Social security is a social funding program that provides social insurance benefits to qualifying individuals. Social security for women comes in a variety of configurations. These include social security retirement benefits, social security benefits for divorced spouses, and social security widow benefits.
This article will explain how social security works, cover social security strategies for women, and provide all the information you need to know to collect the maximum social security benefits.
What Is Social Security?
Social security is a form of financial security that is provided to United States citizens. Social security benefits include retirement benefits, disability benefits, and survivor benefits.
The social security program is one of the most successful programs in the United States that has kept the nation out of poverty. Today, over 60 million people receive social security benefits.
How Does Social Security Work?
Social security is a form of insurance. People who work contribute to social security through payroll deductions. Workers are eligible to earn four credits annually until they hit a threshold.
There are two trust funds that social security benefits come from:
- The OASI Trust Fund, designated for retirees
- The DI Trust Fund, designated for disability beneficiaries
These funds pay social security benefits to those who are eligible to receive them.
Who Needs Social Security?
Since social security is an insurance program, anyone who is eligible to receive benefits should get them. Claiming social security is especially important to women.
Women can receive retirement benefits through social security if they have worked an adequate amount of time to qualify for them.
On top of that, women can also receive benefits from a divorced or deceased spouse, to help supplement their current income or replace the income they were dependent on from their spouse.
Why Is It Important?
Social security benefits are important to women because typically, women live longer than men. Financial support that women receive from social security will provide great assistance when other forms of income become exhausted, no matter if you receive the benefits alone or as a form of supplemental income.
When Can Women Receive Social Security?
Women can collect social security in several ways. Hence the time you can receive the benefits will vary.
For women collecting social security retirement benefits, you need to be at least 62 years old. You must have worked for a minimum of ten years at a job contributing to the social security system. The longer someone waits to receive benefits, up to the age of 70, the more they are likely to receive.
Ex-spouses can collect based on what their spouse earned if they were married at least ten years. When a spouse passes away, the wife (or in some cases ex-wife) can collect widow benefits if the spouse had eligible income, and the widow is at least 60 years of age or disabled.
Is there a tax on social security? Yes, but only if you have other substantial income in addition to your benefits. You might need to speak to an expert who should be able to determine if you will pay tax on social security.
Social Security Strategies for Women
To get the maximum social security benefits at their disposal, women need to be armed with the best social security strategies.
- Women who have never married can collect their own social security retirement income as early as 62 if they have worked for ten years. Their pay was eligible for social security. However, the amount that they are eligible to receive increases by 8 percent each year they wait to collect. Those who start collecting early benefits will receive a reduced amount. For those interested in receiving the highest retirement amount they are entitled to, or close to it, it’s best to wait until they reach their full retirement age. On the other hand, there may be circumstances in which it’s better to go ahead and start drawing retirement benefits, such as economic hardship.
- Divorced women can collect spousal benefits, and they can also possibly receive survivor benefits. If their former spouse is eligible to collect social security benefits, then they are likely to receive spousal benefits, even if the ex-spouse has remarried. To be qualified, women must have been married to the former spouse for a minimum of ten years and not remarried. If they have not reached full retirement age, they will also receive a reduced amount instead of the total amount, which could be as much as 50 percent of their ex’s benefits. For those who have remarried, they can’t collect their ex-spouse’s benefits unless their current marriage ends. It doesn’t matter how, whether it is divorce or death, but once the current marriage ends, they can collect spousal benefits or survivor benefits.
- Widows may receive anywhere between 71 and 100 percent of their spouse’s benefits, depending on their age. If the woman was married to and living with their spouse at the time of their death, then they may also receive a one-time death stipend in addition to survivor benefits.
If you are eligible for more than one type of benefit from social security for women, you will only get paid the higher of the two. For instance, if a woman is already receiving her retirement benefits, and then her spouse passes away, and the benefits were more than hers, she will receive a higher amount of benefits.
While social security benefits are helpful, it is also wise to have a backup plan for some other source of income in addition to social security. In 2017, only 45 percent of unmarried women’s total income came from social security benefits.
For those who are able, starting an investment or a savings fund early on will provide some financial cushion in the future. Mutual funds, ETF shares, and closed-end funds are multiple investment options to help grow extra income. For those not familiar with investment funds, consulting with a financial advisor might be beneficial.
Social Security Benefits for Women and How to Claim Them
Most women dream of having a long, happy marriage. Unfortunately, that is not always reality. Many unexpected things can happen in life, including separation, divorce, and even death. In that case, you can collect spousal benefits.
In other cases, even if a woman is still with her spouse but has not worked, she may still be eligible for spousal benefits.
Here are some of the best tips to claim social security benefits for women…
Wife Social Security Benefits
Married women may receive these benefits when their spouse retires, regardless of the woman’s work status. These social security benefits for a wife are also available to married women whose spouse becomes disabled.
If the spouse suddenly stops working because of disability, or the woman is caring for children under the age of 16 or a disabled child of any age, the benefit amount will not be affected by her age. Also, if a woman is already receiving her own benefits, and they are more than what her spouse would get, she would continue to get her benefits and not receive a spousal benefit.
If the woman has not worked outside of the home, she may be eligible to claim social security benefits for a wife of up to 50 percent once her husband retires. She must have reached her own full retirement age to receive the most benefits. If she is not at full retirement age, she can still claim benefits as early as 62, but the benefits will be reduced.
How to Claim
Women who have never worked are eligible to claim social security spousal benefits if their spouse has qualifying income. The woman must be at least 62 or must have young children or a disabled child or children. If the woman is not married, and never has been, and has not worked, then social security for women will likely not be available to her.
Social Security Benefits for a Divorced Spouse
If the woman was married to her spouse for at least ten years and is currently unmarried and at least 62, she can claim social security benefits for a divorced spouse from her ex-husband. It does not matter if the spouse has remarried.
How to Claim
Divorced women in the United States have the highest poverty rates of all women. However, women can still collect social security benefits for a divorced spouse from their former spouse, given that she meets certain criteria. The amount of benefits she can receive will also depend on several factors.
- The woman must be at least 62
- The couple must have been married for more than ten years
- The spouse may be remarried, but the woman must not be remarried to claim the benefits
Apply for SSA divorced spouse’s benefits online via a social security account. Women who are applying must be 62 years old or older. Women can also apply by calling 1-800-772-1213 (or 1-800-325-0778 if they are deaf or have trouble hearing). Those applying will need to have certain documentation, including their birth certificate, W-2 forms, a marriage certificate, and divorce papers.
Applicants will also need to answer questions or verify information such as:
- Their name and social security number
- Whether they have used another social security number
- The dates and places of marriages as well as when they ended
- The names of any children under the age of 19 or disabled children
- Employment information
- When the applicant would like to start receiving the benefits
Social Security Widow Benefits
A woman can receive this benefit if she is over 60 and her husband dies. She can get the benefits earlier than that if she is disabled or has young children. Widows are also eligible for a one-time death benefit in the event of spousal death. Furthermore, if the woman is divorced and her former spouse dies, she can still receive social security widow benefits from him.
How to Claim
When a woman becomes widowed, and her spouse worked long enough to qualify for the collection of social security benefits, then the woman should be able to receive SSA survivor benefits on behalf of her deceased spouse. However, there are some stipulations. These include:
- The woman must be at least 60, or 50 if she has a disability
- The woman must not be remarried if she is under the age of 60
- If she is over 60 and remarries, her benefits will not be affected
- If the woman has children who are under the age of 16 or are disabled, she can receive the benefits at any age
- If the woman is already receiving spousal benefits, these will change over to survivors’ benefits
- If the woman is already receiving retirement benefits, these will be converted to survivors’ benefits if the amount she is getting is less than the survivor’s benefits. If it is more, then she will continue to receive retirement benefits.
- Divorced spouses could receive survivor’s benefits if they were married longer than ten years
- If the woman’s spouse remarried, but the woman is not remarried, she can still receive benefits.
While you can apply for SSA widow’s benefit online via a social security account, survivor’s benefits cannot. Those interested in applying for survivor social security benefits should call 1-800-772-1213 (or 1-800-325-0778 if they are deaf or have trouble hearing) and schedule an appointment to apply.
When applying for survivor’s benefits, it is essential to have the following things on hand or nearby:
- Provide documents that may be needed to claim survivor social security benefits, including the worker’s death certificate, the claimant’s birth certificate, marriage certificate, proof of citizenship, and W-2s.
The person applying may also be asked to answer questions such as:
- The name and social security number of the person applying
- The name and social security number of the worker
- The date of birth and date and place of death of the worker
- If either the worker or applicant was ever in active military service
- The date and location of the marriage
- The amount of earnings for the previous two years
- When the applicant would like benefits to begin
Social Security for Women
Since women have longer life expectancies and tend to outlive their spouses, and typically make less money than men, they need to be equipped with all the information to make the most of whatever benefits they may be eligible to receive. Whether they are claiming social security benefits from an ex or deceased spouse, there are plenty of options. Reviewing the guidelines in this article on what is needed to apply and how social security works can help make the process go a lot more smoothly.