Why Social Security Retirement is Important to Women

March 7, 2019 • By

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Last Updated: July 16, 2021

" "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.
  • 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 Social Security for Women page 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.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Ralph

    The email header uses Woman instead of Women.

  2. Mary H.

    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.

  3. Barbara e.

    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.

  4. Kay

    It is concerning that the entity creating this blog does not know “woman” from “women”. Shameful.

  5. Linda C.

    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?

  6. Sharyn H.

    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?

    • Ann C.

      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.

  7. MDC

    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.

    • Jan

      Amen, sister!! So unfair!!

  8. Marcie

    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!!

    • Ann C.

      Thanks for the feedback, Marcie. Your thoughts are important to us and we’re pleased when feedback is positive. We try hard to provide the best possible service to our customers and your satisfaction is our reward.

      • Yeni

        It speaks of married women but what about single women?
        What type of benefits do we get?

        I have been disabled since age 4 but was not registered disabled until I turned 39yrs. I get pretty much the minimum amount and still not easy to pay what needs to be paid.
        I went to school more than work as an escape from my disability, and of course studies are never considered towards SSI. Still owe student loans that I don’t know how to pay for since there’s not enough information of how to.

        Never married, no children, been homeless, would get hired to later get fired when my mental illnesses were provoked, and no where in explain or spend time to aim for single, never married, women.


  9. Barbara B.

    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)).

  10. Teresa C.

    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?

    • Ann C.

      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.

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