You, Women’s History, and the Power of Social Security

March 10, 2017 • By

Last Updated: July 29, 2021

3 women smiling March is Women’s History Month — a time to focus not just on the past, but on the challenges women continue to face. Nearly 60 percent of the people receiving Social Security benefits are women, and 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. Knowing this, you can be the author of your own rich and independent history, with a little preparation.

Social Security has served a vital role in the lives of women for over 80 years. With longer life expectancies than men, women tend to live more years in retirement and have a greater chance of exhausting other sources of income. With the national average life expectancy for women in the United States rising, many women will have decades to enjoy retirement. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a female born today can expect to live more than 80 years. As a result, experts generally agree that if women want to ensure that their retirement years are comfortable, they need to plan early and wisely.

You can start with a visit to Social Security’s Retirement Estimator. It gives you a personalized estimate of your retirement benefits. Plug in different retirement ages and projected earnings to get an idea of how such things might change your future benefit amounts. You can use this valuable tool at

You should also visit Social Security’s financial planning website at It provides detailed information about how marriage, widowhood, divorce, self-employment, government service, and other life or career events can affect your Social Security.

Your benefits are based on your earnings, so you should create your personal my Social Security  account to verify that your earnings were reported correctly. Your account also can provide estimates of your future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits.

If you want more information about how Social Security supports women through life’s journey, Social Security has a booklet that you may find useful. It’s called Social Security: What Every Woman Should Know. You can find it online at


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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Mammie

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  2. Sherry S.

    I just wrote about how this Windfall Act has affected me and so many others. It has to be repealed and the only way this is going to happen is for people to speak out to their Senators, Representatives, etc. I have spent lots of time writing, calling, texting people to take action. I understood it was going before the house soon to be repealed but I will have to see it to believe it. I was married 55 years before my husband died and the month after, I was told I was not eligible to draw any of his social security benefits because I had retired from a Junior College. Who is getting all that money that my husband paid into–it sure isn’t the wife he thought he was helping and providing for if something should happen to him first. You are only one of millions, especially women, feeling this hardship. I wish enough people would step up and take action to get ACT off the books.

  3. Irene S.

    I worked for nearly 50 years some of the time for the government where I paid into a retirement plan and at the same time worked part time in the private sector paying into the social security system. My husband was a university Professor and paid into social security. He died before I retired and I went on working. Upon retirement I found out that my social security payment would be reduced because I paid into the government plan and that I would not be eligible to receive any of my husbands’ benefit because of same. This is called the Government Pension Offset or GPO and the Windfall Elimination Plan. To have worked as a nurse and a social worker and contributed to Social Security this is wrong.

  4. John

    We set aside months for minority ethnic groups, women, various illnesses, earthquakes, education, safety and everything else under the sun. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a month in which the government wasn’t trying to make us aware of something? I’m all for “leave me alone” month.

    • Chris

      You have free will I’m assuming? No one is forcing you to pay attention or whine about it on the internet. See something that doesn’t interest you? Just scroll on by…it works every time, I promise.

  5. Hospitals &.

    I read a book on the Donner party while waiting for a new computer after the deficit legislators invaded, evicted me and destroyed my computer. Apparently female survival rates were much higher than their male counterparts, although the last surviving person who remained on Truckee lake was male. The first ten people to die were men and about 47% of women survived and 27% of men. Surgical disability extends as deep into the computer, library as its victims are excluded from social security insurance programs and were some of the first victims to provoke deletion and hacking by Social Security Matters blog. Luckily I got my new book on disability published the day before to effectively cure pain the least invasive and cheapest way possible

    Dear Obese Commissioner and Demented Old President:

    The Republican OMB Director needs to be impeached, like the censure of the Social Security Matters blog. The military coup threatens Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations of 1776. The OMB website is not declaring the Excel Historical Budget Tables with the broken ledger and zero right answers regarding federal spending reported by agency congressional budget requests. Without the Historical Tables OMB doesn’t exist, there is a Republican hijacker in the White House and this is a major crime against the person who does the work and all the people who benefit from a government of people who uphold the law. The frequent budget proclamations buffet the White House with the equally unlawful influence of the outlaw Democratic-Republican (DR) two party system Congressional Budget Office (CBO) without a ledger at all, like an undertoe that threatens to drag civilian government into the deep. Disbelief in carbon dioxide air pollution is untimely whereas California Governor Brown’s 1,000 wildfires are suspected to have melted the Antarctic for the first time, that is making for a cold winter on the West Coast. Cutting funding for oceans is not the way to tax hydrocarbon and electricity exports and regulate oceanic hydrocarbon storage to prevent hurricanes and make rain. Taking into consideration that the money is supposed to go to finance the expansion of the military from mysterious size A to neoplastic size B there is no question that funding cuts of civilian agencies are unjustified, constitute the crime deprivation of relief benefits 18USC246 to describe both the torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and terrorism finance that offend the observer, as a crime that must be tried for the purpose of non-repetition and compensation. Scientists worth their salt need to join the diplomats, to protect their 2.5% annual administrative growth by supporting the mathematical accuracy and social agenda of the FY 2018 budget surplus the President and Acting Commissioner are too weak of heart to calculate for themselves, underwriting the Social Security Amendments of January 1, 2017

  6. Dante C.

    My social security retirement amount was drastically reduced due to ‘windfall profit’ from retirement with a county entity. I was told by the SS Associate that my widowed wife would receive 1/2 of my SS retirement amount, from which would be deducted her retirement amount, and only that exceeded the retirement amount from my county retirement stipend. Is this in fact true, or have other factors changed this?

    • John

      Call 800-772-1213 and ask them. Individual situations can’t be resolved here.

    • Sherry S.

      Due to me retiring from a Junior College and drawing a State Pension, I cannot draw any of my deceased husband’s social security benefits because of the Windfall Act. We were married 55 years and he paid into social security most of those years but I was told the month after he died, that I was not eligible to draw a since penny of his social security benefits because of me receiving a pension plan that did not pay into social security. This is unjust because my husband paid out of his paycheck each week thinking he was providing added security if he should die before me. This Act does not affect our government officials. They can draw as many pensions from all sorts State, Local, or Federal government pension plans as long as they worked a little time. I have spent lots of time writing to my Senators, Representatives, the Senate Finance Committee, etc in hope of many these people aware of how this Act has caused a great hardship of so many. The only way this Act is going to be repealed is for people who are affected by it – stand up and be heard.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Dante, a pension based on work that is not covered by Social Security (for example, Federal civil service and some State or local government agencies) may cause the amount of your Social Security benefit to be reduced. Your benefits can be reduced based on one of two provisions. Your own Social Security benefit can be reduced based on the Windfall Elimination Provision. Your spouse’s, divorced spouse’s, surviving divorced spouse’s or widow’s benefits under Social Security may be affected by the Government Pension Offset. For more information, go to our “Frequently Asked Questions” web page. Thanks!

  7. John

    Widows receive their husbands full pension, not half.
    Only divorcees receive half the pension of their ex’s

    • Laura

      Depends on state, company, etc.
      Civil Service like police in chicago the widow only receive one-third of pension. How can they live on that??

      • AKA

        This is a SS forum, take your question elsewhere.

    • Ray F.

      Visit our Survivors Planner: How Much Would Your Benefit Be? for information on survivor’s benefits.

  8. Linda

    I don’t see how anyone with any common sense could possibly think that a woman could easily live on half of her husband’s benefit! In fact, our living expenses, utilities, food, medical, etc. steadily increase year after year and our wonderful representatives and senators think that we don’t even need a COLA! I’d like to see any one of them live on a widow’s share for one year! They are so far removed from reality that it’s pitiful!

    • AKA

      Widow’s don’t get 1/2 of their deceased spouse’s amount. They get more. Read up on the law before you begin your sermon.

    • Diane

      I can feel you ladies. I have MS and SSI give me 820.00 a month to live on…really are you kidding me, with three young boys. Crazy

      • Tom

        The truth is elections have consequences. If you believe there is too much government, then it is unclear why you should be surprised that you get less and should be exempt. There is virtually no waste in public service agencies anymore, so if you buy that belief because a politician is saying it, you are a victim of your own lack of facts. With SSA one of many agencies having been reduced in size, with a hiring freeze and expected staffing cuts you are also losing access to a shrinking agency. Rules are based on laws and laws are created by the people you vote for. If you don’t like something, it is your RESPONSIBILITY to speak up to your elected officials. Agencies have no power to rewrite the law.

      • Hope F.

        Diane, do your children receive Dependents Benefits ?

  9. Jody

    This article is informative. But, remember the high instances of women in retirement age that have been widowed or divorced and the SS benefits that are available for them. I appreciate that widowed or divorced are able to collect from their ex-husbands SS wages, I do not understand why they are allowed only to collect 1/2 of the ex- or deceased husbands SS payments. Most women stayed at home to raise the children. This she did willingly , and did not earn wages to add to HER SS. I don’t understand why those years of raising children and supporting her husband in his career are not considered important and are only now (as she is left alone) worth 1/2 and not a whole? This is leaving many women in or close to poverty. Thank you

    • John

      A wife gets 1/2 or so, a widow can get up to !00%.

    • Phyllis

      That is for sure. We have less than quality lives on just half! I live close to poverty with just SS to care for me and insurance isn’t cheap for the health issues we face in later years.

  10. Douglas D.

    Thank you for your comment to the needs of all females and rights,peace and love,Doug.

Comments are closed.