gender, there are ways in which women can benefit from thinking strategically about their Social Security income so that it can be of maximum value to them throughout retirement. Understanding the information in this article can help you better prepare for what you can expect from your Social Security benefits and can help you to determine when you should begin drawing from what you are eligible for.


Women, on average, live approximately 10 years longer than men. This longer life expectancy has a higher chance of draining other sources of income more quickly making Social Security an important component of your retirement income plan.


As long as you have worked for at least 10 years in a job(s) in which you paid into Social Security, and you have earned a minimum of 40 work credits, you are eligible for some amount of Social Security benefit. No matter whether you are married, when you reach the age of 62 you will become eligible for your own Social Security benefit. SS retirement benefits are figured based on a percentage of your average monthly wage using a 35-year base of earnings. Women often face a reduced benefit amount due to the fact that they are more likely to have taken time away from work to care for children or relatives.

It is important to note that those who work in civil service (teachers, police officers, etc.) who receive a pension may have a further reduced Social Security benefit.


For those who are still married at the time of taking SS benefits, and both spouses have worked, both wives and husbands will receive their own Social Security benefit. Women who have not fulfilled their minimum 40 credits (likely because they have worked full time within their own home fulfilling domestic responsibilities) are entitled to one-half of their husbands’ SS benefits, but will not receive her own.

If you are married and have worked, you MAY be eligible for two benefits. One would be the benefit they would receive from their own SS record. The other would be the wife’ benefit from your husband’s record. Social Security will not pay out both benefits. Women are eligible for whichever one is the higher annual amount.


For marriages which last at least 10 years, women are eligible for some of their exes Social Security benefits. This is only true if they are unmarried at the time that they become eligible for Social Security. Contrary to popular belief, the benefits that are paid to a divorced spouse DO NOT reduce payments made to the ex-husband or any payments due to the ex’s current spouse if he remarried. Divorced women are also eligible for the higher widow’s rate should your ex husband pass away before you.


In the event that your husband or ex-husband passes away before you, in most cases, you are due a widow’s benefit. The percentage of your spouse’s benefit that you receive is based on your age at the time of his passing. If you are aged 60, then you will receive 71% of his SS benefits. If you are of full retirement age, then you will receive 100% of his SS benefits. Bear in mind that it is still the larger of two that you will receive. If you are receiving your own retirement benefit and it is higher than that of the widow’s benefit, you will only continue to receive your own SS payment. If your own retirement is lower than the widow’s rate, then SSA will supplement that to bring up to the widow’s rate. For those who are living with their spouse at the time of their death, there is a one-time death benefit paid out by the Social Security Administration.

Planning for retirement and understanding your benefits can be especially challenging for women. We live longer, we often take career time off to tend to family needs, we often earn less than men over the course of our lives. These factors, among others, can affect our Social Security benefit as well as the longevity of all of our retirement savings and income.

At Northstar Financial Planning, we specialize in helping women achieve their personal and financial goals by taking the time to understand what is important to each and every one of our clients. For questions about Social Security or any other aspect of your retirement plan do not hesitate to reach out to us at info@northstarfp.com or (603) 458-2776.

Written by Robin Young, CFP®

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