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 5761 questions.

Can I Apply Online To Switch From Drawing Divorced Spousal Benefits To Drawing My Own Benefits?

Category: Filing Options
Dec 4 2019 - 4:31pm

Hi Larry,

I filed a "restricted application" when I turned 66 in Sept 2016 which has allowed my own benefit to continue to grow. I plan to file for my own benefits upon turning 70 which will be Sept of 2020. I'm looking for help with the logistics.

(1) Is there an online application somewhere to request a switch from ex-spousal benefits to my own? Or must I do this via phone, personal visit, or some paper application since I am already receiving an ex-spouse benefit?

(2) Based on my birthday (9/10/1950), how early can I start the process of filing for my . . . Read More

Am I Entitled To Increased Benefits?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Dec 4 2019 - 10:08am

I retired from Police Depart after 32 years. I have worked FT for the past 12 years contributing to SSI. In total i have about 24 years of substantial contribution to SSI. I know fall under the windfall exemption, but am i entitled to increased benefits??


Possibly. Whether or not your benefit rate is reduced due to the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), Social Security retirement benefits can be recalculated annually to include additional years of Social Security covered earnings. And, if your benefit rate is reduced due to WEP and you have . . . Read More

Can I Appeal Social Security's Decision To Stop My Benefits?

Category: Child Benefits
Dec 4 2019 - 9:37am

Hello, I have been receiving benefits from my deceased father for over two years now but my income has reverently stopped and I have discovered it is because after 2 months of being 19 my benefits will stop. When I applied for these benefits no one had told me this information or that after a certain amount of time after being 19 that I am not eligible for these checks anymore and was told that they had sent me a letter but I have received nothing. I have contacted my local office to see if there’s anything to do because I was really counting on this money and now I’m out of . . . Read More

Shouldn't A Widow Always Apply For Benefits As Soon As Possible Even If They're Earning Too Much To Be Paid?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Dec 4 2019 - 7:52am

Re: Widow's benefits
As a follow up to a previous question, if someone were to file for Widow's benefits at age 60, and earn too much for benefits to be paid, would the amount of the potential widow's benefits increase due to cost-of-living adjustments while benefits were filed for, but not paid? Are my following assumptions correct?
Filing at age 60 would mean I would potentially be entitled to 71.5% of the deceased's last disability payment.
Filing at age 67 (my full retirement age) would mean I would be entitled to 100% of the deceased last disability . . . Read More

Can You Please Give Us A Solid And True Answer About Spousal Benefits For My Husband?

Category: Spousal Benefit
Dec 3 2019 - 12:20pm

On Spousal Benefits...
I just started collecting SS at age 64 (birth year 1955) and am no longer working. My husband is still working and is at FRA of 67 (birth year 1952). He plans to work til age 70 then begin collecting his SS. He's afraid to begin collecting his spousal benefit now (half of my my SS) because he's worried it will affect his own SS benefits age 70. Can you please give us a solid and true answer on this for his peace of mind! Also will he need to go into a SS office and file a restricted application for this benefit?


. . . Read More

How Can You Find Out If A Child Is Due Survivor Benefits?

Category: Child Benefits
Dec 3 2019 - 11:21am

If a grandparent has guardianship of a grandson and the mother died and the only information that you have is she died at the age of 21, and coroner will not release information on her death and is holding the body, and can for up to a year, how does one find out if he is due survivor benefits? Grandmother is the Father's mother. The two were never married. CPS was involved in the Guardianship. Maternal grandmother had a celebration of life and wanted donations to go for her only son who is in the care of the Paternal grandmother and Grandfather. She had two benefits for him, . . . Read More

Shouldn't I Be Able To Draw Spousal Benefits While My Own Benefits Are Suspended?

Category: Filing Options
Dec 1 2019 - 5:37pm

I am 66 (Birthdate 1953) and took reduced social security benefits at 62 (in 2015). I went back to work at 64 (in 2017) in August. I knew I would surpass the earnings limit with my new salary, so I called SSA in August and let them know so that my social security payments should be stopped / withheld (suspended?) , starting August. When I turned 66 (2019), I called SSA and asked for my SS Benefit to continue to be suspended, as I do not want to start drawing until I retire again in 2-3 years. I was told my account would be in "voluntery suspension". My husband is 71 -- he . . . Read More

How Much Money Can I Receive In Benefits If I Adopt My Granddaughter?

Category: Child Benefits
Nov 25 2019 - 1:02pm

How much money can I receive in benefits if I adopt my granddaughter she is 3years old now


I can't give you a definitive answer without much more information about your situation. Adopting a child wouldn't have any effect on your own benefit rate, but an eligible child can be paid an auxiliary benefit of up to 50% of the primary insurance amount (PIA) of a living parent who's drawing either Social Security retirement or disability (SSDI) benefits.

However, there is a family maximum benefit (FMB) that can be paid on any person's Social . . . Read More

Do I Need To Do Anything When I Reach Age 62 To Let Social Security Know That I Wan't To Continue Receiving Widower's Benefits?

Category: Miscellaneous
Nov 23 2019 - 10:24am

When I turned 61 years old, i have retired (no income at this point) and started to collect social security benefit as a widower on my deceased wife record. I plan to continue to receive this SS benefit on her record until I turn 70 years old and then switch to my own social security benefit which would obviously reach maximum when I am 70. When I turn 62 or be at FRA -- do I need to fill out any form or let SS office know by other means that I want to stay on my wife social security benefit and then switch to my own when I turn 70?


No, you don't . . . Read More

What Should I Do Now That My SSDI Benefits Have Been Suspended?

Category: Disability Benefits
Nov 22 2019 - 9:51am

I just got a letter from SSA saying that they my suspended my SSDI I am worried that I will lose it I work part time and only work part time hours what should I do


I can't really give you any specific advice without a lot of additional information about your circumstances. I assume you mean that your benefits were suspended due to your work and earnings as opposed to medical improvement.

When you first begin working after starting to draw Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits, you get a 9-month trial work period (TWP) during which . . . Read More