Finances & Money

What Women Need to Know About Social Security

what women need to know about social security

Here are some things that women need to know about Social Security.

You earn Social Security retirement benefits by working at least ten years, or forty quarters. Benefits are partially calculated based on total earnings. This calculation negatively affects women who exit the workforce for a time to raise children as those years may have low or zero income.

Working Longer Can Increase Women’s Benefits

Social Security benefits are based upon the highest 35 years of income. Women can negate the low-income child raising years in their twenties by adding years of higher income in their sixties.

Women are Eligible for Retirement Benefits

Retirement benefits are based upon a woman’s work history. They can also apply for spousal benefits based upon the work of their spouse. Benefits are payable as early as age 62, however, are permanently reduced if started before full retirement age. Full retirement age depends upon a person’s age, currently ranging between age 66 and 67. Check out this calculator to determine your full retirement age, as well as how much your retirement benefits or spousal benefits will be reduced if you apply before full retirement age.

Women are Eligible for Benefits of Deceased Spouse

If a woman’s spouse dies, she is eligible for widow’s benefits if over the age of 60, or as early as the age of 50 if disabled. She would no longer be eligible for widow’s benefits if she remarries before the age of 60. Remarrying after the age of 60 has no effect on widow’s benefits.

Women can also apply for widow’s benefits if she is caring for children under the age of 16. The children are eligible for Social Security benefits if they are under the age of 18, or between 18 and 19 and enrolled in an elementary or secondary school full time.

Widow’s benefits are calculated based upon the widow’s age, as well as the deceased’s benefits at the time of death. Should a widow apply for benefits while she is young, the monthly benefit is permanently reduced.  In some cases, it may be advantageous to wait until full retirement age to apply for widow’s benefits.

Divorced Women are Eligible for Benefits of Ex-Spouse

Divorced women may be able to collect benefits based on the work of their ex-spouse in the following scenarios. If the ex-spouse is still living:

  • The marriage lasted at least 10 years
  • Over 62 years old
  • Unmarried

If the ex-spouse is deceased:

  • The marriage lasted at least 10 years
  • Over 60 years old
  • Over 50 years old and disabled

Women are Eligible for Disability Benefits

Women can apply for Social Security disability benefits if they have worked long and recently enough. The requirements increase with age.  For those who became disabled before the age of 24, 1.5 years of credit out of the last three years is needed, and up to five out of the last 10 years if you become disabled at age 31 or older. Contact your Social Security office if you have questions regarding exactly how much work credit you need to qualify for disability benefits.

Double Dipping not Allowed

Women cannot collect more than one benefit based upon their own Social Security credits and their spouse or ex-spouse. If someone is eligible for multiple benefits, they will collect the value of the larger benefit only.

Determining Your Own and Your Spouse’s Social Security Benefit

Anyone can find out what they have earned for Social Security benefit credits by creating a profile on the Social Security Administration’s webpage. By having both yourself and your spouse create accounts you can see what each of you would currently get when you retire, as well as what would be paid to you if your spouse passed away.

Readers,  do you know what Social Security benefits you are eligible for when you retire, become disabled, or lose your spouse?

More About Social Security

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About the author

Brock Kernin

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