Why Social Security Retirement is Important to Women

" "Social Security plays an especially important role in providing economic security for women. In the 21st century, more women work, pay Social Security taxes, and earn credit toward monthly retirement income than at any other time in our nation’s history. But, women face greater economic challenges in retirement. Women:

  • tend to live longer than men. A woman who is 65 years old today can expect to live, on average, until about 87, while a 65-year-old man can expect to live, on average, until about 84;
  • often have lower lifetime earnings than men; and
  • may reach retirement with smaller pensions and other assets than men.

Social Security offers a basic level of protection to all women. When you work, you pay taxes into the Social Security system, providing for your own benefits. In addition, your spouse’s earnings can give you Social Security coverage as well. Women who don’t work are often covered through their spouses’ work. When their spouses retire, become disabled, or die, women can receive benefits.

If you’re a worker age 18 or older, you can get a Social Security Statement online. Your Statement is a valuable tool to help you plan a secure financial future, and we recommend that you look at it each year. Your Statement provides a record of your earnings. To create an account online and review your Statement, visit our website.

If your spouse dies, you can get widow’s benefits if you’re age 60 or older. If you have a disability, you can get widow’s benefits as early as age 50. Your benefit amount will depend on your age and on the amount your deceased spouse was entitled to at the time of death. If your spouse was receiving reduced benefits, your survivor benefit will be based on that amount.

You may be eligible for widow’s benefits and Medicare before age 65 if you have a disability and are entitled to benefits. You also may be eligible for benefits if you are caring for a child who is younger than 16.

Our “People Like Me” website for women has valuable resources for people of all ages.

To read more about how we can help you, read and share the publication What Every Woman Should Know.


36 thoughts on “Why Social Security Retirement is Important to Women

  1. I have been receiving disability social security since 2004. I will be 62 in April, will my social security change. My husband will be 65 in June and will retiring.
    Will that effect. He
    He did receive social security in 2018. But decided to wait another year. He did receive payment, but paying them, back. How would this effect us?

    • Hi, Teresa. When you receive disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, we will automatically convert your disability benefits to retirement benefits, when you attain your Full Retirement Age. The benefit amount will generally remain the same. On the other hand, if you’re receiving benefits under the Supplemental Security Income or SSI program, and become eligible for any or other Social Security benefits on your own record or the records of others (e.g., spouse’s, widow’s, or childhood disability benefits) you are required to apply for those benefits as soon as you’re eligible. To get a thorough explanation, please call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Or you can contact your local office directly. We hope this helps.

  2. I’m a widow. When my husband passed away I lost his Army retirement and his social security. I was drawing my social security (still am of course) and working. I worked up until 2 years ago (I’m 76) next month because the $1200 or $1300 was not enough to live on. So I had to sell our home and by the time I did I owed so much money (he was sick so long we really had owed a lot of money) I didn’t get any money from the sale. I also owed the IRS quite a bit. They are paid off now. Thank goodness I have a son that has a good job as Assistsnce warden with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Office. He is divorced and lived with me now He helps me out or I would be out on the street It’s really hard to pay rent buy my medicine, food, and just major things you need to live on bring home $1461 s month. Rent is $800, food $75 for only need food, and I spent &600 on medicine in a 6 week time. But at least I have my SS money each month and happy I have it. I’ve wirked since I was 16 except for 6 years ( got the baby boy to start school)).

  3. The referenced publication “What Every Woman Should Know” is really thorough and explains every concern women might have about Social Security. It clarified one important question I didn’t quite understand about divorced spouses.This website is great for providing links to further information; whether on this site or another government website that can answer any questions that might be connected with Social Security issues. All the links work, pages load quickly, the layout is easily understood. The site itself has everything you need to know about Social Security in as much or as little detail as you care to delve into, with links to the cited statutory authority. Great place to start for information before calling or making a trip to the office if you don’t have to. Great job!!

  4. All very true! However if you happen to one of those selfless and underpaid individuals who dedicated your career to future generations as a teacher. That’s a mistake that Social Security will punish you for over the rest of your life. Especially if you also took other work that paid a pittance perhaps during the summer or on weekends.

  5. My husband and I were married in 1964 and divorced in 1982. We haven’t been in touch for years, and I don’t know if he is living or not. I do not have his Social Security number, either, so how would I go about getting any benefits I might be eligible for from him?

    • Hi, Sharyn. To be eligible for divorced spouse benefits, you had to be married to your former spouse for at least 10 years, not be currently married, and you cannot be eligible for a higher benefit on your own record. For specific questions about your eligibility on your former spouse, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., for assistance. Generally, you will have a shorter wait if you call later in the day. You can also contact your local Social Security office. We hope this helps.

  6. I am a 64 year old woman who has been in the working world for 48 years. During that time I was a divorced mother of three children who commuted 2 to 4 hours a day to a full time job … many of those years without the benefit of a call phone. Even though my age is 66 to retire, I can not make it to 66. I am barely going to make it to 65. My frustration with Social Security is why are we paying widow’s benefits to spouses who are 60? That age needs to be adjusted to at least 62 if not 65. Why does a widowed spouse get benefits before someone who has worked 48 years?

  7. I’m 74, divorced after 40 years. When we divorced, I had a substantial inheritance. Unfortunately it was quickly eaten up by a crooked Financial Planner running a ponzi scheme. I had asked for no alimony earlier as I had the inheritance. Now, I am really struggling and cannot seem to find a job – age I’m sure. Question: Can the alimony part of our divorce be reopened and adjusted since our S.S. amounts are vastly different? He has a big house, takes world trips, etc. I pay my rent with my S.S. and my son helps me with other things. Thanks.

  8. I worked for 25 years under social security and 25 years in the public sector in Massachusetts. I am affected by WEP.
    My pension under the public sector is based on years of service. Consequently my pension is far less than if I had worked my entire career in the public sector.
    My earnings under social security were based on low wages due to the fact it was the early portion of my career. Consequently, my social security is minimal.
    It is even less than the amount due because 50% is withheld due to WEP.
    I am notable to access my husband’s social security due to GOP.
    If I had never worked a day in my life, I would get a portion of his. These laws are unfair. I should be compensated for the time worked under social security at 100%. Being a woman, my earnings over the 50 years were lower than if I was a man.

  9. I am a woman who currently works for the county government and contributes to that retirement system. I was a stay-at-home mother for 18 years, raising my children, before working for the county. I recently learned that if I retire from the county with a pension, I forfeit the Social Security earnings I contributed in the first 15 years of my employment history, when I did not work for the government (before I was a stay-at-home-mom). If we know that women often earn less and therefore have lower retirement incomes, why am I not I entitled to the years I worked and contributed to Social Security, even if it would be a small check? I don’t understand the logic of this policy.

    • Hi, Debbie. Thanks for your question. The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) can affect how we calculate your benefit amount, resulting in a lower Social Security benefit than you otherwise would receive. A pension based on work that is not covered by Social Security (for example, Federal civil service and some State or local government agencies, such as police officers and some teachers) may cause the amount of your Social Security benefit to be reduced. The WEP does not affect your Social Security benefits if you worked and paid Social Security tax on 30 years of substantial earnings. Workers with 21 to 29 years of coverage or substantial earnings, are eligible for a partial exemption.
      To see how your Social security benefit can be affected by your years of substantial earnings, visit our Benefits Planner: Windfall Elimination Provision Chart web page. We hope this helps.

  10. I cannot draw my spouse’s social security because I have
    a small government pension of which I worked and
    earned. I draw a small amount of soc sec which I earned
    on my own. I understand this is called the WEP
    system and is not fair to women like me. When will this
    program be abolished?

  11. I am 66 and five years ago when retire spouse, age 68 died, I was told I made too much money to drawn widows benefit and would not be eligible for his social security. What is written by SSA is not clear and is confusing. Suggest you be more clear on who qualifies for benefits and when. I am still not clear as to whether now that I am of retirement age if I can draw on his account. I am still working and have not filed for my SSA.

    • Hi, Murphy. You can work while you receive Social Security retirement (or survivors) benefits. At 66, you’ve reached your full retirement age. If you work and are full retirement age or older, the amount you make at work will not affect your Social Security benefits, no matter how much you earn. Since you are eligible for retirement benefits (but haven’t applied yet), you have an additional option. In many cases, a widow or surviving divorced spouse can restrict the scope of their application and start receiving their survivors benefits, while delaying their own retirement benefit and earn delayed retirement credits. At this time you cannot apply for survivors’ benefits online. To make an appointment with your local Social Security office, call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. We hope this helps.

  12. One for the books, and “why” Reform is needed. I am 53, will be 54 this year. Married for 11 years, now divorced. Former husband obtained Full Disability Retirement as Professional Firefighter, though he only 45 Years Old at the time. He has Full (Retirement) Pension, Full SSDI, and Full Disability Insurance he obtained. I receive one-half of his monthly pension, each month. (I too am disabled, but did not work long enough to get SSDI on my own Account). I will have to wait until I am 62 before I can get SSDI on his (higher) Account. I he dies, I will qualify for for percentage of his SSDI when I am 55- because I am disabled too. Otherwise, I would have to wait until Age 62. If he dies, however, I will lose my percentage of his pension. Reform is needed, so that an unmarried divorced former spouse can receive a percentage of their former spouse’s SSDI at the same time as that SSDI-gaining former spouse. Also, the death of that former spouse should not negate the pension Benefit of the (surviving) former spouse. Just a thought.

  13. The laws Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) are extremely unfair laws that penalize teachers, policemen, and firefighters by taking 2/3 of their SS benefits, even if they paid into SS for 35-40 years, just because they worked as teachers, etc. This is ridiculous! Please help us (and yourself if you’re affected)! Sign the Petition to pass Bill HR 141 by going to edadvocacy.org – Take Action and scroll down to Retirement Security. Under that you’ll see “Cosponsor and support the SS Fairness Act of 2019 (HR141). Fill in your name to prove you’re a real person and submit; You’ll see the petition written by the National Education Association – hit “Submit”. thanks!

  14. I have a torn tendon in my arm & effects from it, will never be 100%. I have a shattered foot, will always give me trouble, has put a strain on the rest of my body including my back. I have asthma and get tired easily. I have a disorder and can’t be in air conditioning, a cold room, or outdoors for very long. I have 2 injuries to my right hand, a broken finger that healed but gives me trouble.
    I was denied my disability payment. And I have a letter from Social Security stating that I am disabled.

    • We are sorry to hear about your disabilities. Unfortunately, and because of security reasons, we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot assist you.

      To inquire about your claim, you will have to contact your local office as soon as possible or call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

    • Hi Lisa, thank you for your question. When you receive disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, we will automatically convert your disability benefits to retirement benefits, when you attain your Full Retirement Age. The benefit amount will generally remain the same.

      On the other hand, if you’re receiving disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, and become eligible for any other Social Security benefits on your own record or the records of others (e.g., retirement benefits) you are required to apply for those benefits as soon as you’re eligible. SSI is a needs based program intended for disabled adults that have limited income and resources so additional income can affect SSI eligibility. To get a thorough explanation, please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Or you can contact your local office directly.

  15. Hello. I have to decided to take my Social Security early out of necessity, and I’m looking forward to my first check.

    Is it true that due to my estranged spouse’s high income that I’ll have to pay taxes on my $800/mo
    SS income? If so, is there a way to find out how much less my SS check will be each month?

    My estranged spouse and I have lived in separate homes and in different states for over five years. I live in North Carolina, and living in separate homes is considered legal separation. Will this legal separation prevent me from paying taxes on my SS income?

    Thank you for your help.

  16. My question about my social security number card now all information provided now just to get my card order now how login take to get my card now I be waiting for login time Estelle’s I do not get my card this is I living in Italy Milan address is 20135 name is bak last name is danso birth address is viale isonzo 11 Milan to confirm my social security card now all information required in office sand all details now

    • Hi Bak, thank you for your question. At this time you must have a U. S. mailing address to create or access your online account. The “my Social Security” authentication system requires address verification as one of the essential criteria for issuing an account. People with APO/FPO/DPO addresses can create an account overseas, but our system does not support registration and account creation for users with a foreign address yet.

      We recommend that individuals living outside the United States contact the nearest Federal Benefit Unit or U.S. embassy in the area for any assistance related to Social Security programs and benefits. Also, our Office of International Operations home page provides more information to assist our customers living abroad.

  17. Are there social security specialists who can help me fill out the social security tax form? I’m separated and my spouse normally does this, but I need to do this myself with help. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be taxed at 85% of my social security income. Thanks!

  18. My wife receives a small SS benefit. I recently learned that she could receive 1/2 of MY benefit amount and that would be greater than the amount she receives now. Is that true?

    • Hi Sam, thank you for your question. We will always pay a person’s own retirement benefit first. If their benefits as a spouse are higher than their own retirement benefits, they will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. However, keep in mind that a spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one-half of the worker’s full retirement amount (not their reduced benefit amount). So, a person is only going to receive additional spouse’s benefits if their own full retirement benefit (not their reduced benefit) is less than half of their spouse’s full retirement benefit.

      Generally, during the initial interview when applying for Social Security benefits, we typically explore all other benefits that could yield you a higher benefit amount. To find out if she is eligible for a higher benefit amount, she can call us at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday or contact her local Social security office. Thanks!

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