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.

Please Note: As we are being flooded with questions, I'm also going to have Jerry Lutz, a former Technical Expert at Social Security, 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 7057 questions.

How Will It Affect My SSDI Benefits If I Return To Work?

Category: Disability Benefits
Dec 3 2020 - 2:25pm

I presently draw SSDI and need to understand how returning to work would affect my future SSI benefits, so please allow me set my question up.

My initial disability was covered by a private (employer/MetLife) disability claim, through my employer. Part of the disability contract requirement for my claim was that I also make a claim for SSDI, so that my employer would only have to pay the benefit amount that was in excess of the SSDI payment. Shamefully, my employer used a high-power law firm to push my SSDI claim through in record time, and although initially denied . . . Read More

Will There Be Deductions To My Widow's Benefits?

Category: Benefit Payments Outside Of The U.S.
Dec 3 2020 - 2:04pm

I am 69 years old, not a US citizen, have not worked in the US, residing in the Philippines. My husband died recently. I applied for widow's benefit based on my husband's work credits. Will there be deductions to it?


Yes, as a non U.S. citizen living in the Philippines, it certainly sounds like any U.S. Social Security benefits for which you qualify would be subject to the Nonresident Alien Withholding Tax Provision ( What . . . Read More

Will I Be Eligible For Any Benefits From My Ex-Husband's Social Security?

Category: Divorced Widow(er) Benefits
Dec 3 2020 - 9:11am

I was married less than ten years and my x husband passed. Will I be eligible for any benefits from him. I never remarried?


Assuming that you don't have a child in your care who is under age 16 or disabled and who qualifies for benefits on your ex-husband's record, then no, you won't be eligible for benefits on your ex's record if you were divorced from him at the time of his death. In order to qualify for divorced survivor benefits, you must have been married to the deceased for at least 10 years ( . . . Read More

Will My Youngest Children Split The Oldest Child's Benefit When He Turns 18?

Category: Child Benefits
Dec 3 2020 - 8:45am

My sons father passed away in 2015. He left behind 3 children. They all receive survivors benefits or 1200*3. The oldest child is about to be 18. What happens then? Do the younger 2 then split his share?


Not necessarily. First of all, if the 18 year old is still in high school, he could continue to receive benefits until he's 19. Or, if he's disabled, he could continue receiving benefits indefinitely.

If and when the oldest child's benefits do end, however, the remaining 2 children can be paid their maximum surviving child's rate of 75% . . . Read More

Will I Be Able To Collect My Ex-Husband's Disability Amount At Age 62?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
Dec 2 2020 - 3:30pm

I have been on social security disability benefits and so is my ex-husband. I will be turning 62 and since he was the major breadwinner his disability checks are larger than mine. Will I be able to collect his disability amount at age 62? If so what do I need to do?


No. As long as your ex-husband is living, you could only qualify for benefits from his Social Security record if his primary insurance amount (PIA) is more than twice as much as your PIA. A person's PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing . . . Read More

Will I Need To Do Anything To Stop My Medicare Premiums From Being Deducted From My CSRS Annuity?

Category: Medicare
Dec 2 2020 - 12:04pm

I'm a CSRS annuitant, age 66. When I turned 65 I chose to have Medicare deducted from my CSRS monthly annuity. I'm getting ready to apply for my Social Security benefit, where Medicare premiums are automatically deducted. Do I need to do anything to stop the Medicare deduction from my CSRS annuity? I talked to a CMS rep and they implied that the system(s) will automatically catch, stop the deduction from my CSRS annuity once my Social Security benefit begins.


No. When you apply for Social Security benefits, Social Security will automatically stop . . . Read More

Can My Wife's Benefit Be Increased Based On The Spousal Benefit?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Dec 2 2020 - 9:27am

My wife is retired and receives a pension from the County of Los Angeles. During her working years, she had a small business and contributed enough to qualify for Social Security. She started her Social Security benefit at 62 and it was substantially reduced by WEP. I am 60 and will retire within the next five years. My FRA is 67. I am retired from the USMC and receive a pension from the military. I know I will get my Social Security benefits when I retire from my current job but can my wife's benefit be increased based on the spousal benefit?


. . . Read More

How Do My Wife And I Go About Filing For Benefits?

Category: Filing For Benefits
Dec 2 2020 - 9:09am

My wife will be retiring in April 2021 and is planning to file for SS (she will be 65). I plan to file for restrictive application at the same time so I can let my account continue ( I just turned 67) till 70. I was born in 1953 so I am eligible for that. Does the SS office have to fill out those papers or can I do that on line? If so what is the form #? Also since I have not taken my SS yet isn't the amount suppose to go up by 8% each year that you delay? I just looked at the statement and it showed that it increased by $24 dollars.?!


The paper . . . Read More

What Action Should I Take With Regard To Filing For My Benefits Or My Husband's Benefits?

Category: Filing Strategies
Dec 2 2020 - 8:56am

I was born 6/20/56 and was married for 25 years to my husband (6/22/52) who died suddenly at 47 years old on May 23 2000. I might also add that on a visit to a local Social Security office (not in my home state), I was told that they wouldn't answer my questions because I had to make an appointment in my home state. I spend time in two states and have my primary residence in Florida. I was in New York at the time I made an appointment w Soc Sec.
My question at the time was could I or should I collect spousal benefits and still work.
I had purchased Larry's software . . . Read More

Is It Correct That It Won't Count Toward The Earnings Limit If I Take Vacation Pay?

Category: Earnings Test
Dec 1 2020 - 3:09pm

I am retiring on December 15th. I will receive my first social security check the 3rd week of January. I was told that I could only make around $1500 in December in order to get my full social security check in January. I figured out I would be making too much money so I was told that if I took a couple of days of vacation that the vacation pay would not count toward that $1500. Is that correct? I also get a travel reimbursement for days worked if I want it. Would this travel reimbursement count toward the $1500? If so I could forego that. Please advise.

Hi . . . Read More