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 2733 questions.

Am I Entitled To My Husband's Social Security Benefits?

Category: Survivor Benefits
Sep 21 2017 - 4:53pm

my husband just died three weeks ago at age 60, i am 40 am i entitled to his social security benefits


I'm sorry for your loss.

Except possibly for a one time payment of $255, you wouldn't be eligible for anything from your husband's record for the time being unless you have eligible children in your care. The earliest that you can qualify for monthly widow's benefits is at age 60, or age 50 if you are disabled.

Best, Jerry

What Happens If Social Security Withholds More Of My Benefits Than Necessary?

Category: Earnings Test
Sep 21 2017 - 4:47pm

thank you so much for answering my question . but i forgot to ask you if social security withhold more than what i owed what do they do with the rest of that money . i collect widow benefits and i will always get them because they were bigger than mine . thank you also also what if what i told them was more or less thanks


If Social Security withholds more than is required for earnings test reasons, any excess withholding will be refunded to you after the year is over and your exact earnings have been established. Conversely, if you earn more than . . . Read More

Can I Apply For Survivor Benefits At Age 60?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Sep 21 2017 - 4:14pm

I have read through a lot of the social security rules and statues but my situation is still unclear according to what I've read. I need your help. I became a widow at age 39 in 1998. My husband was 49 when he passed with terminal cancer and had been receiving social security. He qualified for a medical retirement with his job of 25 years and we received his full pension 7 months before his passing. The social security continued for our children until they dropped off at age 18. Today, I am 58 and divorced from a second marriage that ended in 2015, after being married for 15 . . . Read More

Can I Still Draw On My First Husband If My Second Marriage Ends?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
Sep 21 2017 - 8:06am

I was married for 18 years to my first husband. We divorced. I have remarried. If I do not remain married to the second husband for ten years and we split up can I still draw on my first husband's social security benefits? Or did the second marriage nullify those?


Yes, if your second marriage ends by death or divorce you could potentially become eligible for divorced spousal benefits on your first husband's record. Refer to Social Security's handbook to see the requirements for divorced spousal benefit eligibility: . . . Read More

What Can Be Done If You Missed Out On Filing Due To Receiving An Inadequate Explanation?

Category: Miscellaneous
Sep 21 2017 - 7:54am

hi Larry, what can you do if you think you missed filing for benefits because info wasn't explained fully in a way you could understand by a SS phone representative? thank you.


One possibility that comes to mind is that you would need to establish that you failed to file a timely application due to receiving misinformation from a Social Security employee. If established, misinformation can permit Social Security to establish an earlier deemed filing date for those affected by the misinformation. You may want to peruse this section of Social . . . Read More

Why Does WEP Affect My Benefits And Can Anything Be Done?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Sep 21 2017 - 7:23am

My question is concerning the ‘Windfall Elimination Provision’ (WEP), the law that takes away part of your Social Security benefits if you had income (in the US) for which you did not pay into SS at the time.
As I only immigrated to this country in the middle of my life, I have worked in my original home country (Switzerland) for the first part of my life. Therefore I receive a small pension (or Swiss social security payment) which I earned before I ever was obligated to pay into Social security as this was before I ever set foot into the USA.
After moving to . . . Read More

Should I Start My Benefits Now?

Category: Filing Strategies
Sep 21 2017 - 7:15am

My husband and I are full retirement age. We both have enough points for benefits. I'd like to start my benefits now but he doesnt. I'd like to know if that's possible and what the future ramifications are of just starting my benefits now.


I'm sorry but you haven't furnished enough information for me to be able to give you much advice. If you are at least age 62 and have worked long enough to be insured for benefits, you can file for your own retirement benefits regardless of whether or not your husband chooses to file. However, many variables . . . Read More

Will My Payments Resume Automatically?

Category: Earnings Test
Sep 21 2017 - 7:11am

my question is .about the limit this year . i have gone back to work and called s s told them that i will be making 24400 they with held 3 months out of my payment . will my payment resume back automatic or do i have to keep on calling them thank you


Once Social Security has withheld enough checks to cover the $1 for each $2 that you'll earn in excess of the $16,920 exempt amount, they should resume payment of your benefits automatically.

Best, Jerry

Can My Boyfriend Get Any Additional Benefits From His Deceased Wife's Record?

Category: Filing Options
Sep 21 2017 - 7:00am

Larry I sent you wrong info about my current boyfriend I had told you his wife died from cancer after 34 years of marriage he was born June 26 1950 .. He was not yet 62 when she passed.. He drew from his wife's benefits a few months as she had passed until he hit 62 a few months later.. and then he drew from his own which was higher.. Is he still eligible for anything of his wife's benefits as I think social security probably screwed him up.. He only drew something from her passing just a few short months before converting to his own benefits at age 62 .. He is now 67.. . . . Read More

When Can I Apply For Benefits On My Ex-Husband's Record?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
Sep 20 2017 - 2:21pm

Hi Larry I was married from July 1995. To november of 2007.. I was in an abusive marriage and divorced however in December 2007 I got brain disease and tumors.. I was a stay at home mother most of the time but was on my way to earning my nursing degree.. 3 months shy and was working as a student nurse when this happened as a result of seizures from brain disease I can't work and have been collecting social security disability benefits around 990 per month.since 2008 or 2009. I have never remarried ... My ex husband is 5 years younger than me.. He was born in 1971 and I was born . . . Read More