Successful Women

The Scoop on Social Security

Smart ways to claim benefits after a divorce or the loss of a loved one Social Security has been in place since 1935 and many rely on it to bolster their retirement resources. If you’re divorced or widowed, you may have extra options to boost your Social Security paycheck by strategically claiming spousal or survivor’s benefits. Many divorced women do not realize that they have the option to claim Social Security benefits on their former spouses’ work record. If you were to start receiving benefits at your full retirement age (FRA), your benefit as a divorced spouse could be equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount (or disability benefit). This could prove to be even more advantageous when there is a significant difference between your incomes. To claim that spousal benefit on your ex, there are some requirements you must meet: have been married at least 10 years; be unmarried; be 62 or older; be entitled to Social Security. And if you’ve been divorced for at least two years, you can collect on your ex’s record regardless of whether or not he has applied for retirement benefits. This holds true even if he has remarried. And another thing: Your ex won’t know whether you have claimed a spousal benefit because the amount you receive has no effect on the benefits the worker and current spouse can receive. If you have reached full retirement age and you are eligible for both a spouse’s benefit and your own retirement benefit, you have choices. One of which is to start receiving the divorced spouse’s benefits now but delay taking your... read more

Surviving retirement quicksand

Four challenges women face and strategies to help overcome them Despite what you’ve seen in adventure films, quicksand won’t kill you – it just trips you up. The same can be said of common problems women face in saving for retirement. They may suck you in and slow you down, but they can be overcome. Predicting how long you’ll spend in retirement is tricky, especially since women tend to live longer than men. Overcome it by: Being realistic about retirement. Work with your advisor to create savings goals for the life you envision instead of fixating on a specific retirement age. And take care of yourself to avoid spending more on healthcare costs. Delaying your benefits. If you delay the collection of Social Security beyond full retirement age (which varies based on birth year), your benefits may increase. Downsizing. If you’ll want a smaller home in retirement, you can estimate the savings as part of your plan. But don’t forget to factor in associated costs, like selling your current place and moving. Despite increasing education and greater professional success, women continue to make less than men. Overcome it by: Asking for a raise. Whether you’re getting a new job, moving up in the workplace or coming up on your annual review, don’t be afraid to emphasize the value you bring to your workplace by showing proof of your accomplishments. Maximizing the match. Contribute enough to get the full employer match for your 401(k) or 403(b) account, if one is offered. Saving your windfall. The best way to boost savings? Trick yourself. When you receive a raise or a bonus, put it... read more

Baby-ready in nine months

Parenthood demands special financial care A baby will change your life – and your finances. Take a deep breath and take heart: Here are nine ways to prepare financially. Month 1: Ready, set, save Pay down debt and start an emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Month 2: Budget, baby Your post-baby budget will depend on many factors. To figure out how the numbers shake out based on your parenting decisions, check out BabyCenter.com’s First-Year Baby Costs Calculator (babycenter.com/baby-cost-calculator). And don’t forget to talk to your financial advisor, too. Having a baby is a major life change that could impact your goals and financial plan. Month 3: Take care of childcare Investigate your childcare options early. Perhaps a family member could care for the baby while you work, or you could share a nanny with another couple. To increase parent-baby bonding time, you and your partner might both consider taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, or paid family leave if offered. Fill out the FMLA paperwork as soon as you know the estimated dates of leave and return. Month 4: Break the news at work Many women wait until after the first trimester to tell their boss about their pregnancy. Others wait until their baby bump calls attention. Just make sure to communicate in a professional way and expect to answer questions about your return to work after delivery. Think about telecommuting or job-sharing options, and remember, federal law protects mothers from unfair hiring and firing practices. Month 5: Gather diapers and wipes The amount of baby stuff pitched to new parents... read more