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Social Security Claiming Strategies for Single, Divorced & Widowed Women

by | Oct 15, 2022 | Caroline M. Friedrich, Monthly Insights

By Caroline M. Friedrich, CPA, CFP®

By now it’s commonly understood that women consistently face more retirement challenges than men. In addition to lower wages and time out of the workforce to care for children, things get even more complicated for those that are single. Between longer life expectancy, lower marriage rates, and consistently high divorce rates, it’s estimated that 80% of women will end up alone. What does this mean? It’s more important than ever for women to start taking control of their financial life.

Even if you don’t rely on your Social Security benefits to pay the bills during retirement (thanks to your nest egg), don’t ignore them! Those benefits are rightfully yours; taking the time to optimize them for your unique situation will be well worth the effort.

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…

62

$1,500

66

$2,000

70

$2,640

 

Just by waiting until age 70, your monthly payout increases by 32% each month, 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 the Divorcées

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:   

Widow Type

Benefit Amount Before Retirement Age    

Benefit Amount at Full Retirement Age

Widow

71.5% to 99% (starting at age 60)

100%

Disabled Widow

71.5% (starting at age 50)

100% 

Widow With Child Under Age 16

75% (at any age)

100%

Partner With a Financial Professional

Piecing together the puzzle of Social Security is no easy task, and attempting to go at it alone may not be the best course of action. To gain clarity and help potentially increase your benefits, it may benefit you to work with a financial professional.

We at The Nalls Sherbakoff Group would love to help you evaluate your options and choose a claiming strategy based on your specific situation. As a fiduciary, I put your interests first as I help you navigate complex issues and implement strategies created for your unique needs. My mission is to help you make informed, long-term decisions about Social Security and your overall financial picture that add value to your life and positively impact your future. 

If you’d like to set up a complimentary appointment so we can see if our services are the right fit for you by calling us at (865) 691-0898 or contacting us online

About Caroline

Caroline Murphy Friedrich is a financial advisor with The Nalls Sherbakoff Group, LLC, an independent, fee-only financial planning and investment management firm. With over 12 years of experience in the financial industry, Caroline is dedicated to helping her clients make informed, long-term financial decisions that add value to their lives and positively impact future generations. Caroline has deep experience in accounting, having spent the first decade of her career as a CPA. Now she blends that expertise with her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification to design comprehensive plans that incorporate all pieces of their financial puzzle. Caroline is a fiduciary, putting her clients’ interests first as she helps them navigate complex issues and implement strategies created for their unique needs. 

Caroline graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a Master of Accountancy with a concentration in tax accounting. She is a proud Knoxville native who loves to spend her free time with her husband and their two daughters. When she’s not in the office, you can often find her exercising, golfing, reading, or enjoying her friends and family. To learn more about Caroline, connect with her on LinkedIn.

DISCLOSURES: The information provided in this letter is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product, and should not be construed as investment, legal, or tax advice. The Nalls Sherbakoff Group, LLC makes no warranties regarding the information or results obtained by third parties and its use and disclaims any liability arising out of, or reliance on the information. Please contact us if there have been any changes in your financial situation or investment objectives, or if you wish to impose any restrictions on the management of your account or modify existing restrictions. You may contact us by phone at 865-691-0898 or email at don@nallssherbakoff.com. Any indexes reflect investments for a limited period and do not reflect performance in different economic or market cycles and are not intended to reflect the actual outcomes of any client of The Nalls Sherbakoff Group, LLC. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

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