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 5258 questions.

Can I Get A Spousal Benefit If I'm Still Working And Separated From My Husband?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Jul 17 2019 - 10:06pm

I will be 66 years old this October and I am still working and not ready to retire yet. I plan to keep working for the next 11/2 to 2 years and don't want to apply for Social Security until I am ready to retire. My husband is 68 years old and retired last year and is collecting Social Security. We have been married for 32 years but have been separated for the last 2 years now. Divorce is in the future but I don't want to pursue that yet until I figure out my rights for spousal benefits. Can I get a spousal benefit from him if I am still working and still married but separated . . . Read More

What Are My Options For Collecting Auxiliary Benefits Now?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
Jul 17 2019 - 6:21pm

I was born in 1956 and I am 64 now. I have been divorced after being married over 10 years and i am
unmarried. My ex spouse is 63 and has been on SSDI . What are my options for collecting auxilliary benefits now versus waiting until full retirement, and how does each choice effect benefits in the present and going forward.
What happens in either case to the auxillary benefit if I wait to collect at 70. What happens
to my auxillary benefit if she does the same when she turns 65?


Since you were born after January 1 1954, whenever . . . Read More

Will My Benefits Still Be Recalculated And Possibly Increase If I Work At Age 72?

Category: Retirement Benefits
Jul 16 2019 - 1:11pm

Will benefits still be recalculate and possibly increase as I am still working and am 72


Yes, your Social Security retirement benefits can be recalculated to include higher earnings years regardless of your age at the time you have the earnings. In order for your benefit rate to increase, though, your earnings in a year would need to be higher than one of your previous 35 highest wage-indexed earnings years used to calculate your current benefit rate ( . . . Read More

Will My Divorced Widow's Benefits Be Impacted By My Pension From The School System?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Jul 16 2019 - 8:18am

I am planning to take divorced widow's benefits at age 60 and then my own retirement benefit at age 70.
At age 65, I also have a miniscule pension from the school system I worked for briefly (paid into PERA and not into Social Security). I understand my own retirement benefit which I plan to take at 70 will be WEPed but by no more than 50% of my pension amount. I have less than 20 years of substantial earnings.
My deceased ex-spouse never worked for any employer that did not withhold social security tax. He had 28 years of substantial earnings.
Questions: . . . Read More

Do I Have A Right To Continuity Of Benefits On My Father's Record?

Category: Disabled Adult Child Benefits
Jul 15 2019 - 1:04pm

greetings thank you for answering, but I am already requesting the benefit of adult child and social security sent me to fill some documents of work history made before 22 years of age ,,, and also sent me to fill a document on the record of work as an adult, these 2 documents establish whether I pass above or below the lucrative substance and establish the right to the benefit of blind legal impediment since I was a child before I turned 22, because they told me that I had to fill out another document that is equivalent to the right of continuity that I received as a child . . . Read More

Can I Drop SSDI At Age 60 And Draw Widow's Benefits Instead?

Category: Filing Options
Jul 14 2019 - 5:49pm

My husband died 12 years ago at the age of 49--I was 44. He was fully covered with social security and so am I. I am currently 56, dealing with a workers comp injury, and have applied for ssdi. If I am awarded ssdi I understand I can draw the excess widow's benefits under my husband when I turn 60 since I have not and will not remarry. I also understand the earning limits with ssdi and widow's benefits. I want to know that once I turn 60 can I drop my ssdi, if awarded, and solely draw widow's benefits?


I'm sorry for your loss.

If you're . . . Read More

Can You Clarify What Benefits I'm Entitled To As A Blind Person?

Category: Disability Benefits
Jul 14 2019 - 5:25pm

Hi I am legally blind since I was born and work and I became disabled under my own social security at 36 years of age, when I became disabled under my social security as a blind person and another combined condition, later I found out that I received a child support payment When I was a child because my father was incapacitated, but my mother did not complain when I turned 18 years of age that continuity as a legal blind person, I have the right to receive a benefit of a blind adult child under the benefit of my disabled father by social security since I was a child or . . . Read More

Can My Wife Apply For Spousal Benefits And Not Apply For Part A Of Medicare?

Category: Medicare
Jul 13 2019 - 8:29pm

I am 70 and am self-employed and am drawing social security benefits from my account. My wife was born in 1951 and is still working (at a community college employer which has over 20 employees). She plans to retire in January 2020 at which point she will switch to a medical plan through the educational retirement board. She has been working continuously since she was in high school. She recently learned that she could draw a benefit equal to 1/2 of my benefit. She went to the Social Security office and explained that she would like to draw an amount equal to 1/2 of my benefit ( . . . Read More

If I File For Social Security At Age 62 Can I Later Switch To Spousal Benefits On My Ex's Record?

Category: Filing Options
Jul 13 2019 - 2:23pm

If I file for SS at age 62, can I switch to spousal on my ex (more than 10 married years), in 2 years when they turn 62? Do I need to wait until they turn 62? Thank you.


Not really. Once you file for your own Social Security retirement benefits you can never switch from drawing those benefits to drawing another type of benefit instead. However, if you subsequently become eligible for a higher benefit rate on another person's Social Security record you could potentially file for an additional partial benefit on the other account.

For . . . Read More

Would My Wife's Widow's Benefits Be Subject To The Government Pension Offset Provision?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Jul 13 2019 - 2:10pm

Hi Larry,
My wife is receiving social security reduced by Windfall Elimination provision (WEP) because she taught for 20 years in a state that had its own retirement system for employees. In looking at future scenarios, it appears she would be subject to Government Offset Provision on widow's benefits based on my social security. Is that correct? If so, doesn't that seem a bit unfair to penalize benefits based on my earnings record?


Yes, since your wife's pension is from a governmental agency, the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision . . . Read More