Social Security Claiming Strategies For Single, Divorced & Widowed Women
Updated: Apr 14, 2022
By Novi Wealth Partners
When Social Security was designed in the 1930s, it had the traditional family—and the traditional family only—in mind.
But what about today’s modern woman? She 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.
Less pay, longer life spans, and shorter time in the workforce means women should carefully consider how and when they claim Social Security so they don’t get short-changed 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 proves that single women are more dependent on Social Security than any other population. If you fall into this group, this is what you need to know about claiming your benefits.
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 and your spouse 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.
This may come as a surprise, but divorcees 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.
Widows and divorcees 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)
We Want To See You Thrive!
At Novi Wealth Partners, we are passionate about empowering women to take control of their finances and make decisions that get them closer to their ideal future. We are familiar with the unique challenges women face throughout their lifetime and desire to partner with you to maximize your opportunities and minimize the risks to your financial situation. Whether you need help developing a brand-new financial plan or you just want to know more about Social Security, call (609) 921-7002 or email email@example.com to schedule an introductory appointment. Happy Women’s History Month!
About Novi Wealth Partners
Novi Wealth Partners is an independent, fee-only comprehensive financial planning firm dedicated to empowering clients to discover their definition of true wealth while providing the confidence to achieve it. With 20+ years of experience, we have found that most people don’t care about money, but instead, they care about what money can do for them and their loved ones. As a result, we focus on guiding our clients to find their unique vision for their life and developing a plan to help them live out their values. Our goal is to truly understand our clients on a personal level and help them navigate life’s many changes.
We are located in Princeton, New Jersey and we service clients both locally and nationally. There are four CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® practitioners in the firm, all of whom are members of the prestigious National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA). We prioritize a team-based approach, which allows us to deliver comprehensive financial planning, investment management, tax planning advice, retirement planning, estate planning advice, risk management advice, and concierge level wealth management. We are committed to providing each of our clients a level of service as unique as they are and we are proud, as Fee-Only™ financial advisors, to offer unbiased financial expertise. To learn more about Novi Wealth Partners or to get started on your financial journey, visit our website or connect with us on LinkedIn.