Women Rely More on Social Security but Get Less of It — Here’s How You Can Plan Ahead

young woman counting expenses at home with bills and laptop sitting on sofa.
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Getting old comes with drawbacks for everyone, but it presents unique challenges to women. Women are likely to be dependent on one income as they age, according to Fidelity Investments. Plus, women generally receive a lower average Social Security income than men, and single women can’t plan on receiving survivor benefits from their deceased spouses. With those two facts in mind, women might want to start strategizing now for how they’ll tackle retirement and consider starting as early as possible.

Women not only outlive men; they also receive fewer benefits, according to the Social Security Administration:

  • Women are expected to live an additional 21.6 years after reaching age 65, compared to men living an additional 19.1 years.
  • In 2016, the median earnings of working-age women who worked full-time were $40,000, compared with $50,000 for men.
  • The average annual Social Security income received by women 65 years and older in 2016 was $12,587; men received $16,590.

According to Fidelity, almost 49 percent of unmarried women rely on Social Security benefits for 90 percent or more of their income.

Here are some tips women can use in order to maximize their Social Security benefits.

Delay Receiving Benefits

You can receive your Social Security benefits as soon as you’re 62, but waiting a few years might yield better long-term results. Delaying your benefits increases what you’d otherwise receive. Waiting to receive benefits until age 66 could result in a 25 percent increase in the amount received, or, delay receiving benefits “beyond your full retirement age, and your benefit will go up 8 percent a year until 70, ” according to the AARP.

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Check This: Is an AARP Membership Still Worth It?

Invest for the Future

Only 29 percent of women consider themselves investors, according to Fidelity’s 2018 Women and Investing Study. However, given that multiple studies have found that women appear to be more sound investors than men, perhaps that figure should be higher.

Whatever the case, Fidelity recommends women begin to start considering investment as part of their retirement strategy if they haven’t already.

Learn More: How Your Retirement Age Impacts Your Social Security Benefits

Claim Spousal Benefits

Fidelity also factored in how marital status affected potential benefits:

  • For married women, claiming 50 percent of their spouse’s benefit could benefit them, particularly if their partner is a higher earner than them.
  • Divorced women might still be able to claim the benefits of whomever they divorced, provided the marriage lasted more than 10 years, and the woman as a claimant is unmarried and 62 years of age or older.
  • Widowed women can claim higher benefits for the rest of their lives.

See: Must-Know Social Security Spousal Benefits Rules

Keep Working

The point of retirement is to stop working, but for some people, it’s a calling. Fidelity suggests you can supplement your income by finding additional sources of revenue through work. Consider remote positions, such as consultations, or even engage in the gig economy by becoming a ride-share driver.

Don’t Miss: Senior-Friendly Jobs That Are Perfect for Retirement

Do What’s Best for You

At the end of the day, it all depends on what best suits your financial needs. You might need to withdraw earlier to cover bills, or you might be able to delay benefits because of your job. However, it never hurts to start developing a retirement plan early.

Are You Retirement Ready?

Click through to read about 20 unsettling truths about Social Security.

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