When to begin taking Social Security is an important decision for all soon-to-be retirees, but more so for women than for men.

That’s because women receive (on average) reduced lifetime earnings and income from retirement accounts like 401(K)s and company pension plans. Add to this one other important fact: Women tend to outlive their male spouses, forcing many to rely on their own financial resources in retirement.

Related: Why Social Security planning is the new requirement for retirement advisors

That brings us back Social Security. The longer women wait to begin receiving benefits, the higher their income stream will be. On this score, most female retirees are failing to maximize the payout, one that can ensure a large enough nest egg to carry them through the proverbial Golden Years.

These were the conclusions reached by the Nationwide Retirement Institute in a new online survey of 909 U.S. adults over age 50. People in the survey pool were either retired now or plan to be in the next 10 years. The “2016 Social Security Study,” conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Nationwide, included online interviews with 465 women, among them 301 who are currently retired and 164 who plan to retire in the next 10 years.

The report finds that women, on average, expect Social Security to pay more than half (56 percent) of their expenses in retirement. But among those currently receiving Social Security, only 17 of the survey respondants, or 5 percent, maximized their monthly check by waiting to claim at age 70 or later. In contrast, 8 in 10 retired women now collecting Social Security benefits took those benefits early, locking in a lower lifetime income.

“Too many women retirees have no retirement income outside of Social Security,” Nationwide Retirement Institute Vice President Roberta Eckert said in a press statement. “And even for women that do, the fact that they live longer makes maximizing Social Security benefits extremely important.”

Related: How to correctly claim Social Security spousal benefits

Even women who have retirement savings should make a point of maximizing their Social Security benefits as they're likely to live longer than men. (Photo: iStock)

Even women with retirement savings should make a point of maximizing their Social Security benefits as they’re likely to live longer than the men in their lives. (Photo: iStock)

Among the report’s key findings:

  • More than a third of women (35 percent) were kept from doing the things they wanted in retirement. One reason: health care expenses, which prevented nearly one in four (24 percent) women from pursuing retirement objectives.

  • Looking back, nearly 1 in 5 (17 percent) of women who are now 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).

  • 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 9 in 10 women surveyed who work with an advisor (86 percent) say their Social Security payment was as expected or more than they expected.

  • 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.

 

See also:

What women want: Annuitizing retirement assets

A risky outlook: 8 facts about women and retirement [infographic]

Being a woman will cost you $430,480 over your working lifetime

We’re on Facebook, are you?