Factors Affecting Women and Their Retirement

Pamela Kweller RSSA Staff


Women tend to face more financial challenges than men when it comes to retirement and Social Security. There are several factors that have a significant impact on the financial security of women.

Longer Life Expectancy

Overall, women have longer lifespans than men. When it comes to the older population, women are the majority. There are close to 6 million more women at age 65 than men. In 2018, the Social Security Administration found that women age 65 were expected to live, on average, 21.4 more years and men age 65 were expected, on average, to live 18.9 more years.

A longer life expectancy translates to more money needed for a longer life. There are many associated costs with growing older including potential healthcare, caregiver, and living expenses. Women may live longer, but that also means they are more likely to outlive their expenses.

Gender Pay Gap

It is no secret that there is a pay gap between men and women. Overall, women tend to earn less money than men. Social Security benefits are calculated based on an individual’s earnings. The less money a woman makes, the less Social Security benefits she will receive. 

Less Time in Workforce

Women are more likely to spend time outside of the workforce. This could be due to parental leave or being a caregiver for an older family member. Additionally, women are more likely to work part-time than men.

Individuals must earn a minimum of 40 Quarters of Credit (10 years of work) to qualify for Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits are not only calculated based on an individual’s earnings, but specifically their highest 35 years of earnings. Some women work less than 10 years resulting in earning no benefit at all. While some women work less than 35 years and each year that has no earnings will negatively impact the benefit she receives. 

Historical Shifts

It is much more common for women to not get married than it was just a few decades ago. More women are single now and will rely solely on their own Social Security benefits. Many women will not have access to a spouse’s benefit which makes the gender pay gap an even bigger problem.

What Women Can Do:

  • Be aware of these challenges
  • Learn about Social Security rules affecting them
  • Find out what their Social Security benefits will be by creating an account with the Social Security Administration
  • Keep in mind: The Social Security Administration can provide information, but can’t give you specific advice for your particular situation such as when to claim
  • Since the woman will most likely be the survivor of a married couple, it is essential their claiming strategies reflect that
  • Work with a Registered Social Security Analyst (RSSA) who can support you in making the optimal claiming decision for your particular situation


SSA Fact Sheet