Data and Research

Women Disadvantage Themselves by Taking Social Security Early

Making matters worse, women spend, on average, 70% of this income on health care.

By Lee Barney | October 04, 2016
Eighty percent of women take Social Security early, according to an online survey of 465 women over the age of 50 who are retired or plan to be within the next 10 years, conducted by Nationwide Retirement Institute. This puts women, who tend to live longer than men, at a distinct disadvantage because taking Social Security early locks in lower payments.

Social Security comprises 56% of women’s income in retirement, according to Nationwide. However, 70% of Social Security will go toward women’s health care costs. Only 5% of women wait to collect Social Security benefits at age 70 or later. More than one third (35%) of women said they were not able to do the things they wanted to in retirement, and 24% said health care costs were hindering their retirement dreams.

Looking back, 17% of women wish they had waited to collect Social Security. Among those who decided to begin their Social Security payments early, 39% said it was due to unforeseen life events, and 17% attributed it to unplanned health problems.

Thirty percent of women said that when they began collecting Social Security, their monthly payments were less than they had expected. Women who have not yet started collecting these payments expect, on average, for it to be $1,527 a month, when, in reality, it averages $1,153, and for those who started early, it’s $1,084.

A mere 13% of women spoke with a financial adviser about a Social Security strategy, and of this group, 86% said their Social Security payment was in line with what the adviser had projected.

“Too many women retirees have no retirement income outside of Social Security,” says Roberta Eckert, vice president at the Nationwide Retirement Institute. “Even for women that do, the fact that they live longer makes maximizing Social Security benefits extremely important.”

It appears that not just women, but even for affluent investors age 55 and older with a net worth between $100,000 and $1 million, Social Security will provide half or more of their retirement income, according to Spectrem Group. However, that may not come to pass, as another survey earlier this year, conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, found that nearly half of Americans, 47%, fear that Social Security may not exist by the time they retire.