Social Security and Stay-at-Home Moms

A divorced woman can collect spousal benefits, so long as the marriage lasted 10 years. In such a scenario, a divorced Jane who had 10-plus years vested in a marriage can still claim the 50 percent spousal benefit, but since she's no longer in the same household as John, unless she remarries, the Social Security income coming into her home is just $2,500 instead of the $7,500 she would have had access to had the marriage not dissolved.

Unfortunately, because of the decade rule, a woman who stayed home with her children for six years of her seven-year marriage receives no spousal benefits. An unmarried stay–at–home parent who has children with a partner has no protection. If she has her own work history, she may have access to a benefit of her own. But if she were a teenage or young mother and continues to have a minimal employment history, she's at risk of becoming a very poor old lady.

The cost of an unpaid stay–at–home career -- or a paid career that makes accommodations to parenting responsibilities -- varies for each woman.

You can calculate your future benefits (and losses) by visiting Benefits Calculator. For more information about your Social Security eligibility and benefits, visit the Social Security Administration website or Social Security Information for Women.

Melissa Stanton is the author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide: Field-tested strategies for staying smart, sane, and connected while caring for your kids (Seal Press/Perseus Books). Prior to becoming a stay-at-home mother of three (including twins), she was a senior editor at LIFE and People magazines. Visit with Melissa, and learn more about her book, at Real Life: Support for Moms . Become her Facebook friend via The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide fan page.

Copyright © Melissa Stanton. Permission to republish granted to, LLC.


You may have heard about the social security benefits do-over. If you haven't, it’s far too late. The master plan with the social security benefits payback option, or social security double-dip, was to let younger people get early social security benefits to pay back later. When older, one can get more social security for starting over. Even if you put the cash in an annuity from an insurance business, you wouldn’t be able to get as much cash as you would with a Social Security benefits do-over. But the practice is becoming so popular the Social Security benefits Administration wants to end it.