Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay
Courtesy: Social Security Administration

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public affairs specialist in Hawai‘i.

March is Women’s History Month — a time to focus not just on the past, but also on the challenges women continue to face in the 21st century.

Ida May Fuller, the first American to receive a monthly Social Security benefit check, was born Sept. 6, 1874. Along with Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins — who was instrumental in the creation of the Social Security Act — Ida May Fuller was one of the famous women in Social Security’s early history. She received a check, amounting to $22.54, on Jan. 31, 1940. Back then, people understood that she would be one of millions who would be positively affected by retirement benefits.

Seventy-seven years after the issuance of that first check, Social Security continues to play a vital role in the lives of women. With longer life expectancies than men, women tend to live more years in retirement and have a greater chance of exhausting other sources of income. With the national average life expectancy for women in the United States rising, many women will have decades to enjoy retirement. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a girl born today can expect to live more than 80 years. As a result, experts generally agree that if women want to ensure that their retirement years are comfortable, they need to plan early and wisely.

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