While Social Security retirement benefits are important for everyone, they are especially important for women. Because women generally live longer and tend to have lower lifetime earnings than men, they may be more dependent on Social Security benefits in retirement.*
Fortunately, you can count on two features of Social Security to help you provide for a long retirement. First, benefits last as long as you live; although you may exhaust other sources of retirement income, it’s impossible to outlive your Social Security retirement income. Second, Social Security benefits are subject to automatic cost-of-living adjustments that increase benefits when prices increase, an especially valuable feature when you have to rely on a fixed income for many years.
When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits that enable you to qualify for Social Security benefits. You can earn up to 4 credits per year, depending on the amount of income that you earn, and you’ll generally need 40 credits (10 years of work) to be insured for retirement benefits. Your monthly retirement benefit will be based on your lifetime earnings. However, if you don’t work outside the home or haven’t worked long enough to qualify for Social Security based on your own record (or have much lower earnings than your spouse), you may still be eligible based on your spouse’s record.