Ask Larry

Laurence Kotlikoff Professor of Economics, Boston University and President of Economic Security Planning, Inc.
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 4983 questions.

Which Month Would I Choose To Start My Benefits If I Want To Start Drawing At Age 69?

Category: Filing Options
Mar 25 2019 - 7:10pm

I will turn 69 on June 28 and I am planning on filing for my social security retirement benefit at that time. What month should I request my benefit to start in so that I will be sure to get the higher "Age 69" benefit and not the lower Age 68" benefit? Would that be in June or July? When I spoke to Social Security today, they said that it did not matter that my birthday was at the end of the month; my benefit would start in June and my first check would be sent in July. Please clarify this issue.



In your case you would choose June, . . . Read More

Am I Required To File For Child In Care Spousal Benefits?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Mar 25 2019 - 11:36am

Hi Larry,

Thank you for your response. I purchased your software and have worked out multiple scenarios. A couple of points I need to clarify. I understand that if my husband files for early retirement, my disabled son (receiving SSI) is actually required to file for DAC benefits. I was unaware of this. Am I also required to file for Child in Care Benefits once my husband files? Or do I have a choice? If not, then my son would be eligible to receive his full DAC benefit rather than having it reduced by MFB if I, too, were collecting. Is that correct? Can I, at any time . . . Read More

Is Social Security Correct About My Case?

Category: Disability Benefits
Mar 25 2019 - 9:25am

Hi Larry —

I became eligible for SSDI in 2014 when I was 62. My wife began collecting her full benefit when she turned 66 in February of 2018 (both she and I were born in 1952). I turned 66 in May of 2018. I told Social Security that I wanted to delay my benefit until 70 and collect a spousal benefit of 1/2 of my wife’s benefit (as she was already receiving her benefit). SS denied my claim saying that I would have to pay back the 4 years of SSDI or $120,000 in order to receive a spousal benefit of $875/mo. Obviously that makes no economic sense. Are they correct??
. . . Read More

Can My Wife Claim Her Benefits At 62 And Then Claim Half Of My Benefit When She Reaches FRA?

Category: Filing Strategies
Mar 25 2019 - 8:21am

My wife and I are 60 years old (just turned in March and February respectively in 2019). our SSC benefits at 62, and FRA are as follows: 62: wife = $1,069; myself = $2,137; FRA: wife = $1,520; myself = $3,040. Can my wife claim her benefit at 62 of $1,069 and when I retire at FRA claim half my benefit ($1,520) as a spousal benefit at 66 years and 10 months. In other words her SSC benefit will increase from her workers benefit to a spousal benefit? She is working part time now and earns about $15,000 as a RN working a few hours a week. Is there anything wrong with this approach . . . Read More

Can My Husband Collect My Social Security?

Category: Miscellaneous
Mar 25 2019 - 8:12am

Hello. My husband is 70 yrs old and I’m 40. We’re married for 12 yrs now. He only get $145 from his social security a month. I work full time for over 11 years and I think I put 40 credits to my social security. Can my husband collects my social security since he’s 70 yrs old. I know he will get more if he can get my social security, I want him to collect my social security. Is this possible, if so what do we need to do? I hope you can answer my question. Thank you so much.


No. Your husband couldn't qualify for any benefits from your Social . . . Read More

If I Switch To My Own Social Security Would I Be Allowed To Repay What I Collected Without Any Penalty?

Category: Withdrawing Retirement Benefits
Mar 24 2019 - 10:17am

I started receiving $433.00 on my ex husband's account when I turned 66. I turned 67 this month. Unfortunately, due to a very unexpected development, I am in need of a larger amount than I am getting for monthly expenses. I will be receiving a disbursement from an estate but that can take from 9 to 12 months to receive.
Question: If I switch over to collecting on my own Social Security now would I be allowed to repay what I collected o
my own SS as if I hadn't touched it? I really wanted it to earn the 8% per year until I reach 70. Would I forfeit my ex husband's . . . Read More

Is It True That I Can't Claim Widow's Benefits If I'm Now Married?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Mar 24 2019 - 10:09am

I am a widow and remarried at age 60. I am now being told I cannot claim survivors benefits cause I am now married. Is this true?


Not if you remarried on or after your 60th birthday. A marriage that occurs at or after age 60 does not bar eligibility for widow's benefits. However, if you're remarried and your current marriage took place before you reached age 60 then you couldn't qualify for widow's benefits on a former spouse's record as long as your current marriage continues.

Best, Jerry

Will It Affect My Social Security If I Co-Sign An Equity Loan?

Category: Miscellaneous
Mar 24 2019 - 10:01am

I recently starting getting benefits after my husband passed away. I own a home with no mortgage. My son is trying to buy a home but unable to qualify. He is a veteran suffering from PTSD. Our accountant suggested I co-sign with my son and apply for an equity loan on the house I own. ( worth approximately $800,000. If I do this will it affect my Social Security Benefits as that is my only form of income now.


No. Your Social Security benefits can be paid regardless of your net worth or the type of assets you own.

Best, Jerry

Isn't The Spousal Benefit Always Half?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Mar 22 2019 - 8:17am

Hi, I joined and ran your software and have a question about the results. It recommended that I take spousal benefits when my wide turns 66 this November. And she takes her full benefits. Then when I turn 70 in 2023, I take my full benefits and she takes her spousal benefits. My spousal benefit comes to half her benefit. From the report at age 71 in 2024, my benefit = $44,917. My wife's benefit = $9786 and her spousal benefit = $7228. Added together this is $17014. This is not half of my benefit. What am I missing here. We thought that spousal benefit is always half? Thank you . . . Read More

What Should I Do If Social Security Won't Give Me A Date Stamped Copy?

Category: Miscellaneous
Mar 22 2019 - 7:57am

From the article on this website
"Can I Suspend My Benefits At Age 66 If I Started Drawing At Age 62?" it states:
"You may also want to submit your request in writing and ask them for a date stamped copy so that you will have proof of your request."

QUESTION: What if the SSA refuses (even a supervisor) to provide a date stamped copy?
Do you know which section of the SSA POMS requires them to provide a date stamped copy
of documents submitted?

Thank You,


Hi Stephen,

Social Security offices aren't . . . Read More