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What Every Woman Should Know About Social Security

April 14, 2017 • By

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Last Updated: April 14, 2017

Suze OrmanRetirement planning is especially challenging for women. We tend to live longer, and it’s not uncommon to have “off-ramped” from work at some point(s) to raise kids or care for a loved one. And because this affects lifetime earnings, it may also affect your eventual Social Security benefit. Don’t get me started on the gender wage gap.

Here’s what women need to understand about Social Security.

  1. You can claim a benefit based on your own work history, or you may be able to claim a benefit based on your spouse’s Social Security earnings record.
  2. You are eligible for Social Security if you have worked (and paid into the system) for 40 quarters, which is 10 years.
  3. Your benefit is based on the highest 35 years of earnings. That’s where working through your 60s might be helpful, if it knocks out some of your lower-income years from your benefit computation.
  4. If you are eligible for benefits based on your own work, and also benefits based on someone else’s work, such as your spouse, you will get your own benefit first. If the benefit you are eligible for based on someone else’s work is higher than your own, you will get a combination of the two that equals the higher amount.
  5.  If you were married at least 10 years before you divorced or if your marriage ended in death, you may be eligible to claim a benefit based on your former or deceased spouse’s Social Security record.

SSA does not endorse any particular financial advisory product or service.


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About the Author

Suze Orman, Personal Finance Expert

Suze Orman is an award-winning personal finance expert.


  1. Whitley

    Useful information. Lucky me I found your site by accident, and I am surprised why this twist of fate didn’t came about in advance! I bookmarked it.

  2. Phuong N.

    I’m still working and I’m planning to retire at 66 for getting full SS check but my husband is not wait like me, he is not working since 5 year ago after 25 year worked then this year he is 62, he’ll apply for his SS check. What will relating between my SS and his?

  3. Av

    This question is for an expert. I was married for 22 years. I am 62 now and my ex 63. When I reach full retirement age can I collect half of my exes record and let my own record increase until 70. The reason I am asking is because I read that if you are born after Jan 1954 this is not so. Can you explain the best scenario for me. I would consider delaying my own benefits if this is more advantageous and allowed.

  4. flext

    ___123___What Every Woman Should Know About Social Security | Social Security Matters___123___

  5. FlyinKilla

    ___123___What Every Woman Should Know About Social Security | Social Security Matters___123___

  6. momna f.

    hi im fouzia bano i need ssi for my disable daughter momna fiaz im not citzen im green holder card

  7. ana s.

    my ex did our taxes every year and unbeknownst to me when he did them he declared almost no income for me some of the years and very low income for the others. We were married 24 years. I had no idea he was doing this because I did not understand how to file tax returns and he solely did them every year and then would shove the papers in front of my and instruct me to “Sign here”. I never imagined that he would cheat me especially since I gave up my full time job in 1978 to be a stay at home mom when we started having children. If I had not given up my full time job and continued working I have calculated that my income would be well over $2300 . Still cannot bring myself to believe that someone could be so devious and deceitful, especially to the mother of his children !. Bad enough that I lost all of that income of full time working – but for him to take my part tie income …… and put it on his income and leave me with little or no income for all of our 24 years of marriage is so unfair ! How does someone play such a nasty trick on the mother of his children ? he is going to be collecting over $3000.00 per month and mine is only $800 ! How unfair is this ! I am having such a hard time making ends meet and he is walking on air !
    I didn’t find out about this until the day I went to the SS office and the representative told me I was only going to get ab out $430 a month and when I asked why he said because you barely worked during your married years. I told him I did work all those years – part time – and he turned the screen around and showed me all the years of NO INCOME or very little income while I was married. So so wrong of him, and to never tell me and let me have to find out when I went to apply for benefits? I called him up later that day and asked him why he did that to me and he nastily replied that the day we got divorced all of his promises went out the door, along with my social security.

    • anamar

      Sounds like the man I will be divorced from soon. I am finding many evil things he did to mess up the rest of my life financially because he is with a much younger woman. I am nothing to him anymore, and she will receive his 401k worth $500,000, and I will be lucky to keep our old beat up home. I would never have done something like this to him. I could end up homeless with all my health conditions. Hope that things will get better for you. Maria

    • Deb L.

      Have you contacted the IRS about the errors in your income reporting? Don’t forget your employers all had to send record of your income to the IRS under your social security number. It could be fixable.



  9. Brene F.

    So let me go over this.
    I was married for 27+years
    I divorced him.
    Was getting his SS.
    I remarried the man was police officer so I get nothing from him.
    I only get mine at a wonderful 300.00 a month.
    I was told that’s all I get since my ex is still living.

    • R.F.

      If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends. Generally, you must be married for one year before you can get spouse’s benefits.

      • anamar

        Only married for one year?

        • R.F.

          Generally, if you have been married to someone who is receiving retirement benefits, you may also qualify for spousal benefits. You need to have been married for a minimum of one year to qualify for benefits under your current spouse’s record.

    • Lainey

      I love these arlcties. How many words can a wordsmith smith?

  10. Cathy W.

    I had to retire at 62 before full retirement age of 66 because of bad health. My husband’s full ss amount is more than mine. If he predeceases me, can I choose to have his ss rather than keep mine? i am now 68 and he is 71. Neither of us is working.

    • R.F.

      Hi Cathy, if you’re getting benefits based on your own work, you will have to contact us. We’ll check to see if you can get more money as a widow. If so, you’ll get a combination of benefits that equals the higher amount. You must complete an application to switch to survivors benefits. Social Security uses the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount to calculate the percentage survivors can get. The percentage depends on the survivor’s age and relationship to the worker. If the worker who died was getting reduced benefits, we’ll base your survivor’s benefit on that amount. In most typical claims for benefits, a widow or widower, at full retirement age or older, generally gets 100 percent of the worker’s basic benefit amount. We hope this information helps.

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