Social Security: A woman’s perspective

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By Whitney McDaniel
Regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, Social Security will not — and was never designed to — provide all of the income you’ll need to live comfortably during retirement. At best, your income from Social Security will supplement that from other sources. So if you’re planning to factor Social Security into your retirement plan, you should learn all you can about how to enhance your benefits.
For females, however, there are some unique factors to consider in the equation. Because Social Security generally has annual cost-of-living adjustments, you have an inflation-protected benefit for as long as you live — and for women, those increases are vital since women generally live longer than men. In addition, Social Security provides dependent benefits to spouses, divorced spouses, elderly widows and widows with young children.
While Social Security is neutral with respect to gender (individuals with identical earnings histories are treated with the same in terms of benefits), the following 2008 numbers released by the Social Security Administration Office of Research and Statistics highlight how certain demographic characteristics of women compare with the entire population.
• Women reaching age 65 need to prepare for approximately 20 more years of living expenses. Females represented 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 69 percent of beneficiaries age 85 and older.
• The average annual Social Security income received by women 65 years and older was $11,337, compared to $14,822 for men.
• For unmarried women age 65 and older (including widows), Social Security comprised 50 percent of their total income.
• Of all elderly, unmarried women receiving Social Security benefits, 46 percent relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
• Of the women who were employed fulltime, only 51 percent participated in an employer-sponsored private sector plan.
Additionally, women generally received lower pension benefits than men due to their relatively lower earnings. Probably none of this comes as a surprise, considering that the statistics are directly related to the realities surrounding women earning less and spending more time out of the work force than men.
So how do women offset this gap? By getting retirement plans in place so that Social Security benefits are an income supplement and not a mainstay. With longer life expectancies than men, women tend to live more years in retirement and have a greater chance of exhausting other sources of income.

*Source: Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, 2009
This article was written by Wells Fargo Advisors and provided courtesy of Whitney McDaniel, CFP®, AAMS®, Financial Advisor in Beaufort, SC at 843-524-1114.
Wells Fargo Advisors does not render legal or tax advice. While this information is not intended to replace your discussions with your tax/legal advisor, it may help you to comprehend the tax implications of your investments and plan tax-efficiently going forward. The material is solely for informational purposes and is not a solicitation or an offer to buy any security or instrument or to participate in any trading strategy.
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