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 11 - 20 of 2118 questions.

Will My Self-Employment Earnings Make Me Ineligible For Disability Benefits?

Category: Disability Benefits
May 25 2017 - 7:37am

Larry, I've got a rather complicated SSDI question. I retired from my career in 2012, and became self employed. I was self employed till August 2016, at which point I became disabled and unable to work. Note that I had a net loss for every tax year of my self employment through the end of tax year 2016. This year, 2017, would have been the first year that I turned a profit.

I filed for SSDI in November of 2016, and received notification that my claim was approved in February 2017, with a date of disability of December 2016. My first month of benefit is 6/2017, and my . . . Read More

Is Your Book Still Accurate?

Category: Miscellaneous
May 25 2017 - 7:27am

I bought your book in 2015, so I'm wondering if there's any reason to read it now since the SS rules changed in 2016? Or is most of it still reliable, and there's a way to replace or append the new information?


Most of the original version of the book is still accurate, but some parts are no longer entirely correct due to the Social Security amendments passed by Congress in October 2015. You'll want to look for a copy of the updated version of the book which incorporates the new rules ( . . . Read More

Is There Some Way To Get My Children Back On SSI?

Category: Supplemental Security Income
May 25 2017 - 7:15am

My 2 disabled adult children are receiving DAC benefits. When my ex-husband passed away my childrens' SSI (735.00 + 22.10 ssp) decreased to 0.00 due to the DAC benefit (1,350) each that they get on the 3rd of the month being to high. This also made them ineligible for public benefit programs. As far as resuming SSI payment and public benefit programs is the only way to do is putting the DAC in a special needs trust or is there another way? I hate to see them lose entitlement to public benefits, entitlements, SSI, as it my have impact later in their lives. donna

. . . Read More

What Can I Do?

Category: Widow's Benefits
May 25 2017 - 7:05am

I was married to my husband for 3 months before he died. I was 59 and he was 73. He was a retired railroad worker and because we were married 9 months I am not eligible for any of his pension nor am I eligible for social security. what can I do?


I'm sorry for your loss.

You could file a claim for widow's benefits in order to receive a formal determination with appeal rights. I'm not an expert on Railroad Retirement Benefits, but there are exceptions to the 9 month duration of marriage requirement ( . . . Read More

Should I File As A Disabled Widow Or As A Mother With Children In Care?

Category: Widow's Benefits
May 25 2017 - 6:47am

I am wondering, I am a disabled surviving widow of a deceased worker (he became disabled due to cancer). I was married to him 13 years. We have 2 children, both with intellectual disabilities whom are disabled adult children and collecting DAC benefits. Is it in my best interest to file for widowers benefit at age 50 ( I am 48 now) or to file now based on my caring for the disabled adult children of my deceased ex-husband? Carol


It would probably be better to draw benefits on the basis of having a child in care, which are called mother' . . . Read More

How Can I Get My Son's Benefits Reinstated?

Category: Social Security Overpayments
May 24 2017 - 7:43am

I applied for early retirement in 2015, and first check came in October 2015. In November 2015, I began to work full time again and notified the social security office by phone. The person told me that I did not need to be concerned about benefits for the first year and that it could increase my benefit to keep working full time. At no time did they say I would be penalized. In 2016, I began to work again as a massage therapist and within this field the income can vary from day to day, week to week, and month to month. In two months of 2016, I earned half of what I earned for . . . Read More

What Happens To My Wife's Benefits If I Die Before She Turns 70?

Category: Filing Strategies
May 24 2017 - 7:34am

My wife turns 66 this July 4th and she wants to freeze her benefits until she reaches 70 and collect half of my benefits. What happens if I die before she reaches 70


First off, your wife doesn't need to 'freeze' her own benefits. She simply wants to not file on her own record until age 70, and instead file a restricted application for spousal benefits only at age 66. She may want to run the maximization software available on this website in order to make sure that this is her optimal strategy.

If you die while your wife is receiving . . . Read More

How Should The RIB-LIM Formula Be Applied In My Case?

Category: Divorced Widow(er) Benefits
May 24 2017 - 7:18am

My ex-husband recently passed away. I meet the qualifications for a divorced survivor benefit. He claimed benefits about 6 month prior to his FRA at age 65. I am 64, will be 65 next month, June of 2017. When I requested an estimate of benefits I was told the RIB LIM formula would be applied and the results were 82.5% of his full PIA. The figure I was given was $2243 and was advised this was the highest possible no matter when I apply. However his benefit was only reduced a small percentage due to his taking his benefits a few short months from his FRA so he was receiving nearly . . . Read More

Is It True That I Can't Receive Benefits Until I'm Age 66?

Category: Widow's Benefits
May 24 2017 - 7:09am


My husband recently passed away at age 71. He was still working at the time, but we had started to receive his social security payments this past year.
I am 64 and still working. The social security representative I just spoke to said that I cannot continue to receive his benefits until I am age 66, at which point I can apply to receive. Is this correct?



I'm sorry for your loss.

Whether or not you can receive benefits prior to age 66 depends on how much you are earning. Social Security would withhold $1 . . . Read More

Do You Agree With My Analysis?

Category: Filing Strategies
May 24 2017 - 6:45am

My wife will be 62 in September 2017 and does not work outside of the home. She does have a modest amount of Social Security benefits coming from old employment. I am 59 and still working with a high paying job. I believe she should begin taking her benefits at 62 and if I retire at 62 myself, which is possible, I could file and her benefits would go up as well as a percentage, not 50% I understand, of my benefits as her spousal benefit. We really do not actually need the benefits, but I am unsure of the whole Social Security situation and would therefore like to get what I can . . . Read More