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Woman’s Guide to Optimize Your Social Security Benefits

| March 23, 2021

In the spirit of celebrating women and all their contributions to the world, we wanted to focus on them during Women’s History Month in March. Women cover all areas of the work force and an increasing number are accruing high social security benefits from their working years.

Your Social Security benefit is one thing you can never outlive. These benefits will provide an inflation-protected income stream for as long as you live. Considered the foundation of a secure retirement income plan, knowing when to claim your Social Security benefit is an often-overlooked piece of the puzzle. Now the higher your net worth, the less you will rely on your Social Security income, but regardless of asset size, everyone wants to max out their benefit. Here are three claiming strategies to ensure you do just that.


  1. Delayed Retirement Credit

Resist the temptation to apply for your benefits at an early age. Rushing to collect your benefit will result in a reduced check for the rest of your life. Today, woman face the greater economic challenge in retirement of longer life expectancy than men. On average, a woman currently 65 years old is expected to live until 87. If you claim as early as age 62, your benefit will be reduced to about 75% of your full retirement age amount. If you wait to collect beyond full retirement age, each year your benefits increase 8%, until age 70.

For example, a single woman at full retirement age 66 is entitled to a Social Security benefit of $17,000/year. If she waited to collect until age 70, her yearly benefit would be $22,440, which is an increase of 32% for the remainder of her life!


  1. Married Scenario

Spouses have another opportunity to maximize their Social Security benefits. As a spouse, you are entitled to receive your own benefit or half of your spouse’s benefit, whichever is greater. A common strategy used is to have the lower earning spouse begin their benefits reduced at age 62, while the higher earning spouse delays their benefit until age 70. Once the higher spouse begins their benefits, the lower earner will automatically adjust to 50% of your spouse’s benefit.

Also, maximizing the benefits for the higher earning spouse will continue for the surviving spouse. Although the smaller benefit will fall off, the larger benefit will continue for the survivor. If neither spouse had drawn benefits yet, the survivor may collect benefits on their deceased spouse as early as 60 and then switch to their own at a later date, further enhancing their own benefit.


  1. Divorced Scenario

Some divorced women are eligible to receive 50% of their ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit. A few circumstances must take place to do so. First, you must have been married for 10 or more years. Second, you have to be divorced for at least two years, and have not remarried since. Third, you must be at least 62 years old and your ex-spouse must also be eligible to begin collecting their benefit. Keep in mind that even if your ex has not started receiving their benefit, or even remarried, you are still entitled to this amount.

Note that any benefits paid to ex-spouses do not reduce the ex’s own benefits or current spouse payments.


Social Security benefits were not intended to cover all of an individual’s financial needs, but knowing when to claim your benefits can be life changing. The answer to know when to begin your benefits depends on a number of factors such as your cash needs, health and family longevity, other income sources in retirement, and any future financial needs. Optimizing your benefits will help create a more comfortable and secure personal retirement income plan.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.