Social Security: 5 things every woman should know

Cropped shot of a senior woman looking out the window at home.

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According to the Social Security Administration, women tend to live longer than men on average. Yet they earn less than men during their lifetime. That leads to women receiving 81% of the amount men receive from Social Security in retirement – ​​when they may need that money to maintain their quality of life. Over a 30-year retirement, GoBankingRates recently reported, men will receive about $127,000 more from Social Security than women.

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But that’s not the only way women and men differ when it comes to Social Security benefits. Depending on their personal situation, women may have to ask some difficult questions about Social Security before retiring. It helps to know the answers so you can plan ahead.

Here are five common concerns women have about Social Security retirement benefits and some good reasons not to worry. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate. Contact your local Social Security office for information about your specific situation.

How will it affect my Social Security benefits if I leave the workforce to raise children or care for elderly relatives?

You must have earned 40 credits — you can earn up to four credits a year — and paid to Social Security to receive Social Security benefits. Your benefit is based on your 35 best-earning years. So if you work part-time while your children are still young or because you have caring responsibilities, you may be able to increase your ultimate benefit by working more than 35 years. Years in which you earned more replace those in which you earned less when calculating your Social Security benefits.

To see: Take These 7 Important Steps To Retire A Millionaire Today

If you can’t get the 40 credits (10 years of employment) anymore, you can take a part-time job or gig while your kids are young or wait a few more years to retire until you hit the minimum. However, you must earn a minimum of $1,510 to earn one credit in 2022.

You can maximize your benefits by waiting to apply for Social Security until you reach age 70.

If I am divorced, can I still receive Social Security benefits based on my ex-spouse’s income?

Yes, you can receive Social Security benefits based on your divorced spouse’s income. You will need your ex-spouse’s social security number or date of birth, place of birth, and their parents’ names to apply.

You may be eligible for benefits if:

  • You were married for 10+ years
  • You are not remarried
  • You are 62 years or older

If your ex-spouse is 62 years or older but has not applied for benefits, you can still apply for this as long as you have been separated for two years or more.

You may also be eligible for benefits if your ex-spouse has passed away. Then you can receive a benefit if:

  • You were married for at least 10 years
  • You are 60 years old (or 50 if you are disabled)
  • Your own benefit would be no more than what you can collect under your deceased ex-spouse

If you are the caretaker of your ex-spouse’s child, who is also your natural or legally adopted child, under the age of 16 or disabled and entitled to benefits, you can receive your ex-spouse’s retirement benefits no matter how long you were married .

What happens if my partner dies before I reach retirement age?

Losing a spouse can be devastating, but it can be especially stressful if you were counting on your spouse’s benefits and you have not yet reached retirement age.

There is good news if you are in this situation. Anyone aged 60+ (or disabled people aged 50+) can claim the widow’s benefit. If you are caring for a child under the age of 16, you can also claim benefits from your deceased spouse.

However, you waive your right to a survivor’s benefit if you remarry before the age of 60. If you are 60 years or older (50 or older if incapacitated for work) and remarry, you can still receive benefits as a widow. But if your new spouse receives a larger benefit, you can claim the spouse’s benefit instead. You cannot claim a partner allowance and a widow’s benefit at the same time.

Can my family receive my Social Security benefits if I die?

If you die, your spouse, children, and parents may be eligible for Social Security benefits based on your employment history.

Your spouse may receive survivor benefits if:

  • Age 60+
  • Age 50+ and Disabled
  • Taking care of your child under 16 or a disabled child

Your children can receive benefits if they:

  • Unmarried
  • 18 years or younger
  • Between the ages of 18 and 19 and attending a primary or secondary school as a full-time student
  • Age 18+ and severely disabled with a condition that started before they turned 22

Your parents can receive benefits based on your earnings if they relied on you for at least half of their living expenses. If you declared them to be charged to your income tax, they may be entitled to Social Security benefits if you pass away.

I am a caregiver for an elderly parent or other family member. Can I receive benefits to help them?

If you are the caregiver of a parent, grandparent or other relative who is becoming disabled or elderly and cannot arrange their own benefits, you can become a representative beneficiary. You receive that person’s benefits and can use them to fund their food, shelter, medical and dental bills, personal needs, and recreation.

What if I was a victim of domestic violence or violence and had to change my identity?

More than 35% of women have experienced domestic violence, according to statistics from the National Domestic Violence Hotline. If your situation has gotten to the point where you had to change jobs, move, or even change your name and identity, you may end up wondering what this means for your Social Security benefits.

If you change your name, it is possible to also change your social security number to make it more difficult for your abuser to track you down. You can apply for a new number in person at your local Social Security office. Change your name and address first and avoid applying for a new credit under your new name until you have a new citizen service number.

You must provide the following:

  • Evidence of Harassment or Abuse
  • Your current social security number
  • Proof of your US citizenship or work-authorized immigration status
  • Age
  • Identity
  • Evidence of a legal name change, if you have changed your name

Your Social Security office can help you obtain the evidence you need, including court, police, or medical records, or letters from family, friends, or employees of domestic violence shelters who may attest to abuse.

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The Social Security Administration provides additional information specific to women and Social Security benefits in its “What Women Should Know” publication.

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About the author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who loves finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her long list of publishing credits includes Bankrate, Lending Tree and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of, a travel, technology and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie consisting of 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two children and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.

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