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 6116 questions.

Is There Any Way I Can Collect A Portion Of My Deceased Husband's Social Security?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Apr 1 2020 - 5:12pm

My husband died last year and he was much older than me (20 years). I'm only 52 years old, have not worked in years, cannot find a job at this time (I have no skills and am uneducated), and cannot pay my utilities. I have no car. My water has been turned off and the Electric Company is threatening to shut me off next week. My neighbor is writing this for me as I have no computer. Despite my age, is there a way I can collect a portion of his Social Security?


I'm sorry for your loss.

The only way that you could potentially qualify for . . . Read More

How Will SSA Calculate The WEP Guarantee If You Become Eligible For A New Non-Covered Pension?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Apr 1 2020 - 2:56pm

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) guarantee is based on 50% of the amount (in U.S. dollars) of your non-covered pension in your first month of concurrent entitlement to the non-covered pension and Social Security benefits. How will SSA calculate a new pension amount, to subtract 50% of the amount of non-covered pension or introduce some adjustments to this amount like COLA or others.
Thank you


As you state, the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) guarantee amount is calculated based on 50% of the amount of your non-covered pension in . . . Read More

How Should My Social Security And Railroad Retirement Benefits Be Reported For Income Tax Purposes?

Category: Railroad Retirement & Social Security
Apr 1 2020 - 2:33pm

My spouse is a retired railroad employee. I receive half of his pension. Now that I am 71, I signed up for my social security benefit on 02/12/2019. It was then I was advised payments would be retroactive for 6 months beginning with my birthday month. I also learned the RR Board needed the amount and each subsequent month certified and would be included on the RR benefit. Since this was retroactive and all RR benefits had been received for 2019, the RR would be paid back for what they paid. I received a W2 from both Social Security Administration and the railroad. Social . . . Read More

Why Is My Disability Reveiwed Every 3 Years Instead Of 7 Years?

Category: Disability Benefits
Apr 1 2020 - 9:22am

I was awarded disability in 2013 with back pay back to Dec 2010. Officially disability Jan 2010. I'm now 60 yoa. I get review every 3 years. I multiple medical issues one of which is Minere's Disease or Vertigo. It was sereve enough to cause 2 grand mail seizures and warranty brain surgery in 2011. My question is my judge at my hearing knew immediately as soon after he reviewed the surgery and said he was going to grant my disability but we still had to go through the process of which I really didn't have any part in except to answer yes or no a few times. So why is my review 3 . . . Read More

If I Have A Payee For My Social Security Benefits Will My Stimulus Payment Go To Them?

Category: Miscellaneous
Apr 1 2020 - 6:22am

If I have a payee and direct deposit with social security will my stimulus check go to them


I'm sorry, but my expertise is limited to Social Security benefits. I'm not able to answer any questions about stimulus payments, income taxes, or unemployment benefits. The IRS has issued the following information regarding stimulus payments:

Best, Jerry

How Do I Change My Part B Starting Date?

Category: Medicare
Mar 31 2020 - 4:08pm

my part b medicare starts june 1,2020.I would like to change it to april 1 of 2020 or if not to may 1. How do I do that


I can't give you a specific answer because I don't what type of enrollment period you're in. Whether or not starting your Part B of Medicare coverage sooner is even an option for you depends on the type of enrollment period you're in. if you're just turning age 65, you'd be in your initial enrollment period (IEP). IEPs begin with the 3rd month prior to the month a person turns 65, and runs through the 3rd month after they turn . . . Read More

Is This How Social Security's Site Works?

Category: Miscellaneous
Mar 31 2020 - 4:04pm

I applied for my spousal benefits with the intention of filing for my own benefits at age 70. Note that I was born in 1951 so it was my understanding that I would be able to apply for spousal benefits first and wait till 70 to maximize my benefits. However, when I go to my social security account my benefits amounts no longer show. Is that the way the site works? Mote I am a user of maxi planner and are following the suggested recommendations to maximize retirement income.


Yes, that's one of the limitations of Social Security's website. For . . . Read More

Would My Check For December 2020 Include Both DRCs And The COLA?

Category: Delayed Retirement Credits
Mar 31 2020 - 1:59pm

Hi Larry.

My question is about when delayed retirement credits and cost of living adjustments are credited. Based largely on information in your book, "Get Whats Yours" I had decided to wait until age 70 to apply for my benefit. That will be in May, 2021.

Recently I am considering applying a little early, in December of 2020. As I understand it my December benefit would be paid in January, 2021. Would that January check include both the accrued delayed retirement credits and cost of living adjustment through 2020?

Thank you.


. . . Read More

Will Not Having Filed A Tax Return Since 2016 Affect My Receiving A Stimulus Payment?

Category: Miscellaneous
Mar 31 2020 - 10:01am

I receive survivors social security and i haven't filed taxes since 2016. Will this affect the stimulus check we're supposedly getting?


I'm sorry, but my only area of expertise is Social Security benefits. I'm not able to answer questions about the stimulus payments or income taxes, but here is a link to some pertinent information just released by the IRS:

Best, Jerry

Do I Qualify For COLAs If I Receive Benefits On My Deceased Husband's Record?

Category: Cost Of Living Increases
Mar 30 2020 - 3:53pm

Do I qualify for the COLA? I receive my deceased husband's benefits now.


Yes. Social Security cost of living increases (COLA) apply to all types of benefits issued by the Social Security Administration, including widow's benefits.

Best, Jerry