WTOP Interview: Social Security Claiming Strategies Women Can’t Afford to Overlook

Interview Transcript:

Shawn Anderson: 5:11 on WTOP and now to a story that’s trending on wtop.com, Deciding when and how to take your Social Security. That’s like a playing a game of chess, it seems like. It requires some skill and strategy to maximize the amount of your benefit and if you make a wrong move, you could end up with substantially less in your retirement years, especially for women who tend to live longer than their spouses.

Hillary Howard: Joining us live, Dawn Doebler, co-founder of Her Wealth and Senior Wealth Advisor at The Colony Group in Bethesda. Dawn, thanks for being back with us.

Dawn Doebler: Yes, thanks for having me Hilary.

Hillary: So, what are some situations, particularly for women that really complicate when and how they take Social Security?

Dawn: Well, one of the reasons we wrote this article Hillary, is we see many women who aren’t aware of the range of benefits that they may qualify for. And if you exclude disability, there really are three types of benefits. If you work, you can get a benefit on your own earning, there are spousal benefits and that’s based on the record of a living, current or ex-spouse and survivor benefits, which are based on the earning records of a living, current or ex-spouse. I’m sorry, that’s a current or ex-spouse who has passed away. And you only get one of these benefits, so it can be confusing if you qualify for multiple ones. For married women, we suggest you review the potential benefit that you have with your spouse and base your claiming decision on your combined earnings, longevity concerns which are very important and other sources of income. And we have an example in the article how running the numbers could actually result in you may be changing your mind about your filing.

Shawn: Now, if someone is a widow, are they immediately eligible for Social Security or are there some restrictions here?

Dawn: Well Shawn, it is a common misconception that widows receives survivor benefits immediately. It is true, they get benefits for their minor children, but they can collect their own survivor benefit, only when they turn age 60. And if she chooses to begin at age 60, she actually only receives 71% of the deceased benefit. So, it’s not until she reaches full retirement age that she would get the 100% of the deceased benefit. So, of course we see this ends up posing a hardship for women who don’t have other sources of income.

Hillary: And what two people need to consider if they’re divorced?

Dawn: Well, Social Security benefits for divorcees are complicated, they do hinge on at least 3 major requirements; that the marriage lasted for at least 10 years, that the divorce that at least 2 years and the claimant has not remarried. And the age requirements for the woman claiming are age 62 and age 60, if they’re claiming survivor benefits for an ex who had passed away. And their ex-spouse must also be at least 62 if they’re claiming spousal benefit.

Dawn: I was just going to say, if you’re not sure how to claim any of these benefits, Shawn it’s a great idea to contact the Social Security Administration, they can outline all of the number, determine which one gives you the highest benefit and that allows you to maximize your benefit over the long term which really can provide significant income over the long term of your life.

Shawn: Alright, good advice there Thanks Dawn.

Dawn: Thanks Shawn.

Shawn: Dawn Doebler, with The Colony Group in Bethesda, read more at wtop.com, search Her Wealth.