Social Security Claiming Strategies For Single, Divorced & Widowed Women
By Scott McCord, AAMS®, BFA™
When President Roosevelt signed it into law in 1935, Social Security was fundamentally a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement. However, it had the traditional family—and the traditional family only—in mind. We have seen family dynamics dramatically change since then, and women’s roles in the home and workforce now look completely different.
Today’s modern woman works full time, earns less than her male counterparts, lives longer than they do, and steps up as a caregiver when elderly parents and young kids need her most. Due to the disadvantages of less pay, longer life spans, and shorter time in the workforce, women should carefully consider how and when they claim Social Security so they don’t get shortchanged later on in life.
But the stakes are even higher for single, divorced, and widowed women. Nearly 50% of older, single women get at least 90% of their income from Social Security, compared to only 21% of married women. (1) This statistic shows that single women are more dependent on Social Security than any other population. If you fall into this group, here’s what you need to know about claiming your benefits.
For The Single Women
Many women make the mistake of claiming Social Security as soon as they’re eligible. Few wait until full retirement age, and even fewer wait until age 70. But your benefit amount increases by 8% each year from age 62 to 70, so it pays to wait.
For example, let’s say your full retirement age is 66 and your monthly payment is estimated to be $2,000. The chart below shows how much you’d get every month if you started collecting at age 62 (reduced benefits), 66 (full benefits), and 70 (increased benefits).
Just by waiting until age 70, your monthly payout increases by a whopping 32% each month, which could lead to thousands of more dollars over the course of your retirement. (2)
But when you should claim benefits isn’t as simple as waiting until age 70. Your health, home, and personal circumstances could indicate otherwise. Maybe you find out you have advanced-stage breast cancer, so you start taking benefits at age 62. Or maybe you are in good health, so you use other accounts to fund retirement while you wait until age 70. Tailoring your claiming strategy to your unique life circumstances is key, and a professional can help you take all factors into account.
For Those Who Are Divorced
This may come as a surprise, but divorcées can claim their ex-spouse’s benefits as long as they were married at least 10 years. The amount you receive is equal to 50% of your ex’s benefits. If you qualify for your own benefits, you either receive 100% of your benefit amount or 50% of your ex’s, whichever is higher. (3)
If your ex passes away, you receive benefits as a widow, which means you get 100% of your ex’s payout. The best part? Your ex never has to know you’re collecting spousal benefits. Social Security doesn’t notify them and you’re not required to reach out. There is one caveat to this rule, however. You won’t qualify for spousal benefits if you remarry. Your ex can, but you can’t. Although, if you happen to remarry and your second marriage ends in divorce or your spouse dies, you’d once again be eligible for your first spouse’s benefits.
For The Widows
Widows and divorcées who were married for at least a decade are eligible for survivor benefits when a spouse dies. Just keep in mind that you won’t qualify for survivor benefits if you remarry before age 60.
As with regular Social Security payouts, you receive reduced benefits if you claim them before you reach full retirement age. But unlike regular payouts, you don’t have to wait until you’re 70 to get the highest amount.
The chart below shows what percentage of survivor benefits you’d get based on your situation: (4)
Don’t Go It Alone
Social Security is a complex system with many moving parts, so it’s best to partner with a financial professional to make sense of it and help to maximize your benefits. We at Anthem Financial can help you choose a claiming strategy based on your unique situation. We would love to walk with you as you navigate Social Security—and the rest of your financial journey as well. If you have questions about Social Security or you need help developing a brand-new financial plan, schedule a free introductory meeting online or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 309-214-0152. We look forward to hearing from you soon!
Scott McCord is founder and Investment Advisor Representative at Anthem Financial, providing values-based financial advice as a fiduciary. With over 20 years of experience in the financial industry, Scott focuses on building long-term relationships with his clients so he can understand their unique values and guide them through the ups and downs of their financial lives, keeping them focused on their short-term and long-term financial goals. Scott has a bachelor’s degree in business management and accounting and holds the Behavioral Financial Advisor™ (BFA™) and Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS®) certifications, Series 66 licenses, as well as life, health, and disability income insurance licenses. Scott is married to his intellectual and spiritual ally, Heather, and together they have two beautiful children, their daughter, Meyer, and their son, Grady. When Scott is not focusing on his clients and family, he volunteers his time on the Peoria Public Schools Foundation board, Impact Peoria board, and Rotary of Downtown Peoria board. To learn more about Scott, connect with him on LinkedIn.
Investment Advisor Representative of and advisory services are offered through Independent Wealth Network, Inc. a Registered Investment Advisor. Anthem Financial is not affiliated with Independent Wealth Network, Inc.
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