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Social Security Claiming Strategies For Single, Divorced & Widowed Women

Cypress Wealth Services

June 2021

At its inception, Social Security was fundamentally a social insurance program designed to pay a continuing income after retirement for those age 65 or older. Created in the 1930s, it had the traditional family—and the traditional family only—in mind. Since that time, we have seen pretty dramatic changes in family dynamics, the most prominent being the difference in women’s roles in the home and workforce.

Today’s modern woman works full time, earns less than her male counterparts, lives longer than they do, and steps up as a caregiver when elderly parents and young kids need her most. Due to the disadvantages of less pay, longer life spans, and shorter time in the workforce, women should carefully consider how and when they claim Social Security so they don’t get short changed later on in life.

But the stakes are even higher for women that are single, divorced, or widowed. Nearly 50% of older, single women get at least 90% of their income from Social Security, compared to only 21% of married women. (*1)  This statistic shows that single women are more dependent on Social Security than any other population. If you fall into this category, here’s what you need to know about claiming your benefits.

For The Single Women

Many women make the mistake of claiming Social Security as soon as they’re eligible. Few wait until full retirement age, and even fewer wait until age 70. But your benefit amount increases by 8% each year from age 62 to 70, so it pays to wait.

For example, let’s say your full retirement age is 66 and your monthly payment is estimated to be $2,000. The chart below shows how much you’d get every month if you started collecting at age 62 (reduced benefits), 66 (full benefits), and 70 (increased benefits).

If you start collecting benefits at this age…

your monthly payout will be this much…








Just by waiting until age 70, your monthly payout increases by a whopping 32% each month, which could lead to thousands of more dollars over the course of your retirement. (*2)

But when you should claim benefits isn’t as simple as waiting until age 70. Your health, home, and personal circumstances could indicate otherwise. Maybe you find out you have advanced-stage breast cancer, so you start taking benefits at age 62. Or maybe you are in good health, so you use other accounts to fund retirement while you wait until age 70. Tailoring your claiming strategy to your unique life circumstances is key, and a professional can help you take all factors into account.

For Those Who Are Divorced

This may come as a surprise, but divorcées can claim their ex-spouse’s benefits as long as they were married at least 10 years. The amount you receive is equal to 50% of your ex’s benefits. If you qualify for your own benefits, you either receive 100% of your benefit amount or 50% of your ex’s, whichever is higher. (*3)

If your ex passes away, you receive benefits as a widow, which means you get 100% of your ex’s payout. The best part? Your ex never has to know you’re collecting spousal benefits. Social Security doesn’t notify them and you’re not required to reach out. There is one caveat to this rule, however. You won’t qualify for spousal benefits if you remarry. Your ex can, but you can’t. Although, if you happen to remarry and your second marriage ends in divorce or your spouse dies, you’d once again be eligible for your first spouse’s benefits. 

For The Widows

Widows and divorcées who were married for at least a decade are eligible for survivor benefits when a spouse dies. Just keep in mind that you won’t qualify for survivor benefits if you remarry before age 60.

As with regular Social Security payouts, you receive reduced benefits if you claim them before you reach full retirement age. But unlike regular payouts, you don’t have to wait until you’re 70 to get the highest amount.

The chart below shows what percentage of survivor benefits you’d get based on your situation: (*4)

Widow Type

Benefit Amount Before Retirement Age

Benefit Amount At Full Retirement Age


  71.5% to 99% (starting at age 60)


  Disabled Widow

  71.5% (starting at age 50)


  Widow With Child Under Age 16

  75% (at any age)



Partner With A Professional

Social Security is an intricate puzzle with many pieces, so attempting to go at it alone may not be wise. To gain clarity and help maximize your benefits, it’s best to partner with a financial professional.

Our team at Cypress Wealth Services can help you evaluate your options and choose a claiming strategy based on your unique situation. We are here to walk with you as you navigate Social Security, and the rest of your financial journey as well. If you have questions about Social Security or you need help developing a big-picture financial plan, contact one of our offices today. We look forward to hearing from you soon!


About Cypress Wealth Services

Cypress Wealth Services is an independent RIA firm providing financial planning and investment management to high net worth individuals, families, business owners, and institutions. Cypress Wealth Services comprises professionals with diverse backgrounds and extensive experience and qualifications. Cypress Wealth Services is uniquely qualified to serve a broad range of client needs, and their experience and expertise act as a foundation for their client service process. The firm uses The Second Growth, which focuses on efficiently protecting, growing, and transferring to their loved ones the wealth and legacy a person has already built. With financial advisors in Palm Desert, CA, Tustin, CA, and Anchorage, AK, the firm serves clients across the country in Wealth Management Services, Fiduciary Services, 401(k) Design and Management, Investment Reporting Services, Financial and Retirement Planning, and more. For more information, visit or call 760.834.7250.