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 6890 questions.

Will My Ex-Wife's Social Security Payment Be Affected If She Receives A Portion Of My Public Pension?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Sep 23 2020 - 5:50pm

Hi Larry. I am a divorced police officer. I retire in 15 months. My ex-wife is going to get 14% of my pension. Will her social security payment be affected by my public pension through the Windfall elimination provision as my social security will be? Thanks in advance for your response.


Hi Mark,

No. The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) can only apply if a person is receiving a pension based on their OWN work and earnings that weren't subject to Social Security taxes.

Best, Jerry

If I Take Social Security At Age 63 At A Reduced Rate, Will My Rate Go Back Up To The Full Amount At My Full Retirement Age?

Category: Filing For Early Retirement Benefits
Sep 23 2020 - 5:19pm

Hi, if i take social security benefits at 63 at reduced rates, do my benifits go back to full rate when i am at full retirement age?

Hi Jim,

No. If you start collecting benefits prior to full retirement age (FRA) the reduction for age that's applied is permanent, assuming that you're paid all of your benefits prior to FRA. However, if any of your benefits are withheld because of Social Security's earnings test ( . . . Read More

How Can I File For Spousal Benefits If Social Security's Offices Are Closed?

Category: Filing For Benefits
Sep 23 2020 - 9:56am

Hello Larry, I am US citizen. I want to apply for a part of SS of my husband, whom we are married 3 times : 8 y.6 m., 2y.7 m. and we are married now more than 1 y.5 m . We was at SS office with my husband last year and they told to us, that we must come back after July 11 2020. But pandermia is now !!!! I want to apply at December 2020, at September 2020 I will be 63 y.o. Who can help me in Lakeland Fl? Can I apply on-line (web-site)?
Please, help to me.
with respect

Hi Lana,

You may be able to file for spousal benefits online . . . Read More

Why Isn't My Son's Benefit Amount Higher?

Category: Disability Benefits
Sep 23 2020 - 9:31am

I receive SSDI $969. My 6 year old son only receives $260 for auxiliary benefit. Why does he not receive 50% up to 80%. If I send an appeal for an increase will I get approved?


There is a special family maximum benefit (FMB) formula that applies to benefits payable on the record of a person who receives Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits. Basically, the FMB on SSDI cases is limited to the lower of a) 150% of the worker's primary insurance amount (PIA), or b) 85% of the disabled worker's Averaged Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME). AIME is . . . Read More

What Would Happen If I Apply At Age 69 1/2 And I Elect To Receive 6 Months Of Retroactive Benefits?

Category: Filing Options
Sep 23 2020 - 8:57am

I’m 68 and will be 69 on April 2, 2021. If I understand correctly how retroactive payment works, should I wait until October 2, 2021 (6 months after I reach 69 years old) to file for my SS benefit, receive retroactive benefits AND receive the 8 percent additional amount for year 2021?


If you apply for your Social Security retirement benefits in October 2021 and claim your benefits retroactive to April 2021, the last month for which you'll receive delayed retirement credits (DRC) is March 2021. And, initially you'll only receive credit for the . . . Read More

When Should I Apply For FRB, And How Will It Affect My Divorced Spousal Benefits?

Category: Filing Options
Sep 22 2020 - 3:20pm

Hello Larry et. al. I had purchased your book about four years ago and thanks for the valuable information that you and your colleagues shared, I was able to do a "restrictive" Social Security on my ex wife. I will be turning 70 in mid January. I had also worked for the New York City Transit Dept. in the Railroad sector. Question: (A) Do I start applying for FRB now to be effective mid January? (B) Will I then forfeit my ex's restrictive SSB once I do get my FRB at 70? and lastly, (c). Am I entitled to any railroad retirement benefits from SS. As a side note, I was only . . . Read More

Didn't I File A Restricted Application?

Category: Miscellaneous
Sep 22 2020 - 10:10am

I was born in 1953. Currently getting spousal benefits. Want to switch to my own at 70 but on the my ssa website it no longer gives me an estimate of what by own benefits will be. I thought I filed a restricted application


I have no way of knowing for sure what you filed for, but even if you did file a restricted application for spousal benefits only, many people have complained that they can no longer obtain benefit estimates on Social Security's website even though they're just drawing spousal benefits. The Social Security website ( . . . Read More

If I Start Drawing Prior To FRA, Is My Wife's Spousal Benefit Based On My PIA Or My Reduced Rate?

Category: Spousal Benefit
Sep 22 2020 - 9:35am

My question involves the spousal benefit and I've searched the internet to no avail for a straight answer to this. If I am the higher earning spouse and I decide to take my social security benefit before my FRA, is my wife's spousal benefit based on what my PIA would have been at FRA rather than my reduced benefit amount (because I started before FRA)? You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to find a straightforward, simple answer to this!


Unreduced spousal benefits are based on 50% of the worker's primary insurance amount (PIA), but the reason . . . Read More

How Can My Granddaughter Get A Hard Copy Of Her Social Security Card?

Category: Social Security Numbers
Sep 22 2020 - 8:25am

My granddaughter recently moved to NC from N.H. she is attempting to get a hard copy of her SS card from N.H. but it is one of a few states that doesn’t provide this service online. She is telling me all SS offices in N.H. remain closed because of Covid. What advice can you give her? She would appreciate your expertise. Thanks Larry !!


If your granddaughter is unable to apply for a replacement Social Security card online, she'll need to complete a paper application and mail it to a Social Security office along with adequate proof of her . . . Read More

Can I Collect Spousal Benefits Now And Wait Until Age 70 To File For My Own Benefits?

Category: Filing Options
Sep 21 2020 - 9:46am

Hi Larry,
My husband turned 69 in July 2020, and decided to retire and apply for Social Security. He expects his benefits to begin in October. I turned 66 in March 2020 (Full Retirement Age) and I am still working full time. My plan -- health permitting -- is to continue working full-time until I am 70 and then collect my maximum SS benefit. I would like to know if I can apply for and receive a spousal benefit right now, and collect that until I retire, and then apply for and receive my maximum SS benefit. I thought Congress did away with all this for people born after . . . Read More