BOSTON (CBS) – Women represent almost 56% percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 68% of all beneficiaries age 85 and older.  

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Almost half (48%) of all elderly unmarried females relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.

A woman’s average Social Security benefit is less a month than a man’s. Average man’s Social Security benefit is almost $16,000 ($15,795); the average woman’s Social Security benefit is just over $12,000 ($12,188). That difference adds up over the years; $80,000 over 20 years.

Social Security provides dependent benefits to spouses, divorced spouses, widows and widows with young children.

When it comes to your retirement benefit everyone is entitled to their own benefit or, if married, one-half of their spouse’s benefit, whichever is larger.

As always, there is an exception to every government rule. If you begin to collect benefits before full retirement age your benefit will be less than the one-half.

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You can also collect benefits on a former spouse’s Social Security record if:

  • Your marriage lasted at least 10 years.
  • Your ex is receiving Social Security benefits or is deceased.
  • You are presently unmarried.
  • You are age 62 or older. If your ex-spouse is deceased, you can collect benefits at age 60 (or age 50 if you become disabled).

As a former spouse, if your ex dies, you could be eligible for a widow’s benefit on his Social Security record even though you were not married to him for 10 years if:

  • You are caring for his child who is also your child.
  • You are unmarried.

The amount of benefits that a divorced spouse receives has no effect on the amount of benefits a current spouse will receive.

If you are married, once you reach age 62, even if you have never been employed outside the home, you will be eligible for Social Security benefits when your spouse retires, becomes disabled, or dies.

The SSA’s website has a great section for women.

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More:  A spouse can also collect their own benefit at age 62 and when their spouse retires at full retirement age collect ½ of their benefit if it is larger than collecting on their own record.