Guest Bloggers, Retirement, Survivors

Smart Social Security Strategies for Women

August 10, 2023 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: August 10, 2023

three women smiling togetherWhile many women plan to claim Social Security retirement benefits, they may not know about how various factors could impact their monthly payment.

More women are working than ever before, but their average benefits are lower than those for men because women typically earn less over their lifetime. In addition, falling marriage rates mean fewer women are in a position to claim spouse’s and survivor benefits.

Here are some important points for women to consider when planning to apply for Social Security benefits:

Claiming benefits. Benefits can be reduced by up to 30% if you claim as soon as you are eligible, before your full retirement age. If you have other income sources you can use after retirement, such as a 401(k) or IRA, you can delay claiming your Social Security benefits. This delay will result in increased monthly benefits when you do begin receiving them. The increased monthly amount can have a positive impact on your financial security because you will receive a greater amount for the rest of your life.

Your health. Delaying your claiming age makes sense if you are in good health. If you are in poor health, it may make sense to claim earlier.

Spouse’s benefits. Married people are eligible to claim spouse’s benefits and are also eligible to claim their own benefits if they worked for at least 10 years. Your strategy must consider both you and your spouse. If neither of you can delay claiming, then claim the lower-earning spouse’s benefits first. Delaying the claim of the higher-earning spouse will result in greater growth in the monthly benefits. Even if you have never worked or worked for less than 10 years, you can claim spouse’s benefits after the income-earning spouse has claimed benefits.

Surviving spouses. If you have survived your spouse, you can claim survivor benefits. This can be up to 100% of your deceased spouse’s benefits. The amount depends on whether you can claim your own benefits first and if your spouse was receiving benefits prior to their death. Depending on income levels, you may be able to claim your deceased spouse’s benefits while delaying your own benefits.

Divorce. If you are divorced and were married for at least 10 years, you can claim spouse’s benefits at age 62. This applies if you did not remarry and if your spouse’s benefits are higher than your own benefits. If you remarry, you cannot claim under the former spouse, but you can claim under your current spouse. You cannot claim spouse’s benefits within 2 years of divorce.

Plan early. Develop a strategy for claiming benefits at least 10 or 15 years before you retire. One great way to get started is to create a personal my Social Security account. With a personal my Social Security account, you can get personalized retirement estimates, get estimated for spouse’s benefits, and get your Social Security Statement.

Social Security is there for you as you plan for retirement. Please share this information with friends and family who need it – and post it on social media.

Our posting of this blog does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of any non-Social Security organization, author, or webpages.

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  1. Curtis K.

    My wife retired before me and receives half of what I receive, can she receive more benefits somehow?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Curtis. Thanks for visiting our blog. For your wife’s security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. She can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. She can also contact her local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  2. Mela,S.

    I am 74 yes. Old and I stopped working January 2023, do I need to report to social security

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Mela. Thanks for your question. No, you do not need to report this work change to Social Security. Beginning with the month you reach full retirement age, your earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn. We hope this helps. 


  3. Ginny M.

    I am 61 and still working for US government. My husband is 64 and retired with a pension, but has not filed for Social Security yet. I plan to continue working until 65 and delay claiming SS until I reach FRA at 67. My benefit will be substantially higher than his. We are considering filing for his SS benefits now. If I die first, he would apply for survivor benefits on my record.

    Questions: 1) Does this approach generally make sense? 2) Would applying for his SS benefit before FRA reduce his potential survivor benefit, or would that be based only the age at which I claim benefits?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Ginny. Thanks for visiting our blog. Please bear in mind that the decision on when to apply for benefits is a personal one. We can only provide you with the information to help you make the best choice according to your own situation. Our Retirement Planner provides detailed information about Social Security retirement benefits under current law. It also points out things you may want to consider as you prepare for the future. Also, to qualify for spouse’s benefits, your spouse must be receiving retirement or disability benefits. Keep in mind  if you qualify for your own benefits and for benefits as a spouse, we always pay your own benefits first. If your benefits as a spouse are higher than your own benefits, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. Visit our Benefits Planner for more information. We hope this helps.

  4. Ed H.

    Husband died 3 yrs ago while receiving SSA. Spouse is receiving her own SSA benefit. However, spouse would like to apply for spousal benefit if it is greater.Spouse is suffering from partial dementia & SSAoffice said the spouse must come into the SSA office. Is there any way SSA can provide a intake person to travel to the spousal residence living in NYC.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Ed. Thanks for visiting our blog. We encourage the spouse to continue working with their local Social Security office to determine what service options are available. We hope this helps.

  5. Janis B.

    I’ve been disabled since 2004 and I receive SS Disability Benefits. I’ll be turning 64 years old on the 5th of September. My question is will SSA notify me when it’s time for me to switch to SS Retirement or will I need to contact the SSA Office myself? Or will I continue to receive SS Disability benefits always no matter what my age is? I’ve been married twice yet neither marriage lasted at least 10 years. I receive disability on my own work record not someone else’s.
    I’m not sure what to do or when to do it. Please help!

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Janis. Thanks for your questions. Generally, your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you can’t work. Benefits won’t necessarily continue indefinitely. The law requires Social Security to conduct disability reviews periodically to make sure the individuals receiving disability benefits are still eligible to get them. For more information, check out our publication, What You Need to Know When You Get Social Security Disability BenefitsWhen you reach full retirement age, we will automatically convert your disability benefits to retirement benefits, but the amount remains the same. We hope this helps. 

  6. Carol H.

    Such good information I wish I would have read things like this before I took my SS at 62. I thought my marriage would last forever but it ended after 25 years, at age 68. Since I worked for my husband the last 20 years receiving no pay, nothing went into SS. My earnings SS check was very low. My health failed at 70 and I could no longer work and now I’m 72. I hope all women that work for their husbands read your article because you just never know how circumstances can change leaving you struggling and living off your children.


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