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 4550 questions.

Does This Information Change Your Answer?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Oct 23 2018 - 4:30pm

Thank you Larry for answering my question. I'm not sure why I would fall under the WEP if I paid into the national health system to qualify for a pension in the UK and Canada Pension Plan). I've paid what I needed to in order to get a pension and also social security in the USA. I'm sorry if my question was misleading, I saw an answer on your website mentioning something about working for the government, and may have given the impression I didn't pay the required amounts from my wages. In all cases, I have always had drawn from my wages the required amounts.

Does this . . . Read More

Does Your Software Allow The User To Consider The Impact On IRA Withdrawals?

Category: Maximize My Social Security Software
Oct 23 2018 - 4:17pm

I'm thinking of purchasing your software. Does the software allow the user to consider the impact on IRA withdrawal? More specifically, taking social security benefits (possibly earlier than FRA) allows one to withdraw LESS from their tax deferred IRA account. This (the IRA) being a primary source of income in retirement could allow more money to stay in the market. Does your software allow you to run scenarios with IRA withdrawals in mind? A retiree certainly wants to maximize their social security benefit but also minimize the impact of their IRA. A maximized social security . . . Read More

What's The Maximum Amount I Can Receive In Wages When I Turn 62?

Category: Earnings Test
Oct 23 2018 - 9:47am

What is the maximum amount I can receiving in wages when I turn sixty two?


I assume you want to know how much you could earn and not lose any Social Security retirement benefits if you start drawing at age 62. If so, in 2018 the annual amount is $17,040, but that amount will rise to $17,640 in 2019. There's also an alternate monthly earnings test that can allow people to draw benefits for some months even if their annual earnings exceed Social Security's limits ( . . . Read More

If You Start Drawing Social Security At 62 Or 64 Can You Stop And Pick It Back Up At 66 Or 67?

Category: Earnings Test
Oct 23 2018 - 7:48am

if you start social security at 62 and at 64 you decide that you want to work can you stop it and pick it back up at 66 or 67


If you start drawing reduced benefits prior to your full retirement age (FRA), you can't voluntarily suspend your benefits until you reach FRA. Your benefits could be involuntarily suspended, though, if you return to work prior to FRA and earn more than the Social Security earnings test exempt amount ( . . . Read More

What Options Are Available For Us?

Category: Filing Strategies
Oct 23 2018 - 7:29am

My husband, age 63, is collecting SSDI, $2032 per month. i am about to turn 60, still working . My estimated SS benefits are 1540 at FRA, and $2059 at age 70, although I do plan an working fewer hours after age 64, possibly cutting my income by 40%. What options are available for us? I have just purchased your book, but the information is overwhelming. Thank you for your help!


Since you were born after January 1 1954, you will be deemed to be applying for your own retirement benefits if you apply for spousal benefits, so there's no way that you . . . Read More

What Can I Do About The Reduction In My Benefit Rate?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Oct 23 2018 - 7:14am

Hi Larry,
When I first applied for Social Security I completed the application online but had to go into the local office because I mentioned my UK pension. I had only just qualified for the UK pension with a total of 10 years working in the UK and Canada. The remainder of my work life was in the USA. The local office told me they had to reduce my social security payments because of my UK pension. I never felt comfortable about that - after all, I'd paid into the system whether here or in the UK or Canada. I have never worked for a government agency, so I don't understand . . . Read More

Will I Receive My Four Delayed Retirement Credits If I File For My Benefits Effective With January 2019?

Category: Delayed Retirement Credits
Oct 22 2018 - 11:53am

Hi Larry. I am currently collecting divorced spousal social security since September 2018. My FRA was 8-1952.

My question is: If I decide to start my own social security with January 2019 as the start date, will I receive my social security amount from 8-2018 or will the 4 delayed credits be included in the January 2019 payment.

It would be good to have the 4 delayed credits included in the Jan.2019 payment instead of waiting for a recalculate of the 4 delayed credits at some time in the future. Thank you for your help and advise.


. . . Read More

Does Social Security Owe Me An Additional Amount For DRCs?

Category: Delayed Retirement Credits
Oct 22 2018 - 11:34am

I just received an MBA update (effective Oct 1) and lump sum for DRCs. October? Whatever.
But, I believe the lump sum is short. Specifically, it looks like SSA gave me 9 months DRC credit
(correct), but lump sum was 9 months worth, matching checks received for 2018. However,
I started SS Nov 1, 2017, so I believe SSA still owes me "backpay" for those 2 months in 2017.
My question: does SSA do DRC catch up in a single go, or is another check in the mail?


Hi Edward,

I can't say for sure without more . . . Read More

Should We Cancel Our Applications?

Category: Filing Strategies
Oct 22 2018 - 11:09am

I will be 67 in Jan 2019. My wife will be 66 in
Jan 2019. On Oct 1 she filed for SS and I filed
For spousal benefit w plans to refine for my SS
Benefit and she would file for spousal benefit
At the same time. If house proposal 831 goes through , I would lose my spousal benefit. Do u think I should cancel our applications and
Wait till I am 70 or just take a chance. I have
No immediate need and am trying to
Maximize payout. Assume either way
If something happens to me she would
Be eligible for my payout. Thanks for whatever
You . . . Read More

Is My Wife Eligible To Receive Any Compensation From My Social Security Disability?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Oct 21 2018 - 9:23pm

I started receiving social security disability in 2002. I got married five years ago. as a dependent working part time is my wife eligible to receive any compensation? she just turned sixty.


In order to be eligible for spousal benefits on your account, your wife would either need to be at least age 62 or have a child in her care who is either under age 16 or disabled and qualifies for benefits on your record ( . . . Read More