Social Security Part 1

Social Security—A Guide for Women, part 1

By Karen A. Miller, CFP®, CFPA


Social Security is an important, but often misunderstood retirement benefit—and one that may require planning on your part. You do have some choices to make, but you don’t have to make them alone. Gasber Financial is here to help you.


First things first

There are a few basics you should understand about how Social Security works. In general:

  • You can claim your benefits as early as age 62. However, since this is before your Full Retirement Age (FRA) (see the chart below), your benefits would be permanently reduced by about 25%.
  • Your full benefit is available to you at your FRA (see below).
  • If you wait until age 70, you can grow your individual benefit by as much as 24-32%.

You can get an estimate of your individual benefits at


Year of birth

Full retirement age (FRA)




66 and 2 months


66 and 4 months


66 and 6 months


66 and 8 months


66 and 10 months

1960 and later




Deciding when to elect, however, may not simply be about the size of your monthly benefit. Three of the most critical things to consider include:

  • Life expectancy
  • Working income
  • Marital status


Life expectancy

No one can tell you your exact life expectancy, but it can be important to think about when it comes to Social Security. Did you know that a woman reaching age 65 today, has an average life expectancy of 86.6 years?* That’s the average, which means many will live longer. But why does it matter?


In theory, you should receive the same lifetime amount of Social Security regardless of whether you claim early, on time, or late (because you claim less for more years or more for fewer years). In reality, however, it doesn’t always work this way. In this example, Julie has a full benefit of $2000 and an FRA of 66. Look at the difference claiming early, on time or late can make in her benefits over time.


Claims at

Monthly benefit

Lifetime benefits at 75

Lifetime benefits at 79

Lifetime benefits at 83

















If we continued this example through the average life expectancy of 86.6, the differences would be even greater. Of course, there is no crystal ball to tell you your life expectancy, but family and individual health histories can be used to try to make an educated guess at what yours may be.


We’ll discuss how working income and marital status can impact your benefits in our next installment. For now, you should know that Gasber Financial is here to help you navigate your Social Security choices so you can create a truly comprehensive retirement income plan.



Retirement Income Planning - Pt. 2

Retirement Income Planning

A Guide for Women—part 2


By Karen A. Miller, CFP®, CFPA


As we discussed in part 1 of this series, there are actually many pieces of the retirement income pie, including savings, social security and any pension or retirement plan assets. And, there are many other considerations as well. In this installment, we’ll review some of the costs you need to consider and mistakes to avoid as you make your retirement income plans.


Common mistakes

One of the most common mistakes for divorced women is overestimating the value—and duration—of alimony. If you remarry, alimony ends. And, while some women have their entire support categorized as child or family support in order to avoid that potentiality, this type of support likely ends when your youngest reaches the age of majority.


Another common mistake is to underestimate the impact of taxes. The truth is that even in retirement, you will most likely still have to pay taxes. And if you are divorced or widowed, you may be in a higher tax bracket than you anticipated.



Costs to consider

When it comes to costs, one of the most significant expenditures you will need to consider is healthcare. According to estimates, a 65-year old couple with life expectancies of 87 and 89, respectively, is expected to spend more than $400,000 on healthcare in retirement. This estimate is, of course, just an estimate—and an average one at that—it includes Medicare, supplemental insurance and dental insurance.1 Medicare is a complicated topic that we will go into in another installment (for now, just know that you have to elect it at age 65 if you ever want the ability to use it).


It’s worth noting that your costs could be well above or below this number. For now, however, this estimate is presented to provide an idea of how significant this expense can be in order to drive home the point that healthcare should be a line item in your income planning.


Helpful tips—make a plan

  • Your tax situation should be part of your investment and income planning.
  • Healthcare should be a line item in your planning now and in your retirement budget later. This AARP calculator can help you estimate realistic potential costs for you.


Tax, divorce and estate planning experts can provide more holistic legal guidance and Gasber Financial can help you develop a comprehensive retirement income plan.




Retirement Income Planning - Pt 1

Retirement Income Planning—A Guide for Women

By Karen A. Miller, CFP®, CFPA


If you’re like most people, you’ve spent far more time saving for retirement than actually planning for living in it. But regardless of how far away your retirement may or may not be, it’s critical to create a plan for generating retirement income.


There are actually many pieces of the retirement income pie—it’s typically a 3-legged stool that includes savings, social security and any pension or retirement plan assets. And, while there are a number of things for any woman to consider, there may be extra considerations for divorced and widowed women. In this first installment of our retirement income series, we’ll review some of the things all women need to consider when planning for retirement income.


Social Security

Social Security wasn’t designed to replace income, but to help supplement other retirement assets. You can find out what your own benefits might be by visiting Here are some other things you should know:


General guidelines

Divorced women


Typically, you can claim as early as age 62, though doing so will reduce your benefits for the rest of your life.


You can also let your benefit grow beyond your full retirement age (visit to find out your FRA)—growing your benefit by an additional 8% per year through age 70.


You may be able to claim your individual benefit or a spousal benefit. Depending on when you were born, you may be able to choose for yourself or Social Security may select the larger benefit for you.


May be able to claim spousal benefits if you were married for at least 10 years and have not remarried (even if your spouse has remarried)


Assuming your spousal benefit would be larger than your own, you may be able to claim as early as age 62

Can claim survivor benefits as early as age 60


Depending on when you were born, you may be able to claim survivor benefits and then delay claiming your own benefit in order to let it grow



It’s also worth noting that you can work while claiming Social Security, but doing so can impact your benefits and your taxes. There may be other considerations and you should consult your tax advisor for more information.




401(k) and IRAs

Retirement assets are generally available to you at age 59 ½ without a penalty. With tax-deferred accounts, however, you will be subject to ordinary income taxes when you withdraw them. You do not have to withdraw these assets until you reach age 70 ½.




Whether you have a pension, your spouse has a pension, your ex has a pension that is part of your divorce agreement, or even if your deceased spouse had a pension, there are things you need to know before you begin collecting it:

  • Payout decisions made at the time of retirement can impact the payouts forever, even after death. So, make sure you understand the payout definitions completely before you make your choices.
  • Typically, you can begin collecting these benefits at age 65, but some plans may enable you to begin collecting benefits as early as age 55.
  • The rules regarding divorced spouses and pensions vary widely from state to state and from retirement plan to retirement plan. Some city, state, county and town retirement plans won’t pay benefits to former spouses.
  • Consult your lawyer for more information.



Divorce and estate planning attorneys can provide more comprehensive legal information and Gasber Financial can help you with your retirement income plans.


In our next installment, we’ll discuss some of the costs you need to consider and mistakes to avoid as you make your retirement income plans.

What to do When Going Your Separate Ways Part 2

Women helping women -

What to do When Going your Separate Ways Part 2


By Karen A. Miller, CFP®, CPFA


In the first installment of “What to do when going your separate ways,” we discussed the things that you should do right away. In this installment, we’ll discuss some of the longer-term changes you may need to make as well as a few common mistakes to try to avoid.


Getting it right the first time

Divorce can be complicated, and it can take time to sort things out—especially if you have children. Here are some things that are worth spending the time on:


  • If you have kids, determining who is responsible for what
    • For example, it is critical to understand—and have a written agreement about—who will be paying for what and for how long (child support and college, for example). Sadly, you cannot simply trust that your ex, no matter how earnest they are, will take care of your children as they intend to now, as a new spouse or children can change your ex’s priorities.


  • Change the beneficiaries on your retirement and other accounts—your spouse is likely the default beneficiary on your retirement account, so it is important to change this to your children, other loved one, or a guardian you name.


  • Revise your estate plan and your will to represent your new status, assets and wishes. And if you have custody of your minor children, you may also want to consider:
    • Designating a guardian in case something were to happen to you.
    • Putting your assets in a living trust. This enables you to retain control over them, while protecting those you love. After your death, funds will be distributed according to directions in the trust's document, which is important because even a guardian you designate may not make decisions as you would like. Depending upon the trust's terms, assets can also be protected from your former spouse, creditors and even spendthrift children.
    • Buying a new life insurance policy on your ex. Remember, if they remarry, it’s likely that the new spouse will become the beneficiary of an existing policy, making it wise for you to own a policy outright.



Avoiding common mistakes

There is no way to be perfect at anything. And this is especially true when it comes to divorce. That being said, there are some common mistakes you should try to avoid.

  • Try not to overestimate your retirement assets—many people forget that they will need to pay taxes on these assets when they access them
  • Avoid overemphasizing longevity and amount of alimony you may be receiving—remember that if your ex passes away or you remarry, this income would need to be replaced
  • Remember that you may be entitled to spousal Social Security benefits—if you were married for at least 10 years and you do not remarry, you are eligible to collect spousal benefits if they are larger than your own benefit


Divorce and estate planning attorneys can provide more comprehensive legal information and Gasber Financial can help you with your financial, retirement and other plans.

What to do When Going Your Separate Ways

Women Helping Women -

What to do When Going Your Separate Ways Part 1


By Karen A. Miller, CFP®, CPFA


Disentangling finances is often more complicated than it was to combine them in the first place. But it’s an important step toward asserting your financial independence. And, while it can be a long, overwhelming process, it doesn’t have to be—especially if you take it one step at a time.


In this first part of our series “What to do when going your separate ways,” we’re talking about the things that you can—and should—do right away.


  1. Change the name(s) on your utilities—this may not sound like a big deal, but often if you are not named on the utilities, the company will not let you make changes to the account. And when things are not amicable, it could be hard to get your ex to call the utility company to make the changes you desire.


  1. Re-establish your individual bank and credit card accounts—if you have joint accounts, you should likely close them and open your own. And if your ex has a credit card under your name, you’ll want to close those out as well. Far too often, one partner raids the bank account or drives up your debt simply out of spite.


  1. Redirect paychecks and other direct deposit items (like tax refunds) to ensure they do not accidentally end up in your old joint account—again, this may seem simple, but it’s easy to forget that your paycheck gets deposited to your joint account (if that’s the case). Make sure your payroll office has the new information for your new direct deposit.


  1. Check your credit rating to ensure it remains separate and is not negatively impacted by your ex—there are a number of free services like,, and others that enable you to get your credit score without impacting your credit rating.


  1. Have all your home, auto and life insurance policies brought up to date—if you can (life insurance and other policies are sometimes dependent upon your divorce agreement), bring your policies up to date to ensure they include the appropriate parties, properties and beneficiaries (if appropriate).


Get a head start

Now is also a good time to at least begin gathering the information you need to gain a comprehensive picture of your true combined worth. In addition to the most recent banking, investment and retirement account statements for both of you, it may make sense to get up to date appraisals on homes, art and jewelry. It’s worth noting that an estimated 1 in 5 Americans (that’s about 29 million) have a bank account or credit card hidden from their partner.1

A divorce attorney can provide more comprehensive legal information, a forensic accountant may be able to help you find assets you were unaware of, and Gasber Financial can help you aggregate the financial information you need to move forward.


In our next installment, we’ll discuss some of the longer-term changes you should make and things you should consider as you continue to assert your independence.