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 2442 questions.

Is It Correct That My Benefits Will Be Reduced If I Earn More Than $15,000 Per Year?

Category: Earnings Test
Jul 26 2017 - 7:47am

Hello, I am 66 years old, as of July 8, 2017. I have been collecting survivors benefits from deceased ex husband since last year. I intended to receive this benefit until age 70, and then start receiving my own benefit. I was warned not to make over $15,000 per year, or they will reduce my benefit. Firstly, let me know if this is correct. Next, please let me know at what age I can collect rental income from a property I own, without reducing the benefit. Thank you for any help you can give. It is much appreciated.

Hi Colleen,

No, that . . . Read More

Will I Lose My Widow's Benefits If I Receive A Pension From Work?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Jul 26 2017 - 7:40am

My husband passed away and I received his benefits because I am his widow. I will be able to retire in two years. I will receive a pension. Do I lose my widows benefits??


Not necessarily, but if you will be receiving a government pension based on your work that is exempt from Social Security taxes, then your Social Security widow's benefits could be offset by 2/3rds of the amount of your non-covered government pension. This is due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision. For more information on GPO, refer to this publication: . . . Read More

Can My Deceased Father's Common Law Wife Claim His Benefits?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Jul 25 2017 - 7:15pm

Can my deceased father's common law wife claim his social security benefits? She is a Canadian citizen.


I can't answer that question without much more information. Canadian citizens can be eligible for widow's benefits from Social Security, but they must meet all of the requirements for entitlement (

Furthermore, in the case of a common law marriage, Social Security must establish that . . . Read More

Do I Have To Respond To Social Security?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jul 25 2017 - 6:34pm

My brother received an award of social security disability at around 1k. After that the SS cut his benefit to 400 dollars without explanation. They are now asking me for information about my brother from me. Do I have to respond and what are the consequences if I don't? They are threating to take away all his benefits and medical treatment if I don't reply. Is that legal?


I certainly can't think of any reason that you would be required to furnish information about your brother to Social Security. It sounds like Social Security may need . . . Read More

Can My Husband Collect Benefits From My Record?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Jul 25 2017 - 6:27pm

I'll be 62 in six months and plan to start collecting benefits. My husband of 43 years is now 69, but not eligible for social security benefits as he was disabled as a young man has only collected VA benefits as his income. Is he eligible to collect SS benefits from me?


Yes, it sounds like your husband should qualify for spousal benefits on your record as soon as you start drawing. His VA benefits won't hinder his ability to receive spousal benefits, although some types of needs based VA payments can be offset if the veteran starts receiving . . . Read More

When Should I File My Application?

Category: Filing For Benefits
Jul 25 2017 - 6:16pm

I am a "Maximize" purchaser. I will turn 66 on September 9th this year and plan on applying for my Spousal Benefit. My wife (68) is already collecting her SS. My question is, when would be a "safe" date for me to apply? I know that I can apply (up to 4 months?) early, but I don't want Social Security to start it before I turn 66, thus reducing my payments.

Thank you,

Hi Bert,

Thanks for your purchase. It really doesn't matter that much when you apply. You could file as soon as today or as late as 6 months after turning age 66 . . . Read More

Can My Ex-Wife And I Both Receive Divorced Spousal Benefits?

Category: Filing Strategies
Jul 25 2017 - 7:18am

I thought, having been married 22 years, and now divorced, my ex-wife, and I, who reach FRA 3 days apart next June, ( WE WERE BORN IN 1952 so My understanding is the new law does not apply to us.) could each file and suspend our own benefits and take spousal benefits of each other.

If you are divorced, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you have remarried) if:
Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer;
Your ex-spouse is unmarried; . . . Read More

How Will My Civil Service Survivor Pension Affect My Social Security Benefits?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jul 25 2017 - 7:13am

My husband did not pay into social security, as his widow I have been receiving his pension (Civil Servant) now I am eligible to apply for social security benefits based on my life employment.

How does receiving his pension affect my social security benefits?


It won't. Receipt of a civil service survivor pension has no effect on any type of Social Security benefits.

Best, Jerry

Can My Spouse Get Benefits On My Record Now?

Category: Filing Strategies
Jul 25 2017 - 7:02am

I am 73, retired and draw social security. My spouse is not retired and 63. Can she draw any benefits against my social security now? Any penalties when she reaches full retirement age?


If your spouse files anytime before her full retirement age (FRA), she'll be deemed to be filing for both spousal benefits and retirement benefits on her own record. In that event, she'll basically just receive the higher of the 2 rates and her benefit rate will be reduced for age. Her benefits would also be subject to the Social Security earnings test until she . . . Read More

Should I File At Full Retirement Age?

Category: Filing Strategies
Jul 25 2017 - 6:54am

My wife is 5 years older than me and she has passed her full retirement age but did not work much so her benefits are very low. I reach my full retirement age next year. Is it to our best advantage for me to file at that time and file for her spousal benefits at the same time or do some different scenario?


Your best strategy depends on a number of variables, and I can't even give you an educated opinion without more information. You should strongly consider using the maximization software available on this website to determine your best strategy . . . Read More