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Women need to understand their Social Security benefit…but that’s not all!

March 13, 2017 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: November 3, 2023

Cindy Hounsell

One of the biggest mistakes people make is simply not taking the time or waiting too long to understand how the retirement system works. If you’re worried that you won’t have enough money to last throughout a longer lifetime, take action by doing something about it. According to a 2016 survey, only 40 percent of workers have gotten an estimate of their Social Security benefit amount and only 17 percent have a written financial plan.

While all Americans need to plan for their financial futures, it is especially important for women. Women face unique financial challenges like longer life spans, the fact that we traditionally earn less than men, and differing employment patterns from men. Women are more likely to work part-time and spend time out of the paid workforce to care for loved ones. These all usually lower women’s Social Security benefits and overall savings.

Women need to know the amount of their future benefits, and make sure they know the best time to retire. Married women need to know how widowhood and divorce affect their benefits. An easy way to do this is to sign up for a my Social Security account, and use your Social Security Statement as a planning tool.

Social Security provides the foundation, but you need to have other sources of income such as a work-based retirement savings plan. What about personal IRAs or other savings/investment accounts? If you are married, don’t forget to find out what retirement accounts your spouse has as well. The Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) has a worksheet Get Your Ducks in a Row to help you get started.

Do you know all the benefits you may be eligible for through your employer? A typical benefits package is often worth up to 25 percent of an employee’s income, and can include health, retirement, disability, life, long-term care, and flexible spending accounts. Read WISER’s brochure, 20 Ways to Take Advantage of Your Company Benefits Plan to learn more.

Finally, with tax season underway, now is the perfect time to get started. Grab those W2 forms to see how much money you are actually living off of each year, and then figure out how you, with Social Security benefits and other resources, can maintain financial security throughout your life’s journey. For additional resources, visit and Social Security’s People Like Me – Women’s page.

Cindy Hounsell, is the President of the Washington D.C.- based Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER,) a nonprofit organization to improve opportunities for women to secure retirement income and to educate the public about the inequities affecting women in retirement.

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