Guest Bloggers, Retirement

Social Security: Learning How the System Protects Your Financial Future

March 2, 2023 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: November 2, 2023

Photo of Cindy HounsellDuring Women’s History Month, we recognize women innovators and those who have dedicated their lives to telling our stories both past and present. One important story from the last century concerns the status of women in the workforce.

More and more women have entered the workforce every year, into many new professions and more prominent positions. At the same time, we saw a major change in the nation’s voluntary retirement system—pensions steadily replaced by workplace savings accounts.

Women’s income security continues to be a challenge. Women are overrepresented in the low-wage workforce, and many must work part-time to accommodate family caregiving responsibilities. As a result, many women have lower Social Security benefits and fewer savings in personal accounts and workplace plans.

Many women face serious retirement challenges. Lower wages and gaps in earnings—plus a longer life expectancy than men—make it even harder for women to make their savings last longer. For most women, learning about Social Security and how to maximize benefits is critically important to their financial security. Working women who lack financial knowledge often feel less confident when making financial decisions. Consequently, they are more likely to put off planning for retirement.

Economist Dr. Heidi Hartmann is an expert on women’s issues and a friend of ours at the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement. Dr. Hartmann spearheaded important research about women’s reliance on Social Security—and continues to share stories with a new generation of leaders. As founder and former president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, she has helped address policies related to economic security and poverty for older working women.

Dr. Hartmann established a powerful coalition known as OWES, or the Older Women’s Economic Security Taskforce. She created OWES to educate policy makers and leaders about the stake that women have in the social insurance system—specifically as an effective anti-poverty program for millions of women.

In 1999, Dr. Hartmann convened a conference described as “an historic event” by The Washington Post. More than 60 OWES leaders, experts, and policymakers attended the conference, which helped release a report proposing that caregivers earn a Social Security credit.

Dr. Hartmann continues to focus on proposals that will modernize how women are rewarded for the full value of their work—both in the labor market and in caregiving for our elders and the next generation.

You should know how much you will receive from Social Security. To start, sign up for a personal my Social Security account to get an estimate of future benefits. You can also learn more on the Social Security for Women page.

Please share this with your family and friends – 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. Cindy S.

    Hoping this is a general question that doesn’t require alot of back info. My husband (age 78) gets the max benefits and I (age 70) get about $1100 due to always having worked parttime and not bringing in that much money. When he passes away, do I have an adjustment to my benefits so that I might receive more?

    • A.C.

      Hi, Cindy. Thanks for your question. The amount of your widow’s benefit is based on several factors, including: the earnings of your husband at the time of death, when the started receiving his benefits, your age at the time of your husband’s death, and the amount of your own retirement benefit. We compare your own benefit with your potential survivor benefit. If your survivor benefit would be higher than your own current retirement benefit at the time of your spouse’s passing, you would be eligible for survivor benefits. For more information on how this works, visit our Survivors Planner. We hope this helps. 

  2. Joanne M.

    I had reached out to the Social Security office when I was retiring at age 62 and they told me if I took my survivor benefits that I would have to stick with that my whole life and couldn’t change. So I thought I would wait till 70 because I could get by on some other income for a while and then get a bigger payment. But, I just went into sign up for medicare because I will be 65 in September and they told me I could get my survivor now and change to mine at 70. This information prevented me from taking my survivor benefits earlier and at a loss of over $30,000. They say there is no retroactive payment , is that correct?

    • A.C.

      Hi, Joanne. Thanks for visiting our blog. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We encourage you to continue working with your local Social Security office. You can ask to speak to a supervisor on your next call or visit. We hope this is resolved soon. 

  3. Ricky E.

    I started receiving my SSI when I turned 69. I signed up for Medicaid (only) part A and I keep my insurance from my 30 years at the Postal Service. (which is over 500.00 a mon.) My wife is seven years younger than me is the reason for that. Now I am 70. My question is should I go ahead and sign up for part B and pay two premiums or keep the status quo?

  4. Ricky E.

    I am 70, and retired when I was 68 in 2020. What determines the amount of my SSI payment. It is not the maximum amount. Is there something I need to do to increase my payment? Thanks for your response.

    • A.C.

      Hi, Ricky. Unfortunately, your comments are a bit more complex than we can handle in this forum. For your security, we do not have access to information about your account in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. You can also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  5. Julie F.

    Are survivor benefits taxable?

    • A.C.

      Hi, Julie. Thanks for visiting our blog. You must pay taxes on your benefits if you file a federal tax return as an “individual” and your “combined income” exceeds $25,000. If you file a joint return, you must pay taxes if you and your spouse have “combined income” of more than $32,000. If you are married and file a separate return, you probably will have to pay taxes on your benefits. For more information, visit our Benefits Planner.  For tax questions, you will need to contact the IRS. Their toll-free number is 1-800-829-1040 or you can visit their website. We hope this information is helpful.

  6. Elle J.

    My retired father wants to apply for social security disability, but since his job caused him to become disabled, he might still be eligible. I like how you said that you should be aware of how much Social Security you will receive. Create a personal My Social Security account to start and receive an estimation of your future benefits. Hopefully he will be accepted because the money I send him barely covers the cost of his medication. I appreciate your advice.

    • A.C.

      Hi, Ellie. We are sorry to hear about your father’s condition and situation. Disability benefits are paid to people who are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last one year or more or to end in death. We pay disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI), and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a needs-based disability program that pays benefits to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. The SSDI program provides benefits to insured disabled or blind adults (under full retirement age) covered by workers’ contributions to the Social Security trust funds. If he feels that he meets our definition of disability, your father should contact us call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. He can also contact his local Social Security office. 

      Typically, he can expect to hear a decision on his disability claim in three to five months after he submits his application. However, this can vary depending on the nature of his disability, how quickly we obtain medical evidence from his doctor or other medical source and whether it is necessary to send him for a medical examination in order to obtain evidence to support his claim.  See our Disability webpage for more information. We hope this information helps.


  7. Tracy K.

    Good afternoon Sue:
    Can you please share the Maximum Family Retirement Benefit (Married couple both 65) at FRA and at max delay?
    Would be extremely helpful to include on this page – with the Individual Retirement Info
    The maximum individual benefit depends on the age you retire. For example, if you retire at full retirement age in 2023, your maximum benefit would be $3,627. However, if you retire at age 62 in 2023, your maximum benefit would be $2,572. If you retire at age 70 in 2023, your maximum benefit would be $4,555.

    Am looking for Max Family SS Retirement Benefit info

    Thank you

  8. Sue

    I have searched the ssa website, and called the 1-800 number and my local search office, and cannot get an answer to my questions. I am hoping someone can answer them here…
    1. Why can’t someone over age 66 and 6 months Not answer question 23 on the SSA-1 APPLICATION, regarding selecting a start date for receiving benefits? My husband would like to receive benefits starting on his 70th birthday, not before. If he files a claim “up to four months bf”, as recommended by the Ssa website, how is he assured he will get the maximum benefit he is due?
    2) I turned age 62 in 2018. Bc of that, the new “deemed filing rules” apply to me. If I apply before HIS 70TH birthday, it effectively cancels out his opportunity to get his maximum benefit. According to our predicted benefits on each of our SDAaccounts, my spousal benefit would be larger than the benefitbon mybown record. So if I apply, it would automatically mean my husband would be applying to. Therefore, even though I could receive benefits ON MY OWN record bf he turns 70, I am prevented from doing that bc of the deeming rules. How fair is that?

    • A.C.

      Hi, Sue. Thanks for visiting our blog. First, it sounds like you are referring to month of entitlement. While our system is set up to accept claims four months in advance, the individual has the option to choose the month to begin benefits as long as it is no more than four months in the future. If your husband chooses the month he turns age 70, he will receive the maximum benefit. Second, the deemed filing rule only applies to you as an individual not to him as the spouse. Deemed filing means that when you file for either your retirement or your spouse’s benefit, you are required or “deemed” to file for the other benefit as well. The Bipartisan Budget Act extends deemed filing rules to apply at full retirement age and beyond. For more information, please visit our Filing Rules for Retirement and Spouses Benefits page. We hope this helps.

      • Sue

        Thanks for your reply, but I still have the same questions…
        1) Where on Form SSA-1 does someone over 66-6mths indicate the month they want entitlement to start? (As the form question 23 does not apply to them)
        2) If I apply bf he turns 70, under the “deemed filing” rules, wouldn’t we both be automatically claiming both of our retirement (our own record) and the spousal benefits at the same time? IOW, how would SSA start sending me spousal benefits now if my spouse hasn’t filed yet for his own benefit? Wouldn’t my claim now automatically trigger his as well (bf he turns 70)?
        My spousal benefit will be greater than my own record benefit, according to the charts onmy husbandsand my accounts pages.

      • Tammie L.

        Í am finding it very difficult to find out about my claim

        • A.C.

          Hi, Tammie. We are sorry to hear that. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. Please contact your local Social Security office for assistance. We hope this helps. 

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