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Women Retirees Could Spend 70 Percent of Their Social Security Benefit Paying for Health Care Costs

October 04, 2016

Making matters worse, a new survey finds four out of five women take Social Security early, locking in a lifetime of lower retirement income

Columbus, OH - On average women live longer, meaning they spend more time in retirement and often do so with less savings. Due to these factors, on average women retirees could spend 70 percent of their Social Security benefit on health care costs.1

According to a Nationwide Retirement Institute® survey conducted by Harris Poll, women count on Social Security or will count on it to pay, on average, 56 percent of all their expenses in retirement. However, 80 percent of retired women currently collecting Social Security benefits took those benefits early, locking in a lifetime of lower income.

The online survey included 465 women over 50 who are retired or plan to be in the next 10 years. It found that of women currently collecting Social Security, only 17 (5 percent) maximized their monthly check by waiting to claim at age 70 or later.

“Too many women retirees have no retirement income outside of Social Security,” says Roberta Eckert, vice president of the Nationwide Retirement Institute. “And even for women that do, the fact that they live longer makes maximizing Social Security benefits extremely important.”

More than a third of women (35 percent) were kept from doing the things they wanted in retirement. Health care expenses in particular keep nearly one in four (24 percent) from the retirement they desired.

Looking back, 17 percent of women who are currently drawing Social Security wish they could change their decision and file later. Of those who would not change their filing decision, 39 percent say an unforeseen life event compelled them to take it early, including unplanned health problems (17 percent). 

Women want help with Social Security filing options

More than one in four women currently drawing Social Security (30 percent) say their Social Security payment is less than they expected.
Women who have yet to collect Social Security on average expect to get $1,527 in monthly benefits. On average, women retirees are currently collecting $1,153 and those who started taking Social Security early report receiving just $1,084.

Only 13 percent of women say they received advice on Social Security from a financial advisor. However, nearly nine in 10 women surveyed who work with an advisor (86 percent) say their Social Security payment was as expected or more than they expected.

“There are a variety of efficient filing strategies open to women — but too few seek professional advice from a financial advisor to take advantage of them,” says Kevin McGarry, director of the Nationwide Retirement Institute.
It’s not that women don’t want the advice. In fact, about three in five women (61 percent) admit that if their financial advisor could not show them how to maximize their benefit — then they would switch to an advisor who could.

Nationwide’s Social Security 360® program helps advisors find their clients’ optimal Social Security filing options. The program includes a tool with software that compares election strategies available to married couples, single people, divorced people, widows, government employees and even those who have already elected a strategy. 

See how to make the most of your Social Security benefits at Advisors can visit

Women can also visit:


The 2016 Social Security Study was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of Nationwide between February 16 and February 23, 2016. The respondents comprised of 909 U.S. adults aged 50 or older who are retired or plan to retire in the next 10 years, including 465 women. These women included 301 who are currently retired and 164 who plan to retire in the next 10 years. Data are weighted where necessary on gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, and propensity to be online, to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population.  

About Nationwide

Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the U.S. and is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. The company provides a full range of insurance and financial services, including auto, commercial, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; banking and mortgages; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit


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