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 2750 questions.

Why Were My Niece's Benefits Reduced?

Category: Miscellaneous
Sep 24 2017 - 7:51am

My niece was born with spina bifada, my sister has had her on ssdi all her life. My niece is 40 now and has been drawing the same amount all these years but now since her mother has been deemed disabled and drawing a check, my nieces benefits have been lowered. In case it is relevant my niece has not lived in the same household as her mother for 25 years at least. My question is why her social security disability has decreased. Why would my nieces benefits decrease just because her mother is now on disability?


I'm sorry to hear about your niece's . . . Read More

Why Are Medicare Premiums Withheld From My Benefits If I Paid Medicare Taxes While I Worked?

Category: Medicare
Sep 24 2017 - 7:46am

I worked for over 55 years and contributed to Medicare all those years. Why, now that I have retired, does Social Security still deduct Medicare insurance premiums from my monthly social security benefits?


The Medicare taxes collected from wages fund only Part A (Inpatient Hospital) coverage under Medicare. If you sign up for other parts of Medicare then you must pay a monthly premium.

Best, Jerry

Can I Receive Spousal Benefits?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Sep 24 2017 - 7:33am

Can I receive spousal benefits? I turned 65 in 12//2015. My spouse is retired, age 75 and receiving social security benefits. In April of 2016 I was told by social security I could not receive spousal benefits due to the laws passed in Nov 2015. I recently (Sept 2107) learned that I can receive spousal benefits by filing a restricted application. My goal is to continue working until age 70 and if allowed collect spousal benefits.


Yes, if you aren't already drawing benefits on your own record it sounds like you could file a restricted application . . . Read More

Can I Get A Do-Over?

Category: Miscellaneous
Sep 24 2017 - 6:59am

I started taking Social Security at 62; I didn't realize at that time that I was entitled to collect on my ex-husband's social security (having been married for nearly 30 years) and allow my SS to continue to grow. And, of course, SS didn't tell me. My ex is 2 years older than me. Recently, I have been talking with some friends and they told me that I could now be collecting my full benefits had I been taking my husband's up to this point. I turned 70 in July. Is there anything I can do at this time to collect the maximum amount on my social security. i.e. pay SS back the . . . Read More

What Should I Do?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Sep 24 2017 - 6:54am

I will be 64 years old in October 2017. I retired 2 years ago in November 2015 and I was 62. I started collecting ever since. I am asking, Is there any way I can collect from my husband social security instead of mine. I am making lest money and he is making more. How is that be possible? What should I do.


You can check with Social Security to see if you're eligible for spousal benefits, but you will only qualify if your husband is receiving his benefits and 50% of his full retirement age rate (PIA) is higher than your own PIA.

Best, Jerry . . . Read More

Can You Clarify This For Me?

Category: Filing Options
Sep 24 2017 - 6:47am

The MMSS tool consistently maximizes my benefits by recommending filing for my survivors benefit first and then switching to my retirement benefit at age 70. This is true over numerous what if scenarios with my age at the time of filing from anywhere between 61 and 64. Yet even with modest income projections, my retirement benefit surpasses my deceased wife's PIA at around age 62. This would appear to conflict with the last statement of the following excerpt from the "What's Under The Hood" document on the MMSS website:

31. Widow(er)’s insurance benefits
If you . . . Read More

Can I Earn More Than $1410 In Some Months As Long As I Earn Less Than $16,920 This Year?

Category: Earnings Test
Sep 24 2017 - 6:41am

Hi Larry,

I am 60 years old and have taken the widower's benefit. My annual this year will be around $16,000. I have 4 months under $1410, two months with no income, and the remaining 6 over the $1410. Is it okay to make over the $1410 on those 6 months as long as I don't exceed the $16920? I really would want to avoid having any amounts held back next year. Next year my income will be more predictable with a monthly $1410 and I would not be able to make it if I were to lose a social security check along the way. Thank you.


Yes, if you . . . Read More

What Are My Options?

Category: Miscellaneous
Sep 23 2017 - 3:00pm

I am 53 and live in Texas. I'm on SSI disibility and receive 900 a month in benefits. My Mom is my authorized representative. At first I received about 1200. I received a notice saying that the amount would be reduced since I was living with my Mom at the time and recovering from cancer. I have just moved out and have discovered you can't even find a room to rent for that. I'm not on housing vouchers or SNAP and don't even know if Im applicable. I cant talk to SSI because they have to go thru my Mom (representative) She wants me to move back in and says SSI might stop my . . . Read More

Do You Need To Report Your Spouse's Income If You're Married?

Category: Earnings Test
Sep 23 2017 - 2:51pm

If you are married and receive social security benefits aren't you suppose to report your spouse income


I'm sorry, but you haven't furnished enough information to allow me to properly answer your question. If you are referring to the earnings countable for Social Security earnings test purposes and you receive benefits on your own record, then only your own earned income is considered(

If you're referring to . . . Read More

What Income Is Included For SNAP Eligibility?

Category: Miscellaneous
Sep 23 2017 - 2:47pm

My daughter receives survivors benefits from the loss of her husband. Her children 10 and 13 also receive the same. If she applies for SNAP does she use only her income from survivor benefits or does she include include the childrens benefit as her income. She dose not work right now.


Sorry, but I'm not an expert on the SNAP program. You'll need to check with the agency that handles those benefits.