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  • Campaign for a Secure Retirement: March Blog Series #2

    Hello, Social Security! Get to know your benefits and your statement.

    Social Security CardSocial Security is a critical piece of the retirement puzzle, and this is especially true for women.  According to the Social Security Administration, women represent 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 68 percent of all beneficiaries age 85 and older.  For 36 percent of unmarried female beneficiaries 65 and older (this includes widowed, divorced, or never married), Social Security is virtually the only source of income (90 percent or more), compared to 21 percent of married females in this age group.* Without Social Security, nearly half of women 65 and older would be poor.

    Another important feature of Social Security is that your benefit is guaranteed for as long as you live, and benefits are annually adjusted for inflation. The longer you live, the more likely you are to exhaust other sources of income.  For women who have longer life expectancies than men on average, Social Security is often the only source of guaranteed lifetime income they receive in retirement.  The average Social Security benefit for women 65 and older is currently about $13,500 per year.

    Despite the vital role Social Security plays in our future financial security, many of us do not really understand how it works.  What will my benefit be?  When should I claim it? What happens if I am or if I become divorced or widowed?  If you can’t answer these questions, it’s time to get to know your Social Security benefit better.

    The best place to start is to set up an account through “my Social Security” on the Social Security Administration’s website.  You can use this account to keep track of your earnings and verify them every year; get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working; get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and manage your benefits.  Through this account you can also access your online Social Security statement—a very valuable tool in your retirement planning. For example, this statement can help you to estimate your Social Security income in retirement and then determine how much money you will need to supplement your benefits. The statement will also give you details about your spouse’s and dependents’ possible benefits if you die, as well as your disability benefits if you were to become disabled.

    When to claim Social Security is also one of the most important financial decisions you can make, but it can be difficult to make this decision.  Each woman’s situation is unique—single, married, divorced or widowed—so it’s important to learn about the different options and benefit amounts before you apply for Social Security benefits. Married couples also have additional claiming options and are eligible for benefits based on their own record or their spouse’s benefit.

    Check out the Social Security section of WISER’s website for more tips, information and articles such as, The Case of the Growing Social Security Benefit, and Making the Most of Social Security Retirement Benefits if You’re Divorced.   More great information is also available on the Social Security Administration website.

    Take the time and get to know your Social Security benefits—you can’t afford not to!

     

    The “Campaign for a Secure Retirement:  Helping Millions of Americans Plan and Save for Retirement”  is a joint educational retirement campaign to encourage retirement planning and saving and to promote the online Social Security Statement, available through my Social Security, as an important retirement planning tool.  Campaign partners include the Social Security Administration, America Saves, American Savings Education Council, and WISER.  If your organization wants to help others understand the importance of saving for retirement, take our pledge

     

    *National Women’s Law Center, Women and Social Security, February 23, 2015.

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    WISER

    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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