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 2286 questions.

Can I Receive Spousal Benefits Without It Affecting My Own Benefit Rate?

Category: Filing Options
Jun 26 2017 - 8:57am

My wife is 63 years old as of 5/2/1954 and is receiving disability benefits due to cancer (approximately $1,600 per month). I am 62 years old as of 1/20/1955 and do not plan to file for social security benefits until at least full retirement age. At full retirement age, I am forecasted to receive about double what she is receiving now. My question is, can I receive a disability spousal benefit now without it affecting/reducing my own future social security benefits when I file at full retirement age? In addition, would doing so impact any potential disability or social security . . . Read More

How Will The Sale Of A Home Affect Me?

Category: Disability Benefits
Jun 26 2017 - 8:26am

I am a widower, 62 years old, have 2 homes, and am on disability. I have drawn 20 000 from my 401K for the year 2017 to supplement my 27 000 disability, no other income. I would like to move out of, and sell, the Nevada house (main living house), bought in 2010 for 103 000...likely sell for 190 000. 1) would i pay tax on the profit 2) will it affect my tax status on the disability income 3) would any of this change if i applied the profit against the other mortgage?


Social Security is my only area of expertise, so I'm unable to answer tax . . . Read More

What Is The Formula For Calculating My Benefit Amount?

Category: Retirement Benefits
Jun 26 2017 - 8:17am

I am 53 . I want to quit work at 60 and wait till 67 to collect SS. How much will 7 years of no work affect my amount. What is the formula.
Also I plan on marring a woman who is 59 with no SS credits. Can she receive some if we are married and she turns 67.


Your retirement benefit rate will be based on your highest 35 years of wage-indexed earnings. For more information on the calculation method used, refer to this Social Security publication: . . . Read More

Will My Son's Benefits Continue When I Start Drawing My Benefits?

Category: Child Benefits
Jun 26 2017 - 7:57am

At full retirement age (66) I filed and suspended my benefits. I have a son school age and he received dependent benefits. I am now turning 70 in July and will receive my full benefits. My son is 18 but has one more year of high school. SS states he will continue with benefits until completion of high school June 2018. Two questions: Will my son continue to receive benefits although I will receive my benefits when I turn 70 in July? Question number two. Will I be eligible for the 6 month retroactive payment? SS office I visited said yes.


Yes, your . . . Read More

Which Earnings Test Will Apply For My Husband Next Year?

Category: Earnings Test
Jun 26 2017 - 7:42am

My husband filed for benefits this month, June 2017, after turning 62. He will be continuing to work the remainder of the year, making over the exempt limit. He was contacted by SSI and told he would receive one check in December, I am assuming this is the one check allowed the first year you file for retirement. My question is.... If he continues to work up to his limit next year or a little over the limit, will the exempt limit be the 16,920 or the 1,410 monthly limit? I can't find any information about this. Is the 1410 monthly just for the first year you file or every year till you FRA . . . Read More

Is My Strategy Correct Or Short-Sighted?

Category: Filing Strategies
Jun 26 2017 - 7:24am

I am 60 years old, and have worked and earned a salary near the FICA tax maximum for 35 years. My plan is to begin to take Social Security when I reach age 70. My recent Social Security Statement says that I will receive $3,749 per month at age 70.
My wife is 68 years old, and has worked a few years but has generally stayed home with our children. She worked enough years to qualify for a Social Security benefit on her earnings record. Her SS Statement indicates that she would receive $928 per month at age 68 and $1094 at age 70. My instinct is that she should begin to . . . Read More

Can My Husband Get Spousal Benefits And Allow His Own Benefits To Grow Until Age 70?

Category: Filing Strategies
Jun 25 2017 - 4:22pm

I am 66 1/2 and plan to take social security when I turn 70. By husband will be 67 1/2 when I turn 70. I was recently told at a retirement planning workshop that if my husband takes spousal support when I turn 70, he will not be able to convert this to his maximum social security benefit when he turns 70. If he waits until he turns 70 to take his maximum benefit, it will be higher than mine because his income has been higher for most of our marriage.


If your husband was born before January 2 1954, he could file just for spousal benefits only at or . . . Read More

Will My Wife Be Able To Receive Spousal Benefits?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jun 25 2017 - 11:36am

I've been married for 17 years, my wife is not a US citizen, but does have a TIN. She never wanted to live permanently in US, and my thought was we would live in Asia after retirement. She has never worked in US, mostly just visited for months at a time. My question is, will she be eligible for spousal benefits when she turns 62, I'm currently 69 and have filed one year ago. We are now rethinking the issue of where to live and understand she will apply for a green card if the decision is to live in US.

Thank you.


As a non-U.S. citizen, . . . Read More

Is There Anything I Can Do To Maximize My Benefits?

Category: Disability Benefits
Jun 25 2017 - 7:53am

Hi, thank you for your service. I am 64 and have been on SSDI since 2011. My husband is 69 and began taking SS at 65.
When I turn 65 in May, will SSDI change to SS and amount stay the same. Is there anything I can do to maximize social security?
Since my husband took SS early will I receive any benefits? Should I take those benefits now?

Thank you.


Your Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) will convert to regular retirement benefits at age 66. Your monthly rate will almost certainly stay the same at that point.

. . . Read More

Do You Have Any Suggestions?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Jun 25 2017 - 7:30am

I have a mess. My husband died in 2012; he was drawing social security. I took the reduced widows rate @ 59 yrs old because I had not worked in years and needed to survive. Then I was asked last year to consult with an organization. I wasn't concerned because I knew that I would not reach the $15,900 threshold to affect my ss benefit --- Now, I have been offered a full-time position with another organization that will push me into the $60,000+ income range. I still will have a little consulting income in the mix. Additionally, I have a county pension that is about $350 a month . . . Read More