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.