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Women and Social Security: Planning as You Age

Health & Benefits

Women make up the majority of the people on Social Security, and need to understand the services available and the keys to planning for their future.

Many women might not know the role social security plays in their financial stability when they become disabled and when they age. Learn to navigate the application process and about the impact of name changes. Discover benefits available regardless of marital status.

Why should social security matter to me?

It’s simple. As a working woman, money from social security is going to be a key part of your budget as you get older. Modern women work harder and longer than ever before. This began after the Great Depression in 1929 when the number of working women went up by 24%.

About five years later, Social Security began helping workers to survive after retirement. Women live longer but make less money which means they can easily end up in poverty. Fifty-five percent of the people on social security are womenthat’s why it’s important.

Your social security check is based on how long you worked, how much you made, and when you start getting SSI. Social Security checks only give you about 40% of what you made before retirement. So, the other 60% has to come from sources like pension (money from the job where you retired), savings, and investments (stock, bonds, CD’s).

Women are much more independent than they were 100 years ago. Back then, 92% of women got married and now that number is 31%. Fewer women getting married means more women who won’t have their spouse’s SSI and retirement to help them when they get old. These women have to prepare to do it on their own.

Since men tend to die younger, women often take care of sick or disabled spouses and receive their spouse’s benefits once they divorce or pass away. Recent updates in benefits offer more help for widows and divorced women. Now, widows and married women taking care of disabled spouses get more money. Also, divorced women don’t have to be married for a certain number of years and depend on their ex for money to get part of their SSI.

How do I know if I am eligible?

  • If you’re 62
  • You’re a widow whose spouse was 62 and you were married 10+ years
  • You’re divorced, both of you are at least 62 and you’ve been divorced for 2+ years
  • You’re the caretaker for the minor child of the eligible spouse or a disabled child over 18 who was disabled before age 22

How can I apply?

You can apply online for any combination of Social Security retirement, disability, Medicare, or spouse’s benefits. To choose how you want to get your money, the Social Security Administration uses a secure website at or you can call 800-333-1795 to choose between:

  1. direct deposit once you give them your checking account number and bank routing number,
  2. a Direct Express® card, or
  3. an electronic transfer account.

When will I get paid?

SSI pays based on the day of the month you were born.

  • 1st to 10th – 2nd Wednesday
  • 11th to 20th – 3rd Wednesday
  • 21st to the end of the month – 4th Wednesday

So, if Shannon was born on the 12th, she gets paid every 3rd Wednesday of the month.

Do I have to pay taxes on my SSI?

Yes, if you get more than $25,000 as a single or married but separated woman and you file a separate tax return. Anything over $32,000 will make married couples filing a joint tax return start paying.

What happens when I change my name?

When your name changes, you need a new social security card. Update your name to keep from having problems getting your benefits and tax returns. You can change the name online, call Social Security’s toll-free number, 800-772-1213, or visit your local office. Bring original legal documents (not copies) that show your legal name change such as: 

  • your court order for the name change
  • your Certificate of Naturalization (paper showing you became a U.S. citizen) with your new name
  • your marriage certificate or
  • your divorce papers;

If you changed your name in the last two to four years, bring original documents that show the name you had before. Sometimes documents don’t have enough information, or the system is still not updated. Your new cards will have the same number as the old one, but your name will change. If domestic violence is involved, you can ask for a new number.

U.S. citizens born outside the United States need to bring proof of citizenship. Noncitizens must bring immigration papers.

I’m disabled. Now what?

To get SSI early, they’ll look at how many years you worked and how long ago you had your last job. If you worked at least 50% of the time frame they look at, then you may qualify. If you're under 24 years old, you have to work at least 1 ½ of the last 3 years, and if you’re over 31, then 5 out of the last 10 years. Also know that working on and off can affect your benefits as well.

If your medical condition can keep you from working for at least a year or could cause you to die, you will probably qualify as disabled. Once you get disability for two years, you’ll be able to get Medicare too.

Do veterans get special benefits with SSI?

Yes. According to Social Security Publication No. 05-10030, Wounded Warriors who became disabled during active military service on or after October 1, 2001, can fill out a special application and their applications will be processed more quickly. They base your benefits amounts on military and civilian work credits along with your medical records and a medical exam. Once you qualify, you wait five months before you get the first check, but they can offer back pay for the time you waited.

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