When it comes to Social Security claiming strategies, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, especially for single, divorced, and widowed women. It may be no surprise that women encounter more hurdles when it comes to planning for retirement as compared to men. This is primarily due to taking time off from work to care for children. Then, if you add being single to the mix, the financial planning puzzle becomes even more complex.
With longer life expectancies, higher divorce rates, and lower marriage rates, women face unique financial challenges, particularly when it comes to retirement. For many women, Social Security benefits play a significant role in their retirement income. Even if you have a solid nest egg, optimizing your Social Security benefits is crucial to create financial stability throughout retirement. Today let’s explore Social Security claiming strategies specifically tailored to single, divorced, and widowed women, so you can make informed decisions and feel empowered to take control of your financial future.
For the Single Women
Many women make the mistake of claiming Social Security as soon as they’re eligible. Few wait until full retirement age, and even fewer wait until age 70. But your benefit amount increases by 8% each year from 66 to 70, plus cost of living increases for inflation, so it pays to wait.
For example, let’s say your full retirement age is 66 and your monthly payment is estimated to be $2,000. The chart below shows how much you’d get every month if you started collecting at age 62 (reduced benefits), 66 (full benefits), and 70 (increased benefits).
If you start collecting benefits at this age…
your monthly payout will be this much…
Just by waiting until age 70, your monthly payout increases substantially, which could lead to thousands of more dollars throughout your retirement for you to invest or gift to others.
But when you should claim benefits isn’t as simple as waiting until age 70. Your health, home, and personal circumstances could indicate otherwise. Maybe you find out you have advanced-stage breast cancer, so you start taking benefits at age 62. Or maybe you are in good health and since you have plenty of other resources, so you wait until age 70. Tailoring your claiming strategy to your unique life circumstances is key, and a professional can help you take all factors into account.
For Those Who Are Divorced
This may come as a surprise, but divorcées can claim their ex-spouse’s benefits as long as they were married for at least 10 years. The amount you receive is equal to 50% of your ex’s benefits. If you qualify for your own benefits, you either receive 100% of your benefit amount or 50% of your ex’s, whichever is higher. The best part? Your ex never has to know you’re collecting spousal benefits. Social Security doesn’t notify them and you’re not required to reach out.
If your ex passes away, you receive benefits as a widow, which means you get 100% of your ex’s payout. There is one caveat to this rule, however. You won’t qualify for spousal benefits if you remarry. Your ex can, but you can’t. Although, if you happen to remarry and your second marriage ends in divorce or your spouse dies, you’d once again be eligible for your first spouse’s benefits.
For the Widows
Widows and divorcées who were married for at least a decade are eligible for survivor benefits when a spouse dies. Just keep in mind that you won’t qualify for survivor benefits if you remarry before age 60.
As with regular Social Security payouts, you receive reduced benefits if you claim them before you reach full retirement age. But unlike regular payouts, you don’t have to wait until you’re 70 to get the highest amount.
The chart below shows what percentage of survivor benefits you’d get based on your situation:
Benefit Amount Before Retirement Age
Benefit Amount at Full Retirement Age
71.5% to 99% (starting at age 60)
71.5% (starting at age 50)
Widow With Child Under Age 16
75% (at any age)
Lean on a Trusted Professional
Navigating Social Security can be a complex process, and going it alone may create more questions than answers. To optimize your benefits and gain the clarity you need, we recommend partnering with a financial professional you can trust.
At Premier Planning Group, we can help you evaluate your options and choose a claiming strategy that is tailored to your unique situation. We are committed to walking with you every step of the way as you navigate your financial journey. Call our office at (443) 837-2520 or email my executive assistant, Talia Grover, at email@example.com to set up a complimentary consultation.
Brion Harris is the CEO, founder, and managing partner of Premier Planning Group, an independent financial firm specializing in working with pre-retirees and retirees, helping them create customized wealth preservation and retirement distribution strategies. With over 20 years of experience, Brion has developed deep knowledge and skill in helping his clients simplify their finances and find confidence in their financial future. Brion and the Premier Planning team are known for their unparalleled client service and their dedication building long-lasting relationships with their clients. As a result, Brion has been the recipient of the #1 Advisor Leadership Award* at Summit Brokerage Services for eight years running and has a reputation as one of the top retirement advisors in the business.
Brion is a proud 20-year resident of the Annapolis community, where he resides with his wife, Elizabeth, their three children, Addison, Jay, and Scarlett, and their two dogs, Pepper and Coco. When he’s not working, you can find him boating, skiing, traveling, and enjoying good food and music with his family. If you want to learn more about Brion, connect with him on LinkedIn.
*The #1 Advisor and Leadership Award is based on production data while at Summit Brokerage Services, Inc. Brion Harris received the award in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. This award is not a guarantee of future investment success. This recognition should not be construed as an endorsement of the advisor by any client.