Social Security & Women
Article submitted by Mike Baksa, Lead Public Affairs Specialist, Social Security Administration in Denver Regional Communications Office. For more information visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
August 26 is known as Women’s Equality Day. On that date in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was signed, giving women the right to vote.
Social Security treats men and women equally. Men and women with identical earnings histories are treated exactly the same. However, there are things women in particular should know about Social Security. Although treated equally by Social Security, there are trends and differences in lifestyle that can affect benefits. For example, women tend to care for many people: spouses, children, and parents. Taking time away from the workplace to care for a newborn child or aging parent can have an impact on your future Social Security benefits. Also, despite significant strides through the years, women are more likely to earn less over a lifetime than men. The Social Security system is progressive in that lower-wage earners receive a higher percentage benefit than higher-wage earners do. That is, the system returns a greater percentage of pre-retirement earnings to a lower-wage worker than to a higher-wage worker. Women who are low-wage workers receive back more benefits in relation to past earnings than do high-wage earners.
Overall, women represent 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 68 percent of all beneficiaries age 85 and older. Women are less often covered by private retirement plans, and they are more dependent on Social Security in their retirement years. In 2010, for unmarried women – including widows – age 65 and older, Social Security comprised 49 percent of their total income. In contrast, Social Security benefits comprised only 37 percent of unmarried elderly men's income and only 32 percent of elderly couples' income. In addition, women tend to live about five years longer than men, which means more years depending on Social Security and other retirement income or savings.
If a woman is married to a man who earns significantly more than she does, it is likely she will qualify for a larger benefit amount on his record than on her own. If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse's record (even if he or she has remarried) if:
- You are unmarried;
- You are age 62 or older;
- Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits and
- The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse's work.
If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse's record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment).
If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on his or her record if you have been divorced for at least two years.
If you are eligible for retirement benefits <http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/creditsa.htm> on your own record we will pay that amount first. But if:
- the benefit on his or her record is a higher amount, you will get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount (reduced for age).
- you have reached full retirement age and you are eligible for a spouse's benefit and your own retirement benefit, you have a choice.
You can choose to receive only the divorced spouse's benefits now and delay receiving retirement benefits until a later date. If retirement benefits are delayed, a higher benefit may be received at a later date based on the effect of Delayed Retirement Credits.
If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get benefits just the same as a widow or widower, provided that your marriage lasted 10 years or more. Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse who meets the age or disability requirement as a widow or widower won't affect the benefit rates for other survivors getting benefits on the worker's record. (note: If you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), the remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivors benefits.) Overall, as of July 2012 there were more than 3 million aged women receiving widows benefits and less than 76,000 aged men receiving widowers benefits.
Want to learn more?
Visit our Women’s page at www.socialsecurity.gov/women. Follow the link on that page to our publication, What Every Woman Should Know. You can read it online, print a copy, or listen to it on audio. We provide alternate media as well to reach as many women as possible and to provide the information the way you’d like to receive it. Learning about your future Social Security benefits and how men and women are treated just the same in the eyes of Social Security: what better way to celebrate Women’s Equality Day?
One last thought … and a reminder
Today, about 90 percent of all Social Security and SSI beneficiaries receive their payments electronically. That number is increasing because the law requires that by March 1, 2013 all federal benefit payments, including Social Security and SSI payments, be made electronically. Whether you receive Social Security or SSI, you can depend on your payment arriving in your account on time, every time. If you don’t already receive electronic payments, there are many good reasons to sign up. For one, less money and time spent driving to the bank to cash your check helps you save. Second, fewer paper checks, envelopes, and stamps, and less fuel to deliver the checks means savings for the government. Sign up today!
More about the Author:
Mike Baksa is the Lead Public Affairs Specialist for Social Security Administration in Denver Regional Communications Office. For more information about Social Security Administration visit www.socialsecurity.gov. Mike Baksa may be reached via email
Posted August 2012 on www.SeniorsResourceGuide.com