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 5393 questions.

What Do I Qualify For Through Social Security?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Aug 24 2019 - 11:30am

I lost my husband last week, I am a disabled veteran on social security disability, my husband was much older than me, and was collecting his retirement, I'm his second wife, His pension companies told me when he retired his first wife was the beneficiary, but she died first, what do I qualify for through social security?


I'm sorry for your loss.

Anything that your husband's first wife can collect on his record is irrelevant with regard to your potential eligibility for Social Security widow's benefits. Since you're already drawing Social . . . Read More

Would The Profit From Selling A House Need To Be Reported To Social Security?

Category: Miscellaneous
Aug 24 2019 - 11:13am

Hi Larry, my father in law began collecting social security on his 62nd birthday. He is receiving the minimal amount because he has only worked approximately 10-11 years his whole life, depending heavily on family to provide financial support to him, he has been collecting social security for 2 years. About 10 years ago my father in law had his blind elderly father sign paperwork that put my father in law's name on the deed to his father's house. My father in law did this so that when his father passes the house would go to him only, instead of it being divided up 4 ways . . . Read More

How Can I Obtain An Estimate Of My Own Benefit Rate?

Category: Miscellaneous
Aug 24 2019 - 11:04am

I am almost 68 years old. I filed a restricted application for social security spousal benefits only at my full retirement age of 66 and have been receiving them since then. I am wanting to get an updated estimate of the benefits I would be entitled to on my own earnings record at the ages of 68, 69 and 70. My earnings were much higher than my spouses. I have an account at My Social Security but it won't provide an estimate. The website states "we cannot provide estimates because you are already receiving Social Security benefits." Do you know how I can obtain the estimate I am . . . Read More

What States Are Best For Retiring On A Low Income?

Category: Miscellaneous
Aug 24 2019 - 10:47am

Hi Larry,
Due to my poor health, I plan on taking my social security at age 62 (my DOB: 03/24/1965)
If I moved to a state that does not tax my social security and has a lower cost of living, will what
I received from Social Security change as I move from California to another state.

What states are best for retiring on a low income.
Thanks, trying to plan this wisely


Hi Janet,

My expertise is limited to Social Security benefits, so I can't tell you which states are best to retire in for a person with a low . . . Read More

Can My Wife Claim A Spousal Benefit Of 50% Of My Benefit When She Reaches Full Retirement Age?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Aug 24 2019 - 10:35am

I currently receive benefits with a slight WEP reduction. My wife is not receving benefits but is receiving a State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) benefit from OH. She has enough time in covered employment to earn a small SSA benefit (probably about $300 per month) which, I believe, will be reduced further by WEP. At her full retirement age (66y4m) can she claim a spousal benefit of 50% of my benefit?


Probably not. It sounds like any spousal benefits that your wife could otherwise qualify for would be subject to offset due to the Government . . . Read More

What Do I Need To Do If I'm Separated And Don't Know If My Ex-Spouse Is Still Living?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
Aug 24 2019 - 10:08am

My husband and I separated about 10 yrs. ago. I don't even know if he's alive. How can I find out if I'm entitled to any of his benefits. We have been married over 20 years total. I won' retire for another year or so. What do I need to do?


If your ex-husband is deceased you could potentially qualify for surviving divorced spousal benefits as early as age 60, or if he's alive you could potentially qualify for divorced spousal benefits as early as age 62. However, you could only qualify for divorced spousal benefits on a living ex's record if 50% . . . Read More

Why Would My Wife's Spousal Rate Decrease If She Delays Retirement Benefits?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Aug 23 2019 - 10:53am

I am running a variety of Social Security retirement proposals on your maximizemysocialsecurity website. I plan on waiting until 70 to collect my benefit. My wife will be 66 in January and will request her FRA benefit at that time. Each time I ran a scenario that delayed her entitlement month (January, February, March) her benefit expectantly increased, yet her spousal benefit decreased leaving the net annual benefit the same? My benefit at age 70 will not change. Why then does her spousal benefit (presumably 50% of mine) decrease as she delays retirement benefits?

. . . Read More

How Will My Age 70 Rate Be Calculated?

Category: Delayed Retirement Credits
Aug 23 2019 - 10:41am

Thanks for your software offer. I doubt I'll be needing it though as I am now 70yrs old. I would have used it assuredly if I had seen it some years ago.....I filed early at 62 - rcvd payments until 66 - suspended (before apr. 2016) - am now 70yrs old - When my payments resume and my delayed benefit credits are added, are they added to my FRA, or my last payment at age 66 when I suspended? $ 1650 initially - $ 1725 at age 66 - my FRA is $ 2200. So will my new monthly payments be based on 2200 x 8% x 4yrs, or will they be based on $ 1725 x 8% x 4 yrs? I have not been asked to pay . . . Read More

How Can I Maximize My Benefits?

Category: Filing Strategies
Aug 23 2019 - 10:30am

I am a surviving widower of a veteran and calpers and social security contributor. with dependents. how can I maximize my benefits?


In most cases when a person is potentially eligible for both Social Security widow(er) and retirement benefits, the best strategy is to claim the lower benefit as soon as you can start drawing the benefit and then switch to the higher benefit when it reaches it's highest rate. But, if you have children who are eligible to draw benefits on one or both parent's record it can complicate matters. And, if you receive a . . . Read More

Can I Still Collect Off Of My Ex-Spouse's Record If I'm Living With Someone?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
Aug 22 2019 - 3:36pm question is: I was married to my 1st husband for 18 years then we divorced. I have not remarried but have lived with someone for 13 years in Oklahoma. I dont plan on getting married. So when my ex husband and i reach retirement age.....can i still collect off of his SS?
THANK YOU.....Kristin

Hi Kristin,

Yes, as long as you aren't currently married you can potentially collect divorced spousal benefits if you meet the other requirements ( . . . Read More