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 software 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 3868 questions.

Does Child Support Stop When I Retire?

Category: Miscellaneous
Apr 20 2018 - 4:37pm

I am divorced and paying child support for a disabled child. I'm ready to retire but the child support is more than my SS benefits. I know the child can get DAC if my ex wife applies ( she has guardianship ) How is all this going to affect me. Does child support stop when I retire ?

Thanks !


I can't answer that question. I assume that you are paying child support based on either a divorce settlement or court order, and would therefore need to go through the courts to get the order or agreement changed. I'm not a lawyer, though, so I . . . Read More

Is There Any Reason Why My Husband Wouldn't Want To Start Drawing His Social Security Now?

Category: Railroad Retirement & Social Security
Apr 20 2018 - 4:17pm

My husband has worked for the Railroad since 2004. He is now 66 and plans to work a couple more years. He was told that he can actually collect Social Security now and once he retires the amount per month will be deducted dollar for dollar from his Tier 1. We are not sure if this is a smart move and are wondering if there is a tax liability difference between SS and Railroad Tier 1? Is there any reason that you can advise us on that would prohibit him from taking this now? Thanks!


I don't know how the taxation of Railroad (RR) benefits may differ . . . Read More

Will My Sister Be Able To Collect Her Social Security And Her Husband's Railroad Benefits?

Category: Railroad Retirement & Social Security
Apr 20 2018 - 10:34am

My sisters husband worked for the railroad. He passed a couple years ago but my sister was too young to get his benefits. She is now 100% disabled. She has worked and paid into SS for over 30 years. Will she be able to collect her SS and his benefits?
Thank you


If your sister files for and qualifies for both Social Security (SS) and Railroad Retirement (RR) benefits, her Tier 1 RR benefits will be offset dollar for dollar by the amount of her SS benefits ( . . . Read More

Will My Daughter's Benefit Amount Be Based On My Reduced Rate Or My FRA Amount?

Category: Disabled Adult Child Benefits
Apr 20 2018 - 10:20am

My FRA is 66 and 4 months but I would like to apply for benefits at 62. I have a 28 year old permanently disabled daughter who is on SSDI and has been disable since birth. Will her new benefit amount be based on my reduced payment or based on my FRA amount?


If your daughter qualifies for disabled adult child's (DAC) benefits on your record, her benefit rate would be derived from your full retirement age rate (PIA) even if you choose to take reduced benefits. The most that she could be paid while you are living is the higher of her own SSDI rate . . . Read More

Who Is Right Regarding My Benefit Rate, SSA or Me?

Category: Miscellaneous
Apr 20 2018 - 9:50am

Hi Larry,
I am a Canadian engineer who worked in Canada 8 years and currently in USA since June 2012. According to Totalization Agreement between USA and Canada I am entitled to receive retirement benefit from SSA.
I was born in June 1951.
I already get pension (CP) $180 USD monthly from Canada which is considered pension from non-covered employment and which reduces my Social Benefit under WEP law.
I applied for Retirement Benefits to start in Jan 2018.
Social Security Administration (SSA) computed my pension at $420 USD based on my earnings . . . Read More

Can My Wife Start Receiving Benefits On My Record When She Turns Age 62?

Category: Filing Options
Apr 19 2018 - 1:57pm

I am 63, and plan to continue to work full time to at least age 66 +2, possibly to age 70. My wife is self employed, and will turn 62 in November. She will continue indefinitely with her small business endeavor that we operate from our home acreage. Net annual income from this endeavor varies from slight losses, to a max of about $14K.
My most recent SSI e-est was $2086 per month if I retired now, $2667 at 66+2, $3488 at 70.
My wife's most recent e-est was $655 at age 62.

Could she begin to collect SS this Fall at age 62, based on receiving half of my . . . Read More

Will I Be Eligible To Receive My Full Widow's Benefit Even If I Continue Working?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Apr 19 2018 - 1:42pm

Just wanting to make sure I am clear on this retirement choice for myself. I am still working. Will be 66 (full retirement age) in January 2019. If I continue to work, will I be eligible to receive my full widow benefit from my deceased husband? Wanting to ensure I am making the correct choice. My plan is to continue working for several months after the age of 66, collect his full benefit, which is 2300.00, just to add to my retirement nest egg. I would then retire after doing this for a few months and receive my government pension. I want to receive as much of my husbands . . . Read More

What Should I Do To Resolve This Issue?

Category: Suspending Retirement Benefits
Apr 19 2018 - 1:24pm

I am on SS disability. At age 66 I qualify for SS, BD 1952. I wish to defer SS till age 70. The representative at SS says I cannot do this since I have already collected on SS disability . Who do I contact at SS to address this issue? Is there an appeals process available?

Thanks, I have appreciated you advice on line.


Regardless of what the representative told you, you can suspend your benefits effective with the month that you turn age 66 (i.e. your full retirement age) as long as you make your request no later than the calendar month . . . Read More

Why Can't I Receive Surviving Spouse Benefits?

Category: Widow(er) Benefits
Apr 19 2018 - 10:19am

Hello, I filed for disability in 2008, It took over 2 years to get my 1st payment, it was exactly 1 month after my wife of 38 years passed away from cancer in November of 2010, we went through all our retirement savings, our 401K, paying for the cancer treatments, after my wife passed the SSA office told me that as I am on disability I am only entitled to $19 a month
of my wife's benifits, They paid me this benefit for 2 years and now I don't get anything, My wife worked for more than 40 years and paid into ssi, I only receive $1,053 a month in disability benefits, I go . . . Read More

Can You Help Me Understand How My Mother's Benefits Were Calculated?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Apr 19 2018 - 9:50am

My father passed away in February at age 61, my mother is 60 and on disability I used the online calculator on and input my fathers earning record. Calculated that at full retirement age my mothers survivors benefit would be $1813.00 receive benefits at age 50 if disabled . the ssa website says she is eligble for 71.5% =$1296.00 My mother had been receiving $992. and they were deducting 20.80 for Medicare prescription drug cost as of January 2018=$971, today we received papers from ssa stating that beginning Dec 2017 her full monthly benefits before deductions is $1144. . . . Read More