Women Failing To Max Out Social Security Benefits In Retirement

SSA-image-3My Comments: Social Security is well named. It provides financial security and because it is so pervasive, it carries a social legitimacy that is hard to argue against.

Looking after the elderly has been a social mandate among humans forever. And given that women tend to outlive men, the social needs of women after a certain age carries a special mandate.

This country, in keeping with social norms found across the globe, introduced Social Security in the 1930’s. It is a complicated and diverse project, one that needs to be understood to fully benefit from what it offers. This might help.

Warren Hersch on October 13, 2016

When to begin taking Social Security is an important decision for all soon-to-be retirees, but more so for women than for men.

That’s because women receive (on average) reduced lifetime earnings and income from retirement accounts like 401(K)s and company pension plans. Add to this one other important fact: Women tend to outlive their male spouses, forcing many to rely on their own financial resources in retirement.

That brings us back Social Security. The longer women wait to begin receiving benefits, the higher their income stream will be. On this score, most female retirees are failing to maximize the payout, one that can ensure a large enough nest egg to carry them through the proverbial Golden Years.

These were the conclusions reached by the Nationwide Retirement Institute in a new online survey of 909 U.S. adults over age 50. People in the survey pool were either retired now or plan to be in the next 10 years. The “2016 Social Security Study,” conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Nationwide, included online interviews with 465 women, among them 301 who are currently retired and 164 who plan to retire in the next 10 years.

The report finds that women, on average, expect Social Security to pay more than half (56 percent) of their expenses in retirement. But among those currently receiving Social Security, only 17 of the survey respondants, or 5 percent, maximized their monthly check by waiting to claim at age 70 or later. In contrast, 8 in 10 retired women now collecting Social Security benefits took those benefits early, locking in a lower lifetime income.

“Too many women retirees have no retirement income outside of Social Security,” Nationwide Retirement Institute Vice President Roberta Eckert said in a press statement. “And even for women that do, the fact that they live longer makes maximizing Social Security benefits extremely important.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • More than a third of women (35 percent) were kept from doing the things they wanted in retirement. One reason: health care expenses, which prevented nearly one in four (24 percent) women from pursuing retirement objectives.
  • Looking back, nearly 1 in 5 (17 percent) of women who are now drawing Social Security wish they could change their decision and file later. Of those who would not change their filing decision, 39 percent say an unforeseen life event compelled them to take it early, including unplanned health problems (17 percent).
  • More than one in four women currently drawing Social Security (30 percent) say their Social Security payment is less than they expected. Women who have yet to collect Social Security, on average, expect to get $1,527 in monthly benefits.
  • On average, women retirees are currently collecting $1,153, and those who started taking Social Security early report receiving just $1,084.
  • Only 13 percent of women say they received advice on Social Security from a financial advisor. However, nearly 9 in 10 women surveyed who work with an advisor (86 percent) say their Social Security payment was as expected or more than they expected.
  • About three in five women (61 percent) admit that if their financial advisor could not show them how to maximize their benefit, then they would switch to an advisor who could.
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