Four Things Women Need to Know about Social Security
Social Security is an important financial benefit for everyone. But many women don’t know enough about it. So we’ve put together answers to a few common questions:
How does Social Security protect me and my family?
Social Security taxes are allocated to three types of benefits:
- Women live longer than men on average, yet they are less often covered by retirement plans, so Social Security is important to them. Qualifications are based on your own work record, as well as your husband’s if you’re married.
- If an illness or injury prevents you from working, you may be able to get monthly disability benefits. Certain qualifications apply, so if you have questions, consult a financial advisor at Horizon Bank.
- You probably know the value of having life insurance to financially protect your family, but did you know that Social Security offers valuable income protection as well? Certain qualifications provide financial assistance to your spouse, dependent children, and others in the event of your death.
How do I qualify for benefits?
When you work in a job where you pay Social Security taxes or self-employment taxes, you earn credits (up to four per year, depending on your earnings) that enable you to qualify for Social Security benefits. The number of credits you need to qualify depends on your age and the benefit type.
- For retirement benefits, you generally need to have earned at least 40 credits (10 years of work).
- For disability benefits (if you're disabled at age 31 or older), you must have earned at least 20 credits in the 10 years just before you became disabled.
- For survivor's benefits for your family members, you need up to 40 credits (10 years of work).
What will my retirement benefit be?
Your Social Security retirement benefit is based on the number of years you've worked and the amount you've earned. Your benefit is calculated using a formula that takes into account your 35 highest earnings years. If you earned little or nothing in several of those years, it may be to your advantage to work as long as possible, to replace a year of lower earnings with a year of higher earnings.
Your benefit will also be affected by your age at the time you begin receiving benefits. Your full retirement age is the age at which you can apply for an unreduced retirement benefit — though you can receive some benefit as early as age 62 if you would like to.
When should I begin receiving retirement benefits?
This is an individual decision that must be based on many factors, including other sources of retirement income, your marital status, whether you plan to continue working, your life expectancy, and your tax picture.
As a woman, you should pay close attention to how much retirement income Social Security will provide, because you may need to make your retirement dollars stretch over a long period of time. If there's a large gap between your projected expenses and your anticipated income, waiting a few years to retire and start collecting a larger Social Security benefit may improve your financial outlook.
Where can I get more information?
This is a broad overview of Social Security, but as you can imagine there are many more details and qualifications that cover special circumstances. And of course, each individual’s situation is unique, so it’s important to get your questions answered.
To learn more, talk with a Horizon Bank financial advisor, and visit the Social Security Administration website at www.socialsecurity.gov — where you can also estimate your benefit based on your earnings record.