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 6534 questions.

If A Person Doesn't Qualify For The 'Hold Harmless' Law, Does It Affect Their Future Medicare Premium Amounts?

Category: Medicare
Jul 7 2020 - 10:41am

Concerning the "Hold Harmless" law. If a person was subjected to higher Medicare Part B premiums in 2021, due to not qualifying for this provision, does this affect their future Medicare premium amounts in 2022, or future years?

Assume there is no cause for "Hold Harmless" in those future years, only in 2021. Thanks for any replies!


I'm not sure I understand your question. 'Hold harmless' is a commonly used reference for the variable supplementary medical insurance (VSMI) premium provision, and supplementary medical insurance is the proper . . . Read More

When Can My Husband Get Spousal Benefits?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Jul 7 2020 - 10:37am

My husband of 11/2 years took SS retirement benefits at age 62, and he will be 69 this year. I am 58 and plan to delay filing for my benefits until age 70. I am a much higher earner. When can my husband get spousal benefits on my earnings record? Thanks, Melissa

Hi Melissa,

The soonest that your husband could potentially qualify for spousal benefits from your record is when you start drawing either Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Best, Jerry

Why Haven't I Received My Stimulus Payment Yet?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jul 7 2020 - 10:30am

Why is it taking the IRS so long to give people on Social Security the stimulus checks if they are getting our information from the Social Security Office because I did my information in March and still haven't seen anything at all


I'm sorry, but my expertise is limited to Social Security benefits. I'm unable to answer any questions about stimulus payments. Here is a link to IRS's website: . . . Read More

Can My Wife File For S/S Off Of Me At Age 62?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Jul 6 2020 - 2:42pm

Can my wife file for S/S off of me at 62


Possibly. Your wife could apply for spousal benefits as early as age 62 provided that you're drawing your benefits. However, if your wife applies for spousal benefits she'll be deemed to be applying for her own Social Security retirement benefits at the same time, and she could only be paid essentially the higher of those 2 benefit rates. Also, if your wife is working and earning too much, then some or all of her benefits may need to be withheld until she reaches full retirement age (FRA) due to the . . . Read More

Do I Have A Right To Dispute Anything?

Category: Survivor Benefits
Jul 6 2020 - 2:13pm

Hi Larry - I read your article, "Social Security is Shortchanging Widows and Widowers" and it feels really like its a happening thing. I am a widower as of 2017, received the initial death benefit when I filed and began receiving survivor benefits as I was the caretaker of two children under the age of 16. Earlier this year (before this COVID-19 struck), I received a letter from the SSA stating I would no longer be receiving benefits (as caretaker), because my daughter was turning sixteen in May. Yet, I was also turning 60 in May 2020. The letter stated I may be entitled to . . . Read More

If I Ask For Six Months Of Retroactive Payments, What Benefit Rate Will I Receive?

Category: Filing Strategies
Jul 6 2020 - 12:40pm

I will be 69 come January 2021. If I ask for 6 months retro retirement payments, what payment amount will I get going forward from January 2021? (Age 68.5 or age 69 rate). Thanks

Hi Gary,

If you turn 69 in January 2021 and if you apply in that month and request 6 months of back pay, you'll get the monthly benefit rate that you would have received if you'd started drawing your benefits effective with July 2020. So in other words, you'd get your age 68.5 rate. Asking for retroactive benefits after reaching full retirement age (FRA) simply . . . Read More

What Are Your Thoughts On Legislation To Discontinue WEP?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Jul 6 2020 - 9:35am

Hello Larry and Jerry

Thanks for your previous good advice on the effects a UK state pension has on WEP. I see there is legislation being proposed to discontinue WEP. What's your thoughts on the chances of it passing? And would it be advantageous to a UK state pension beneficiary?

I read conflicting reports on the maximum rates of WEP. is it a maximum of 50% of the UK state pension?

Is my entitlement to SS affected by the fact I have now given up my green card and "expatriated" to UK and Australia.



Hi Clive, . . . Read More

Should I Ask For Spousal Benefits?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Jul 6 2020 - 9:22am

Hi Larry:

My wife is 62 retired and of course NO salary. If she asks for her reduced SS benefits, I know her benefits won't be affected even my salary is a low six figure . My question: Should I (at 64 y/o and not at FRA), ask for spouse benefits?


You can't file for spousal benefits without also being required to file for your own Social Security retirement benefits at the same time. You could then only be paid essentially the higher of your own benefit rate or your spousal rate, and your benefit rate would be reduced for age if you claim . . . Read More

Can I Return To Work Full Time On 1/1/2021 And Not Be Subject To The Earnings Test?

Category: Earnings Test
Jul 5 2020 - 10:54am

FRA is 66 and 2 months if you were born in 1955 but it also says if you are a survivor born in 1955 then you FRA is only 66 which. age applies to the earnings test I am currently collecting widows benefits and turn 66 on 11/15/2021 so I want to know if I can return to work full time on 1/1/21 and not be subject to the earnings test or do I have to wait until my birthday Thanks Judi

Hi Judi,

No. For earnings test purposes, Social Security goes by a person's full retirement age (FRA) for Social Security retirement benefits, not necessarily their FRA . . . Read More

What Do I Need To Do To Get Benefits From My Deceased Husband's Record?

Category: Disabled Widow(er) Benefits
Jul 5 2020 - 10:30am

Hello. My husband of 20yrs passed away June 4,2016 he was on social security . Ok I'm on full disability since 2012 When he passed away I never received the $251 from his death nor do I draw off of him each month. The ppl at social security office told me I had to wait til I was 50 or 55 and I'm only 46... Please help m whay do I need to do.


I'm sorry for your loss.

Unless you have a child in your care who is under age 16 or disabled and who's eligible for benefits on your deceased husband's record, then it's true that the earliest that you . . . Read More