Ask Larry

Professor Laurence Kotlikoff, Economics, Boston University My weekly Ask Larry column ran for almost four years at PBS NewsHours' site. We've now moved Ask Larry to the best place to both answer your general questions and let you calculate your particular optimal benefit collection strategy. I pledge to answer as many questions as possible in the columns below. Please share Ask Larry on social media and consider purchasing our Maximize My Social Security program, which will show you precisely how to get everything you paid for. All my best, Larry

PS, As we are being flooded with questions, I'm also going to have Jerry Lutz, a former Technical Expert at Social Security, as well as my colleagues in the company (Mike O'Connor, our chief SS software engineer, John O'Connor, our head of customer support, and Alex Kotlikoff (my son) and Isaac Yoder, who work on all aspects of product execution and development) help me answer some of your questions. My goal is to give everyone an answer to their questions in relatively short order. As you can read from the questions I have answered, I often am advising people to use our software to figure out precisely what to do. I know the rules, but only the software can figure out cases that may involve finding the best strategy among tens of thousands to millions of alternative strategies. If you have software support questions please log into the site and enter a support ticket.

Displaying 1 - 10 of 2567 questions.

Can I Get Survivor Benefits Now That I'm Age 60 & 8 Months?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Aug 19 2017 - 7:40am

My husband of 23 years passed away in 2004 when I was 47 years old. At that time I was told that I could not get survivors benefits because of my age. I am now 60 years 8 months old. Can I file and draw survivors benefits now?


I'm sorry for your loss.

Reduced widow's benefits can be payable as early as age 60, so it sounds like you would be potentially eligible. However, the Social Security earnings test could limit your ability to receive benefits prior to full retirement age if you are still working ( . . . Read More

Can You Give Me Some Advice?

Category: Filing For Early Retirement Benefits
Aug 19 2017 - 7:08am

I just recently turned 61 and 9 months (born in 11/1955) and filed for Social Security retirement benefits. I just recently found a job in February 2017 after 3 years of being UN-employed. However the pay is nowhere near what I used to make. I would make approximately $27,000 this year gross. This is a little over $10,000 above the 2017 earnings limit of $16,920. I need to work this relatively low-paying job to get free health insurance. My SS representative just told me that I should cancel my application because I would be heavily penalized for filing so early. However I . . . Read More

Am I Eligible For A Spousal Benefit?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Aug 19 2017 - 6:50am

Hi, I am 62 years old and my husband will be 70 in December. He is going to apply for Social Security benefits now. I plan to retire next year after I turn 63 in April, am I eligible for spousal benefit? We have purchased your software and tried a couple scenarios - one with me retiring at full retirement age in 2021 and one at 63. Neither scenario comes up with any spousal benefit numbers, is that possible or am I missing something? Please help!


Since you were born after January 1 1954, whenever you file for spousal benefits you . . . Read More

Can I Stop My Disability Payments If I've Returned To Work?

Category: Disability Benefits
Aug 19 2017 - 6:41am

I started drawing my social security because i was having medical issues did not think I would be able to return to work. I am 65 I recovered and I am back to work. Can I stop my checks so I don't have to pay it back.


Social Security disability benefits don't stop immediately when a person first returns to work. There is a 9 month trial work period and 3 month grace period that follows during which benefits may continue, provided that Social Security hasn't determined that the person is no longer medically considered disabled. For more . . . Read More

Can I Claim Spousal Benefits Effective July 1st?

Category: Filing Options
Aug 19 2017 - 6:25am

Dear Larry,
Below is a summary of my situation:
- I will reach full retirement age on October 1 (66 years old)
- I am still working as a teacher and for this reason did not contribute to social security
- I am eligible for spouse’s benefit and I want to determine the best date to start this benefit
- My earnings before October 1st exceed the limit of the full retirement age so I understand that the payment of my spouse’s benefit before September will reduce to zero. However, according to the special monthly rule, I think I am eligible to the . . . Read More

Am I Eligible To Receive Spousal Benefits Now Without Jeopardizing My Own Age 70 Rate?

Category: Filing Strategies
Aug 19 2017 - 6:12am

My husband is 80 and has been receiving SS benefits since he was 62. I am 67 (6/2/1950) and plan to start receiving SS at age 70 (6/2/2020). Am I eligible to receive spousal benefits now without jeopardizing my ability to receive the maximum amount of social security based on my own greater-than-his income when I turn 70?


Yes. Since you were born prior to January 2 1954 and are over full retirement age, you can file a restricted application just for spousal benefits only while allowing your own benefit rate to continue growing until age 70. It . . . Read More

Can I Get Benefits On My Husband's Record If We Were Married Nine Years And Six Months?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
Aug 18 2017 - 10:45am

If I was married for 9 years and 6 months am I entitled to my husband's Social Security or his army pension disability?


I don't know about your husband's army pension, but assuming you're divorced and your divorce was final before you had been married for 10 years, you can't get divorced spousal benefits on your ex's Social Security record (

Best, Jerry

Is There Some Way I Can Pay Into The System To Increase My Benefits?

Category: Retirement Benefits
Aug 18 2017 - 10:27am

I am taking ss payments early at 62 but I have owned my own business for years and my accountants never paid into ss payments enough . Is there any way I can pay into the system now to increase my monthly benefits now?


Your retirement benefit rate is based on your highest 35 years of wage-indexed earnings ( You can potentially increase your benefit rate if you earn more in wages or self-employment earnings this year or in future years than in one or . . . Read More

What Is The Best Way To Deal With The Earnings Test?

Category: Earnings Test
Aug 18 2017 - 8:33am

My husband died, I am 63 and self-employed using a sole-proprietorship. I am receiving $2000 a month from my husband's social security. I will have an income of over $16920. I am considering having taxes withheld before I receive the money. How will that effect the amount I need to repay for the overage in income? What is the best way to pay the 'overage' back? Should I make payment arrangements at the end of the year or have the expected amount withheld now? Taxes are a giant concern, Yikes! any advise for a self-employed REALTOR?


I'm sorry for . . . Read More

Is It True That You Can't Get Survivor Benefits If You're Receiving More On Your Own Record?

Category: Survivor Benefits
Aug 18 2017 - 8:16am


My mother recently passed away at age 62 she had just started receiving social security benefits this year. My father who is 65 has been receiving benefits for quite some time now and since he worked longer was receiving higher benefits than my mom. My dad was recently told about survivor benefits and applied but was told since he received more than my mom he did not qualify except for the lump sum of $255. Is this usually the case? and what happens to the benefits my mom did not get to receive?


I'm sorry for your loss.

Yes, . . . Read More