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 2891 questions.

What Is The Best Strategy For Us?

Category: Filing Strategies
Oct 19 2017 - 7:06am

Dear Larry, I read your book "Get What's Yours" (2016 edition) and my head is still spinning. There were some social security changes in beginning of 2017, and since I was unable to locate a 2017 edition, I checked internet for the 2017 changes so am trying to incorporate the 2017 changes with the information in your 2016 edition.

We have several questions about this process and hope you can guide is in the right direction.

1. I am 62 years old this year and my husband will be 65 next year. I still work full-time, and my husband stopped working about 8 years ago . . . Read More

When Will My Benefit Rate Be Recalculated To Give Me Credit For The Months That My Benefits Were Suspended?

Category: Recomputations
Oct 19 2017 - 6:43am

I had to start my retirement benefits @ 62 (2015) due to being unemployed for many months prior to my birthday, which is in May. Latter that year I was fortunate to become reemployed and continue to receive benefits for remainder of the year (2015). For 2016 and present year (2017), my benefits are suspended due to earnings test and also anticipate same for next year, 2018. In January of 2019, my 66th birthday year, I'm assuming my checks will start back up based on the 1/3 earnings test and receive partial payments (based on $60,000 annual income). I realize that the current . . . Read More

Am I Eligible For Disability Benefits?

Category: Disability Benefits
Oct 19 2017 - 6:29am

After being at 80% VA disability from Agent Orange for several years and now at 100% VA disability as of 5 October 2017 from PTSD, etc - am I eligible for SSDI? I am a Vietnam vet and my age is 76.
thanks in advance,

Hi Phil,

Sorry, but no. Social Security disability (SSDI) entitlement simply allows a disabled individual to start receiving their full retirement age benefit rate earlier than their full retirement age (FRA). Therefore, SSDI benefits aren't payable after a person reaches FRA. The benefits of people who start out . . . Read More

Is My Sister's Estate Eligible For Retroactive Benefits?

Category: Miscellaneous
Oct 19 2017 - 6:10am

My sister began the application process at a social security office in January, shortly after age 62 in January 2017. The process because was a question whether to file on her divorced husbands record or hers. She died on July 11, 2017.
Is her estate eligible for retroactive benefits from February thru date of death?
Thank you


I'm sorry for your loss.

I can't tell from your description whether or not your sister actually filed a valid application for benefits ( . . . Read More

Why Do I Have To Wait 60 Days For My First Payment?

Category: Retirement Benefits
Oct 18 2017 - 7:43am

Generally social security holds back a check. I turned 62 on 9/6/2017 in which I applied on 8/1/2017. I thought it was 3 months before but was given a phone interview date 30 days before. Anyways I thought I was going to get my first check on second Wednesday in October but instead was sent a letter that it will be second Wednesday in November. Why do I have to wait 60 days from birthday vs. 30 days or will my first check be double. My friend got hers 30 days following birthday. Please reply. It does not make sense to me according to what I read about government payment rules . . . Read More

What's The Most That A Husband On SSDI Could Receive In Order For His Wife To Keep SSI?

Category: Supplemental Security Income
Oct 18 2017 - 7:35am

What's the amount a husband can make on ssdi in order for his. Wife to keep SSI


Assuming they live together, the husband's SSDI would likely need to be under around $1,100+ in order for his wife to potentially still qualify for SSI (Supplemental Security Income). There are many variables involved in determining SSI eligibility and rates, however, so you would need to check with Social Security to be sure.

Best, Jerry

Do You Know Of Anyone Who Has Successfully Changed Their Divorce Decree Based On The New SS Rules?

Category: New Law
Oct 18 2017 - 7:16am

I am 61 and was divorced before the change requiring 'deemed filing' of spousal SS benefits. My divorce decree was obviously written based on the old law. It says at age 62 I am required to file for spousal benefits based on my ex's earnings. My alimony will be reduced by this amount. Then when I turn 70 alimony will be stopped altogether. Clearly the thinking at the time was that my SS benefits would accrue till I started taking my own at age 70 and that the extra SS accrual would replace the alimony. Under the new law my benefits will be permanently slashed and at age 70 I . . . Read More

Would My Spousal Benefits Be Reduced If My Wife Has Excess Earnings?

Category: Earnings Test
Oct 18 2017 - 7:00am

I am >FRA and I am currently receiving 50% of the spouse's PIA. I understand that my spouse's benefits will be reduced (by $1 for each $2 in excess earnings) If she (2 years from FRA) earns more than $17K in 2018. Would my spousal benefit be reduced when her benefit is cut or reduced because of her excess earnings?


Yes, both your and your wife's benefits would be subject to withholding in order to recover any amount required under Social Security's earnings test (https://www.ssa. . . . Read More

Can My Wife File For Her Benefits At Age 66 And Switch To Spousal Benefits Later?

Category: Filing Options
Oct 18 2017 - 6:50am

I'm 55 and the high PIA individual. I'd like to claim social security benefits at 70. My spouse is soon turning 66 and has a significantly lower PIA. Can my spouse claim retirement benefits at 66 and later, when I claim benefits at 70, switch to the much more attractive spousal benefits? I bought your very good book and thought I read that once you claim the retirement benefits you can't later switch to spousal benefits. The age difference seems to make spousal benefits from me out of reach or at least very difficult. Do you have any insight on how I might be able to offer . . . Read More

Can You Help Me Understand My Options?

Category: Survivor Benefits
Oct 18 2017 - 6:26am

My husband passed away last year.. I collect benefits for our 2 children but its still hard to make ends meet.. I was told i could also collect benefits if i file for them even though its been a year.. Is this true? .... And I also was told that if i do recieve benefits only thing they will do is take the money i get now and just split it into 3 they wont add extra money for me.. Please help me understand.


I'm sorry for your loss.

You could probably qualify for survivor benefits if either of your children are under age 16 or disabled, or if . . . Read More