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 customer 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 11 - 20 of 2754 questions.

Can I Earn More Than $1410 In Some Months As Long As I Earn Less Than $16,920 This Year?

Category: Earnings Test
Sep 24 2017 - 6:41am

Hi Larry,

I am 60 years old and have taken the widower's benefit. My annual this year will be around $16,000. I have 4 months under $1410, two months with no income, and the remaining 6 over the $1410. Is it okay to make over the $1410 on those 6 months as long as I don't exceed the $16920? I really would want to avoid having any amounts held back next year. Next year my income will be more predictable with a monthly $1410 and I would not be able to make it if I were to lose a social security check along the way. Thank you.


Yes, if you . . . Read More

What Are My Options?

Category: Miscellaneous
Sep 23 2017 - 3:00pm

I am 53 and live in Texas. I'm on SSI disibility and receive 900 a month in benefits. My Mom is my authorized representative. At first I received about 1200. I received a notice saying that the amount would be reduced since I was living with my Mom at the time and recovering from cancer. I have just moved out and have discovered you can't even find a room to rent for that. I'm not on housing vouchers or SNAP and don't even know if Im applicable. I cant talk to SSI because they have to go thru my Mom (representative) She wants me to move back in and says SSI might stop my . . . Read More

Do You Need To Report Your Spouse's Income If You're Married?

Category: Earnings Test
Sep 23 2017 - 2:51pm

If you are married and receive social security benefits aren't you suppose to report your spouse income


I'm sorry, but you haven't furnished enough information to allow me to properly answer your question. If you are referring to the earnings countable for Social Security earnings test purposes and you receive benefits on your own record, then only your own earned income is considered(

If you're referring to . . . Read More

What Income Is Included For SNAP Eligibility?

Category: Miscellaneous
Sep 23 2017 - 2:47pm

My daughter receives survivors benefits from the loss of her husband. Her children 10 and 13 also receive the same. If she applies for SNAP does she use only her income from survivor benefits or does she include include the childrens benefit as her income. She dose not work right now.


Sorry, but I'm not an expert on the SNAP program. You'll need to check with the agency that handles those benefits.


How Is This For Complicated?

Category: Filing Strategies
Sep 23 2017 - 2:31pm

Hi Larry,
I was born in Nov. 1956, and my husband was born in Aug. 1953. I worked before our marriage, then became a stay at home mom. I qualify for a small SS benefit. My husband has a much larger SS benefit. He plans to retire at 66 or later. We want to wait to take his SS to maximize our benefits. My half of my husband's benefit at his FRA is much larger than my own SS benefit. My husband qualifies for a restricted application. I do have a small income which varies, but is usually around 16,000/yr from an S corp, and an inherited IRA which is invested in mutual funds . . . Read More

Is There Any Way To Appeal This?

Category: Child Benefits
Sep 23 2017 - 12:35pm

My ex-husband recently passed. He was collecting SSD. I applied for survivor benefits for my minor son. While at the local social security office the person helping me advised that my ex did not notify social security that he had minor children back when he applied for SSD, no the children are not entitled to back benefits. Is there any way to appeal this? He had 3 minor child when he initially applied for SSD approximately 4 years ago. Also, child support was being taken from his SSD benefit so how could they not have known? Thanks in advance.


. . . Read More

Will My Social Security Benefits Be Subject To GPO?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Sep 22 2017 - 7:59am

Hi Larry,
I am about to turn 65 and apply for Social Security benefits as well as enroll in Medicare. I have worked my entire career in private industry and paid taxes accordingly. Fourteen years ago, I was divorced from my ex-spouse, a federal employee who just retired on September 1, 2017 (CSRS - 40 years). Since the divorce, I have obtained my health insurance through FEHB under the Spouse Equity provisions. I also have a Qualified Court Order and written approval from OPM to receive retirement and survivor benefits from my ex-spouse. That claim is being processed at . . . Read More

Would Social Security Withhold More Of My Benefits If I Raise My Estimated Earnings?

Category: Earnings Test
Sep 22 2017 - 7:52am

hi my question is if i told my estimate for this year would be 24400 and i get 1748 a month so that would be 7480 over the limit half would be3740 but they already withheld 3 whole months which is 5244 . my question is what if i earn more than that but what i would owed them is total of 4528 .it's still in the same of that what they withheld in the end i do not really know exactly how much but i estimated to them all and all it's not going to be more than they withheld would they withhold another check or take it from that 5244 thank you.


If . . . Read More

Will An Increase In My FERS Amount Affect My Social Security Disability Benefits?

Category: Disability Benefits
Sep 22 2017 - 7:43am

I receive ss disability and a check from fers every month. I just turnded 62 and received a letter from fers telling me that my monthly check will be increased by $1000 a month will that affect my disability check from Social Security?


No, changes in your FERS payments won't have any effect on your Social Security benefits. If you were receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a change in other benefits could affect your SSI payments.

Best, Jerry

Was I Given Bad Information?

Category: Earnings Test
Sep 22 2017 - 7:33am

Hi Larry,
I opted for early social security, then realized I needed to work also, to continue paying for my late husband's eight years of cancer treatments (we had insurance but the annual deductibles --$5000 yearly-- crushed us.) I've been grabbing all the overtime I can, and know that I will exceed the earnings limit for 2017. I called Social Security in August to report my anticipated earnings, and was told not to worry about it, that they would recalculate in January 2018 when my actual income is known, and will withhold starting in February 2018 for what I was . . . Read More