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 2125 questions.

When Can My Wife Start Receiving Spousal Benefits?

Category: Spousal Benefits
May 29 2017 - 4:37pm

Larry, I am 64 and receiving disability benefits of $1475.00 less $105.00 = $1370.00 monthly, and my wife is 62 now and turning 63 this year. How long before (what age) she can go to the well herself in claiming survivor benefits, i.e. half of what I'm receiving? And in the event of my death would she be bumped up to what I receive?
I'm retired military and do not have survivor's benefits for her other than medical and other privileges - nothing financial coming in other social security. Please advise @ your earliest. Thanks, Leo - Marine veteran...

. . . Read More

Can I Potentially Meet the 30 Year Exemption To WEP If I Continue Working Past Age 70?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
May 29 2017 - 6:26am

If I am subject to the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset, and am currently continuing to work and pay into Social Security, if I continue to work past 70, will that give me additional years to average in order to get close to the 30 or more years required to move closer past the offset? I note the chart shows that even though I am subject to the offset that these additional working years would increase my benefit payout.


Yes, the WEP exemption that applies for people with at least 30 years of substantial covered earnings . . . Read More

Should I Sign Up For Medicare If I Have Federal Retiree Coverage?

Category: Medicare
May 29 2017 - 6:08am



Hi Dennis,

There's no simple answer to that question, and I can't make the decision for you. Part A Medicare coverage is free, so you will probably at least want to sign up for that when you turn 65. Part B of Medicare is optional, and you would have to pay a premium for . . . Read More

Is There Any Way For My Mother-In-Law To Collect Retroactive Widow's Benefits?

Category: Miscellaneous
May 28 2017 - 7:13am

Hello, I am asking this question on behalf of my mother in-law. Her husband died when they were in their early 40's. Much later, when she started inquiring on collecting on his SS, she was told that she had to wait till she was of retirement age. With that, she waited till she was 67, and filed for both herself and to collect on him. She is now almost 70, and just told me this story, when I shared with her that she should have been able to collect on his at the age of 60. She also started collecting disability at the age of 54, which, if I'm not mistaken, would have qualified . . . Read More

Will My Wife's Widow's Benefits Be Reduced If She Takes Reduced Spousal Benefits?

Category: Widow's Benefits
May 27 2017 - 7:44am

A little over a yr ago i started my ss benefit at age 70. My wife will not have any ss benefit based on her work record. We were planning on her taking a reduced spousal benefit at 62; with the understanding that she could still receive 100 % of my 70 yr old benefit , if i was still alive when she reached her full retirement age. The ss office has advised us that if she files for her spousal benefit before she reaches her full retirement age, not only will her spousal benefit be reduced , but her survivors benefit will also be reduced, even if she were past her full retirement . . . Read More

When Can I Request Voluntarily Suspension Of My Benefits?

Category: Delayed Retirement Credits
May 27 2017 - 7:22am

I turned 66 in March, 2017, and began receiving my benefits at that time. I'm still working and I'm considering suspending my benefits so that I can receive the delayed credit when I reach age 70. Since I was already full retirement age when I started collecting, do I stil need to request the suspension within 12 months of receiving my first check, or can I suspend at any time after that? Also, my understanding is that I would need to repay any benefits I receive in the interim. Is that correct, and how much time would I be allowed to repay? In other words, does the entire . . . Read More

Does My Hungarian Pension Reduce My US Social Security Benefit?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
May 27 2017 - 6:58am

I am 66 years old. I came to US as a postdoc fellow in 1991. I became a naturalized US citizen in 2001. I got my Hungarian pension (~$300/month) since 2000 . I receiving my US SS benefit since two months (~$2200/m).
US-Hungary had made a new agreement in 2016. I made a high earning income for 24 years in US.
Does my Hungarian pension reduce my US SS benefit?


Assuming that your Hungarian pension is based on your work and earnings in that country, then the answer is likely yes. The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) results in the . . . Read More

What Options Do I Have?

Category: Filing Options
May 26 2017 - 8:23am

I divorced after 9 years of marriage and have been single for 26yrs. I'm 63 this year. Seems there are many ways for married couples to get optimal benefits but can I file for anything other than my straight retirement? My job is extremely physical and I have Perminent Partial Disability for 2 separate work related injuries. BWC covers meds and rare treatment. I continue to work but can't stand the pain much longer. I'm at a loss here. Been working since 1972 and I'm so confused as how , when and any options. Must I dig up someone to marry to be able to retire and have . . . Read More

Can I File For Widow's Benefits At Age 60, Or Should I Wait?

Category: Widow's Benefits
May 26 2017 - 8:15am

I will be 60 next month. My husband past away last July 2016. I make approx. $25,000 a year. Can I still file for widows benefits or should I wait.


I'm sorry for your loss.

You could file for widow's benefits at age 60, but at least some of your benefits would be withheld due to your earnings (

Your best strategy is likely one of the following:
1) File for reduced widow's benefits at age 60 or as soon . . . Read More

Can I File For Retroactive Benefits On My Deceased Father's Behalf?

Category: Miscellaneous
May 26 2017 - 8:09am

My Dad passed away unexpectedly at age 70 (and 10 months specifically). He just had never gotten around to filing for his retirement benefits though he meant to. Can I file for his retirement benefits retroactively for when he was fully eligible to the benefit of his estate? I've seen his statements and he should have been getting about 2500 a month. There is debt to the IRS and it would help to pay them. No one seems to be able to answer this question...


I'm sorry for your loss.

Unfortunately, the answer to your question is no. An . . . Read More