Women, How To Maximize Social Security Benefits

In my previous piece, we covered the basics of how to qualify for Social Security benefits. Now, let’s take a look at some key factors women should consider when planning for their own Social Security needs.

If you change your name due to marriage or divorce. Be sure to report the change to the Social Security Administration. Otherwise, your earnings may not be recorded properly, and consequently, you may not receive all of the benefits that are due to you.

Social Security Disability Benefits. Whether it’s to care for children or aging parents, some women move in and out of the workforce at certain points in their lives; and as a result, they don’t meet the work requirements needed to obtain Social Security disability benefits. Personally, I don’t feel that this should be the sole factor in your decision to stay at home to care for family; however, you should definitely be aware that losing disability coverage could be a potential outcome of a disrupted work record.

Spousal Benefits. If your Social Security retirement benefit isn't at least half of your spouse's benefit, you will receive a spousal benefit to make up the difference. For example, if your spouse is entitled to a monthly benefit of $1,500 at his or her full retirement age (FRA), which now is a little over 66, and your work record only entitles you to $500 per month, an additional $250 will be added to your benefit to ensure that it equals half of your spouse's amount. On average, women typically earn less than men over the course of their careers, so the spousal benefit can be an important factor to maintaining financial security in retirement.

Women and Longevity. Since they tend to live longer than men, it’s especially important for women to carefully consider when to begin collecting Social Security. On average, a woman who is 65 years old today can expect to live until about age 87, while a 65-year-old man can expect to live, on average, until about age 84.

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