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 5127 questions.

Will My Husband's UN Pension Prevent Him From Receiving Spousal Benefits?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
May 18 2019 - 6:05pm

My husband receives a pension from the United Nations Joint Staff Pension fund. He was not a citizen while employed at UN and did not contribute to social security. Is he entitled to claim spousal benefits based on my social security record? We pay taxes on the taxable portion of his UN pension. The local social security office told us that his pension is considered a government pension. I've been reading online that it is considered a foreign pension and therefore he can claim spousal benefits. Who's right?


For purposes of the Government Pension . . . Read More

Will My Granddaughter's Child Be Able To Collect Any Benefits?

Category: Survivor Benefits
May 18 2019 - 5:50pm

My granddaughter is 30 years old and divorced. She now is pregnant expecting in June and the father just committed suicide. They are not married. Will the child be able to collect any benefits. Thanks in advance to your answer


Yes, assuming that the child's father worked and paid into Social Security long enough to be insured, his child could then qualify for survivor benefits starting as early as the child's month of birth. And, if your granddaughter was married to and divorced from the deceased father, she may also qualify for surviving . . . Read More

Isn't Not Allowing Disabled Claimants To File For Early Retirement Benefits At Age 62 Discrimination?

Category: Miscellaneous
May 18 2019 - 5:29pm

I have been told by numerous SSA trained sources, that disability benefits automatically convert to retirement benefits at full retirement age. And when I ask say, "Non disabled claimants are advised to elect early retirement at age 62, when their higher earning spouse files for early retirement benefits -- thus permanently reducing their retirement benefit".
Isn't disallowing their disabled claimants that same opportunity, demonstrate discrimination against the disabled -- by barring them from early retirement benefits and making them many more years, until full . . . Read More

Why Wouldn't I Be Insured For SSDI If I Have My Full 40 Credits?

Category: Disability Benefits
May 18 2019 - 9:51am

Hello Lary and Staff,

I'm a little perplexed on how the Social Security Administration works with work credits and SSDI Disability. I have worked all my life and had injuries at work that makes it hard to function at all. Now that I have gone to an ALJ hearing and been denied, Social Security is saying I don't have enough credits because of being out of work 3 1/2 years from my injuries. This seems shady as in 2009 was my last statement from Social Security and I had my full 40 credits. Now I do not have enough for Disability, please advise and help. Much Appreciated! . . . Read More

Can I Apply For SSDI?

Category: Disability Benefits
May 17 2019 - 10:39am

I developed degenerative disease in my basil thumb joints in the years following 2010. In 2016, I was moved from my previous position to a new location due to needing some ADA accommodations from a head injury that occur before I was employed at the facility and also to relieve some of the pain I was having in my hands at work. Both myself and my union rep understood this to be a permanent move and job change, but the real "job" never really came about. In 2017 I had a trapeziectomy and ligament relocation done on my left thumb (CMC joint) . After this, I applied for workman's . . . Read More

Was My Brother Misinformed?

Category: Miscellaneous
May 17 2019 - 10:24am

My question is about filing a restricted application. My 67 year old brother (5/1/1952), currently employed, went to the social security office to file for spousal benefits on his wife's record. She is 72, retired, and has been collecting since reaching FRA. He was told that he was not eligible for spousal benefits because he earns more than $70,000 per year. I have not read anything about an income cap for spouses. Is this new or was someone misinformed? If they were misinformed, is there a specific rule to which he could point?
Thank you!


. . . Read More

Will I Receive A Reduced Widow's Benefit If I File At Age 60 But Don't Receive Benefits Until FRA Due To My Earnings?

Category: Widow's Benefits

RE: Benefits not paid due to earning over the limit.
I am a little confused as to what happens if social security benefits are withheld if we are still working and earn over the limit. Here is my scenario: My benefit rate is much higher than what my deceased spouse was collecting in disability. If I file for widow's benefits on their record when I reach 60, and none of the benefits are paid because I earn over the yearly limit, what will happen when I reach my full retirement age (67 years old). Will I receive a reduced amount because I filed at age 60? Or, since nothing . . . Read More

Could A Widow Receive More Than 82.5% Of Their Deceased Spouse's PIA If The Deceased Was Receiving 93% Of Their PIA?

Category: Widow's Benefits
May 16 2019 - 6:14pm

Hi Larry! I have a detailed question regarding widow benefits in scenarios where the deceased spouse filed for social security benefits before their Full Retirement Age. I am familiar with RIB-LIM. I understand that the surviving spouse could receive up to 82.5% of deceased PIA or the amount that the deceased was receiving when they passed away, whichever is higher. So here is my question. What if the deceased spouse filed about 12 months before their FRA, before passing away. In other words, the deceased spouse was receiving MORE than 82.5% of their PIA, they were receiving . . . Read More

Can My Wife Collect Spousal Benefits Without It Affecting My Social Security Payments?

Category: Spousal Benefits
May 16 2019 - 6:08pm

I am 58 and still working. My spouse is 63 and never paid into SS. Can she collect Social Security (Spouse benefit) and not have it effect my Social Security payment? Also, I'm retired from the Military and collect retirement payment, will that have and effect on my SS benefit?


Yes, if your wife qualifies for spousal benefits it will have no effect on your benefit rate. Your wife can't qualify for spousal benefits until you start drawing your benefits, though. Your military retirement payments won't have any effect on your Social Security . . . Read More

Does Having A CSRS Pension Affect My Eligibility To File A Restricted Application For Spousal Benefits?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
May 16 2019 - 9:46am

Does having a Federal CSRS retirement pension and being subject to WEP affect my eligibility to file a restricted application for spousal benefits?


No, but any spousal benefits for which you otherwise qualify would likely be offset by 2/3rds of the gross amount of your Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) pension. That type of offset is caused by the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision. For more information about GPO and it's exceptions, refer to the following Social Security publication: . . . Read More