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 2121 questions.

Will My Wife's Widow's Benefits Be Reduced If She Takes Reduced Spousal Benefits?

Category: Widow's Benefits
May 27 2017 - 7:44am

A little over a yr ago i started my ss benefit at age 70. My wife will not have any ss benefit based on her work record. We were planning on her taking a reduced spousal benefit at 62; with the understanding that she could still receive 100 % of my 70 yr old benefit , if i was still alive when she reached her full retirement age. The ss office has advised us that if she files for her spousal benefit before she reaches her full retirement age, not only will her spousal benefit be reduced , but her survivors benefit will also be reduced, even if she were past her full retirement . . . Read More

When Can I Request Voluntarily Suspension Of My Benefits?

Category: Delayed Retirement Credits
May 27 2017 - 7:22am

I turned 66 in March, 2017, and began receiving my benefits at that time. I'm still working and I'm considering suspending my benefits so that I can receive the delayed credit when I reach age 70. Since I was already full retirement age when I started collecting, do I stil need to request the suspension within 12 months of receiving my first check, or can I suspend at any time after that? Also, my understanding is that I would need to repay any benefits I receive in the interim. Is that correct, and how much time would I be allowed to repay? In other words, does the entire . . . Read More

Does My Hungarian Pension Reduce My US Social Security Benefit?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
May 27 2017 - 6:58am

I am 66 years old. I came to US as a postdoc fellow in 1991. I became a naturalized US citizen in 2001. I got my Hungarian pension (~$300/month) since 2000 . I receiving my US SS benefit since two months (~$2200/m).
US-Hungary had made a new agreement in 2016. I made a high earning income for 24 years in US.
Does my Hungarian pension reduce my US SS benefit?


Assuming that your Hungarian pension is based on your work and earnings in that country, then the answer is likely yes. The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) results in the . . . Read More

What Options Do I Have?

Category: Filing Options
May 26 2017 - 8:23am

I divorced after 9 years of marriage and have been single for 26yrs. I'm 63 this year. Seems there are many ways for married couples to get optimal benefits but can I file for anything other than my straight retirement? My job is extremely physical and I have Perminent Partial Disability for 2 separate work related injuries. BWC covers meds and rare treatment. I continue to work but can't stand the pain much longer. I'm at a loss here. Been working since 1972 and I'm so confused as how , when and any options. Must I dig up someone to marry to be able to retire and have . . . Read More

Can I File For Widow's Benefits At Age 60, Or Should I Wait?

Category: Widow's Benefits
May 26 2017 - 8:15am

I will be 60 next month. My husband past away last July 2016. I make approx. $25,000 a year. Can I still file for widows benefits or should I wait.


I'm sorry for your loss.

You could file for widow's benefits at age 60, but at least some of your benefits would be withheld due to your earnings (

Your best strategy is likely one of the following:
1) File for reduced widow's benefits at age 60 or as soon . . . Read More

Can I File For Retroactive Benefits On My Deceased Father's Behalf?

Category: Miscellaneous
May 26 2017 - 8:09am

My Dad passed away unexpectedly at age 70 (and 10 months specifically). He just had never gotten around to filing for his retirement benefits though he meant to. Can I file for his retirement benefits retroactively for when he was fully eligible to the benefit of his estate? I've seen his statements and he should have been getting about 2500 a month. There is debt to the IRS and it would help to pay them. No one seems to be able to answer this question...


I'm sorry for your loss.

Unfortunately, the answer to your question is no. An . . . Read More

How Much Would My Wife's Benefits Be Reduced If She Files At Age 62?

Category: Filing Strategies
May 26 2017 - 7:44am

I am receiving about $2300/mo disability payments, minus medicare expenses ($160+), aged 63. My wife (62) supports us (3 dependents) earning about $24K/yr. I have 2 rentals that net us about 66K/yr. She would like to know how much her spouse support payments would be now, and if they would be 'significantly' higher if she waited until 66. Her concern is she may make too much currently, to make taking benefits now vs. at 66, desirable. Her benefits at full retirement are small, about $380/mo. Thanks!


Your wife will be deemed to file for both . . . Read More

Am I Eligible For Divorced Spousal Benefits?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
May 26 2017 - 7:34am

I am the divorced mom of 3 minor children. At the time of divorce my ex-husband filed for Social Security Disability. My 3 children receive support from his social security benefits. However, I receive only $300 per month despite the fact that I was a stay-at-home-mom for the 19 years of our marriage. I receive no spousal support. Can I receive divorced spouse social security benefits, or some other SS benefits?


You must be at least age 62 to qualify for divorced spousal benefits on a living ex-spouse's record, even if you have children in your . . . Read More

Is There A Better Strategy?

Category: Filing Strategies
May 26 2017 - 7:10am

I will be age 66 (FRA) in 2019 and age 70 in 2023. My wife will be age 66 and 8 months (FRA) in 2024, one year after I begin receiving retirement benefits. Our retirement benefits will be similar.

She will be eligible for spousal benefits and we would like to maximize those payments. The strategy that seems to make the most sense is as follows:

2023: I begin receiving retirement payments
2024: She reaches FRA and begins receiving spousal payments
2028: She begins receiving retirement payments

Is there a better strategy? For example, is . . . Read More

When Should I File For Widower's Benefits?

Category: Filing Strategies
May 25 2017 - 8:23am

My wife passed away in 1996. I turn 60 in Sep 2018. I was told by SS that my widower's/survivors benefit would be $1615/month in Sep 2018. My wife's contributions were: $15159, $23737, $28758, $33363, $40010, $36988, $36346 from 1990 to 1996, respectively. My own benefits will be $1716 (at 62), $2381(at 66, 8 months), and $3016 at 70. In fact my benefits will be slightly higher than the amounts shown above after considering 2017 contributions.

My questions are:
1) Does the widower's benefit increase if I wait till 66 and 8 months of age to apply?
2) Does . . . Read More