Ask Larry

Professor Laurence Kotlikoff, Economics, Boston University 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 4182 questions.

Will My Widowed Friend Lose Money If She Remarries?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Jun 22 2018 - 5:29pm

My girlfriend is 59 and widowed and no children. She has met a wonderful man and wants to remarry. Her mother,in her 80's, keeps telling her if she remarries she will loose money, and be unable to collect her deceased spouse's social security. I know that she probably has put in more money into SS than her deceased husband. We have tried to look online to answer this question, but it is confusing. What is the deal with collecting deceased SS?


If your friend remarries prior to turning age 60 she won't be eligible for survivor benefits on her first . . . Read More

How Much Social Security Should I Be Getting?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Jun 22 2018 - 5:14pm

my husband died in 1991 age 51 he was making from 12000 a year in the 70's 24000 in the 80's and then 16800 for 4 years til his death i took early retirement so what social security should i be getting i cannot figure what all the complicated numbers mean to calculate it and iam not sure they are calculating it correctly.


I'm sorry for your loss.

There's really no way you could hope to calculate your widow's benefit rate on your own. Social Security would base your widow's rate on the higher of 2 different calculation methods, both of . . . Read More

Would I Get More If I Switched From Disability To Regular Social Security At Age 62?

Category: Disability Benefits
Jun 22 2018 - 5:02pm

I have been on social security disability for 21 years. This year I will be turning 62. I was wondering if I switched to social security if I would get more money. I know I would have to pay for Medicare insurance and probably would not get my secondary insurance paid for. I do not understand how this all works. Thank you in advance for helping me.


No. Unless your disability benefit (SSDI) rate is being reduced due to the receipt of workers compensation or public disability benefits, if you switched to Social Security retirement benefits at age . . . Read More

Are There Any Exceptions That Would Permit Me To Claim More Than 6 Months Of Retroactive Payments?

Category: Survivor Benefits
Jun 22 2018 - 1:37pm

I am 67 years old and was thinking about taking SS when I turn 68. I looked at the SS website and found out that I am eligible for survivor benefits because my husband died in 1982 so I can get benefits now without affecting my benefits at 70. I went to the SS office and they said that I can get 6 months of retroactive payments on survivor benefits but no more. Are there any exceptions to this rule? SS was aware of the death because my late husband had children who received benefits. They started to send me checks but I had to return the money because I wasn't eligible. I didn' . . . Read More

Will I Be Able To Enroll In Part D Of Medicare Without Any Penalties When I Turn 66?

Category: Medicare
Jun 22 2018 - 10:04am

When I enrolled in medicare through ssdi I did not enroll in the part d because i would have been paying out money for it and not really using it [pay a deductable] due to only using 2 blood pressure pills at the time that didnt cost much. when I turn 66 will I be able to re-enroll in medicare att age 66 with part d without any penalties ?


Not when you turn 66, but you will get a new initial enrollment period (IEP) for Part D of Medicare when you reach age 65. You will then be able to enroll in Part D with no premium penalties. The IEP runs from . . . Read More

When Can I Draw Half Of My Husband's Retirement Amount?

Category: Filing Options
Jun 22 2018 - 9:39am

Hi, I would like your recommendation for our situation:
My husband, Tom is 60 (will be 61 next month), I am 59 (will be 60 in two months)
Here are the retirement benefits for Tom: 62/$1,358, 66.6/$1,862, 70/$2,384
Here are my retirement benefits: 62/$1,110, 66.6/$1,540, 70/$1,951
We are looking at retiring at 70. How and when can I draw half of Tom's retirement amount? What would my amount be?
We have spoken about getting a divorce and remarry after age 70. If we do this, what age should each of us be when we divorce (Tom is exactly one year older . . . Read More

Is This Filing Strategy Possible?

Category: Filing Strategies
Jun 22 2018 - 9:28am

I filed for benefits before my FRA against my record in 2016 (born 08/53). My husband (born 12/52) is retiring this year. He was thinking of filing a restricted application for spousal benefits against my record. 1. Is this possible? 2. Does he have to wait until his FRA to do this? If he can do this, can he later (prior to age 70) change and file against his own record? Would I then be able to file for spousal benefits against his record? Thanks


Yes, that's possible. And, yes, your husband would have to wait until his full retirement age (FRA) . . . Read More

Can I Receive Payments For My Grandchildren On My Widow's Benefits?

Category: Child Benefits
Jun 21 2018 - 12:49pm

I am a widow who is raising 2 of my grandchildren in Texas. I have filed papers in court to be their guardian, but no adoption will take place. Can I receive payments for them on widows benefits from Social Security? Thanks


No. Your widow's benefits are survivor benefits based on your husband's work record, and auxiliary benefits (e.g. child) aren't paid on survivor benefits. In order to qualify for child benefits on your husband's record your grandchildren would need to have been adopted by him, or have been dependent on your husband at the . . . Read More

Will I Be Able To Collect My Social Security Even If I Moved Out Of The U.S.?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jun 21 2018 - 12:23pm

Hi Larry,
I'm an EU citizen and worked in the US for about 18 years, green card holder, I moved back to EU for family reasons and I'm wondering if I will be able to collect my S.S. even if moved out of the US.


I haven't memorized the countries that are members of the EU, but I'm almost certain that citizens of all of those countries can be paid U.S. Social Security benefits even while living outside the U.S. as long as they have enough work credits to qualify for U.S. Social Security. There are only a handful of countries where Social . . . Read More

Can I Collect My Social Security Now?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jun 21 2018 - 7:39am

Can I collect my social security, I'm disabled 55 years old and got denied for disability


No. The only way that you can collect Social Security benefits based on your own work record prior to age 62 is if you qualify for disability benefits (SSDI). If you have an impairment that prevents you from working, you may want to consider filing an appeal ( on the disallowance of your SSDI claim or reapply.

Best, Jerry