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Social Security: What Women Need to Know

A free government publication spells out the essentials

If you're a 65-year-old woman, here's the good news: Actuarial statistics say you're likely to live another 20 years, compared with 17.7 years for a 65-year-old man.

Now the bad news: Your probable longevity puts you at greater risk of exhausting your retirement savings.

That's why Social Security, which provides a safety net regardless of gender, can be so important to your financial health; it's no surprise that 60 percent of beneficiaries are female.

A free 23-page publication from the Social Security Administration, Social Security: What Every Woman Should Know (PDF), offers straightforward, practical guidance on Social Security's complex nuances, from how the amount on your check is calculated to how you can suspend benefits until age 70 to increase your payout. There's also advice for caregivers who are handling an elderly parent's benefits.

The guide is also available in Spanish (PDF). If you prefer, you can even listen to it (see box, right). The agency also provides a toll-free number, 800-772-1213, where operators are waiting to answer questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

If you are blind or visually impaired, you can call 410-965-6414 or TTY 800-325-0778 to obtain a copy of this publication in Braille or large print, or as a compact disk (CD) or audiocassette tape; you can also order it in any of these formats online. Be sure to specify publication SSA 05-10127.

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