Social Security Claiming Strategies for Single, Divorced & Widowed Women

By Richard W. Stout III

Social Security is an important piece of your retirement puzzle, even if you won’t be relying on it to pay the bills. However, just because you may already have a nest egg to provide for your later years, don’t overlook Social Security. After all, those benefits are rightfully yours and you should take the time to optimize them for your unique situation.

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. (1)

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. (2)

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 have plenty of other resources, so you use other accounts to fund retirement while 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. (3)

If your ex passes away, you receive benefits as a widow, which means you get 100% of your ex’s payout. 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. 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: (4)

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%

Meet With a Financial Professional

Social Security is an intricate puzzle with many pieces, so attempting to go at it alone may not be the best course of action. To gain clarity and help maximize your benefits, it’s best to work with a financial professional.

Our team at Benchmark Wealth Management can help you evaluate your options and choose a claiming strategy based on your unique situation. We are here to walk with you as you navigate Social Security, and the rest of your financial journey as well. If you have questions about Social Security or you need help developing a big-picture financial plan, please call 860.434.6890 or email me at richard.stout@bwmllc.net to schedule a consultation.

About Rick

Richard W. Stout III is managing director of Benchmark Wealth Management, LLC, with 25 years of experience in the financial industry. He specializes in financial planning and asset management for individuals, families, and institutions seeking to build and monitor durable and sustainable plans for their financial futures. Rick is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional and holds the Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF®) designation. He has earned a Master of Science degree in Personal Financial Planning from the College for Financial Planning and holds the Master Planner Advanced StudiesSM (MPAS®). He obtained his MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his BA in Economics and Anthropology from the University of Connecticut. He also completed the Accredited Wealth Management Advisor (AWM®) program through the Estate and Wealth Strategies Institute at Michigan State University. He has extensive background experience in lending, credit review and analysis, and real estate and partnership management. Learn more about Rick by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

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(1) https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/delayret.html

(2) https://www.ssa.gov/oact/quickcalc/early_late.html

(3) https://www.investopedia.com/articles/financial-advisor/112216/divorce-and-new-social-security-rules-what-know.asp#:~:text=The%20basic%20rules%20for%20divorced,age%2062%20and%20currently%20single

(4) https://www.ssa.gov/planners/survivors/ifyou.html