The more you understand the financial challenges for women in retirement, the more you realize we are still discriminated against in our society. Even though it may not be as intentional as it once was, the following factors continue to diminish Social Security and pension benefits for women. Which is why we women need to be proactive and do everything we can to maximize Social Security and pension benefits.
When children or aging parents need care, it’s usually women who take time out of the workplace to provide it. Which lowers the amount contributed to Social Security and pension accounts. Even though women have a longer life expectancy, the amount of benefit dollars we receive over our lifetime will be lower due to lower lifetime earnings.
Here are three things women should consider when it comes to maximizing Social Security and pension benefits.
- Understand the lifetime value of your Social Security or pension benefits. Resist the temptation to start receiving benefits before age 70. The earlier you start taking Social Security or pension income, the lower your annual pay will be. Yes, you may receive more checks, but the dollar amount per check, and over your lifetime will be less.
- Understand the value of doing extra work. This is especially crucial for women who took extended time out of the workforce to be home with children. Focus on increasing benefits by working longer – until age 70 – and boosting income in whatever way you can. Not only will you increase your Social Security and pension payout, but you’ll also be able to contribute to supplemental retirement accounts and take advantage of ‘catch-up provisions’ available to individuals age 50 and older. Do not underestimate the value of extra work to provide a substantial amount of additional benefits over the course of your lifetime.
- Understand the value of spousal and survivor benefits. When Social Security was first implemented in 1935, most married women didn’t work, so spousal and survivor benefits were added so non-working wives could receive a benefit based on their husband’s earning record. To capitalize on this feature, it’s important for women who are married to have a conversation with their husband about the impact his claiming decision will have on their benefits. The decision about when to claim benefits for a couple should be based on the life of the spouse who will live the longest. Statistically speaking, that will be the female. For divorced women, you can receive ex-spousal benefits (which do not impact his benefits at all) as long as you were married for at least ten years and you’re currently unmarried.
The rules for claiming Social Security (and pension) benefits are complex indeed, and they are different for every situation. It is highly recommended to seek help from a professional for information and guidance on your particular situation. In many cases, knowing your options can boost your lifetime income by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yes, you read that correctly – HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.
Ladies, don’t leave money on the table!
The bottom line is this, women continue to be treated unfairly when it comes to financial security in retirement. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take care of yourself. There are strategies you can implement, and it won’t cost you anything – except a little of your precious time and attention.
We women need to do everything we can to maximize Social Security (and pension) benefits. What you don’t know in this case CAN HURT YOU.
Let me know how I can help.
Hello, I’m Patti. I’m an award-winning, certified life & money coach and retirement planner. I’ve worked with hundreds of women, school teachers, and their families to create a big-picture plan for their money and secure retirement. As a result, I noticed how women do money differently than men. Yet, the unique (emotional) needs of women have not been well served by the financial services industry. Which is why I’m super passionate about this work. I’m on a mission to teach women how to heal their relationship with money, take charge of their future and create a life they truly love.