Financial Planning for Women – Part 2 (Social Security)

In my previous blog post, Financial Planning for Women – Part 1, I talked about how women will generally live longer than their male counterparts, with less in their portfolio later in life, and with less loved ones available to take care of them. In this post, we look at Social Security and discuss how these unique challenges for women are applied to the recommendations we make to our clients.

There are key moments in life that shape your financial future. After nearly 20 years of serving women, Inspired Financial is keenly aware of these moments and know how they play out decades down the road. For example, the decisions on when you and your spouse take Social Security is a big one. It’s not just about getting the most money the moment you retire. It’s often more beneficial to delay taking the highest earner’s Social Security benefit until they turn 70. There are sometimes exceptions, like when facing a terminal illness and shortened life expectancy, but most people are better off delaying until age 70 to receive an increased benefit of 8% (plus cost of living adjustments) for every year you delay past your full retirement age, even if that means drawing from the portfolio in the interim.

For married women, the most important reason to delay goes beyond that and it’s often overlooked. It’s the survivor benefit. If your husband was the highest earner, you may get the 50% spousal benefit while he is alive, but if he dies first–as most husbands often do–you should be eligible for 100% of his benefit as a survivor benefit! That monthly benefit will be considerably higher from delaying until he was 70 than if he had taken it sooner.

Why is that important for women? Because they are the ones that will likely rely on it the most. When the surviving spouse (usually the wife) is on their own and in their 80’s or 90’s, when their portfolios have been drawn down and they need a steady income for their basic needs, a maximized survivor benefit will go a long way in keeping them financially secure. Nearly 50% of all elderly unmarried women receiving Social Security benefits relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.1

If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record (even if they have remarried) if:

  • You are unmarried;
  • You are age 62 or older;
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.2

If you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), your remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivor benefits.3

The comments above are general in nature and should be vetted with a trusted financial planner and your personal situation. The advice and guidance we provide in the early years of retirement puts women in the best possible position to live their final years with grace, security, and dignity.


1 Social Security Fact Sheet. “Social Security is Important to Women.” September, 2016.

2 Social Security. Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced. December, 2017.

3 Social Security. Survivors Planner: If You’re The Worker’s Surviving Divorced Spouse. December, 2017.

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