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 11 - 20 of 4869 questions.

Why Wouldn't My Wife's Spousal Benefits Be Offset If She Receives German Social Security Benefits?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Feb 13 2019 - 4:30pm

German citizen spouse is receiving US spousal social security benefits based on my record (~$1400). She will be entitled to German Social Security in November of 2019 (~$550). She never worked in the US. I understand from your previous answers that Government Pension Offset (GPO) does not apply to foreign pensions. GN 02608.400 B also states that GPO does not apply to social security benefits. Something applies to offset spousal benefit by social security covered work in the US so I'm concerned that there may be some other provision in the law that would offset German social . . . Read More

How Can I Get This Resolved?

Category: Social Security Overpayments
Feb 13 2019 - 9:52am

Overpayment of $11,833.00 in benefits to my daughter and I after her dad passed away and she was in the hospital dying needed a liver transplant. SSA started garnishing my wages on August 11, 2017. I kept a track record in excel to know when the day would come for this to be all over. Even going out on disability from work last year in 2018, my tax refund was taken as well as another refund from the IRS in November. Once I notice that I no longer owed them according to my records as well as my pay statements. I contacted SSA and they stated I still had a balance of $1961. I was . . . Read More

Can I Change My Social Security Payments To The 1st Of The Month?

Category: Payment Dates
Feb 13 2019 - 8:07am

can I change my payment to the 1st of the month because sometimes I don't get it til the 10, 11, 12th or 14th!
my rent is due on the 1st and im not going to have it. Ive been borrowing my rent until SS arrives but I can no longer do this anymore.


No, the date on which you are paid your Social Security benefits isn't optional. Except for a few uncommon circumstances (, the only people who are . . . Read More

Is There Any Way To Claim More Than 6 Months Of Retroactive Benefits?

Category: Survivor Benefits
Feb 13 2019 - 6:51am

My friend's wife died in July, 2013 at the age of 56. He was 64 at the time. He never applied for survivor benefits, never remarried, and has continued working as the President and CEO of a small company. He turned 70 in December shortly after realizing that he could get spousal survivor benefits. When he called Social Security, they told him that he was limited to only 6 months of retroactive benefits and that he should contact a lawyer. I'm a lawyer, but neither I nor any lawyer I know handles spousal survivor benefits (those that deal with social security just handle . . . Read More

What Options Are Available To My Parents In Law?

Category: Miscellaneous
Feb 12 2019 - 9:28pm

Hello! Both my Mother-in-Law and Father-in-Law immigrated in the states 8 years ago. During those time, my Mother-in-Law did not held employment and hence no SS contribution. However, my Father-in-Law found work and was contributing to SS for 5 years. 3 years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer and stopped working as he seeks treatment. He still has cancer and hasn't worked since. He is now 63. My Mother-in-Law is now 65. Both of them are now U.S. citizens. We don't know how they stand with benefits. They are now in this predicament that my Father-in-Law can not get work until he . . . Read More

Do I Need To Notify Social Security If I Had Surgery That Affected My Impairment?

Category: Disability Benefits
Feb 12 2019 - 9:19pm

I started to recieve SS Disability because I have RA for 14 yrs and getting worse. I also have (*had) far sighted double vision.
The double vision progressed rapidly and I was at the end of prisms helping me. I had surgery and now instead of far sighted double vision now, I have near sighted double vision, and a couple of other sight problems. It was a tradeoff. I think I have to let Social Security know. I am hoping I can explain it properly. I still have double vision, but in reverse of what it was. Do you understand what I mean? Please advise. Thank you.

. . . Read More

How Was My Wife's Spousal Benefit Calculated?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Feb 12 2019 - 5:59pm

My wife has 15 years of covered earnings and 13 years of non-covered earnings. She filed for benefits at 62, so her benefit was reduced by 50% of her pension(WEP $250.50) which amounted to $677 after 2018 COLA. Two years later I filed for benefits at 69 and she was Deemed to have filed for spousal benefits. SSA calculated her spousal benefit and then subtracted two-thirds of her pension from the calculated amount and then added the result to the benefit she was already collecting for a total of $739. What I don't understand is how they calculated her spouse benefit. The only . . . Read More

How Does A 10 Year Transfer Payout Annuity In Lieu Of A Lump Sum Affect GPO And WEP?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Feb 12 2019 - 5:34pm

How does a 10 year transfer payout annuity in lieu of a lump sum affect GPO and WEP? (Educator in Louisiana). Do the penalties go away at the end of the 10 year period? Also, is the initial lump sum estimated from the day you quit working, the day you are eligible to draw a pension, or the day you actually start withdrawals? I bought your software a few years ago but couldn't get it to match these questions. Thanks!


I'm not familiar with the specific plan you refer to, but assuming the transfer payout annuity is optional I assume that it would be . . . Read More

Do The Yearly Benefit Estimates Sent By Social Security Take WEP Into Account?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Feb 12 2019 - 9:50am

Hi Social Security will ultimately be subject to WEP...When I get my yearly estimate of benefits in the mail, do they take into account WEP?


No. Benefit estimates listed on the Social Security statements ( that Social Security periodically sends do not account for any potential reduction that may be caused by Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP . . . Read More

Is The $1180 Earnings Limit For People Receiving SSDI Imposed For Life?

Category: Disability Benefits
Feb 12 2019 - 9:37am

Larry, I have received SSDI since Oct 2016. Due to a rugged contruction career, I'm banged up. DDS, hip degeneration, etc. I believe that when a person that retires, he/she can earn only so much, until the age of 70, & after, can earn without limit. Will the limits imposed on those that receive SSDI benefits ever be allowed to increase, or is the $1180 per month earning limit imposed for life?
Thanks, Larry.


Actually, the substantial gainful activity (SGA) amount in 2019 is $1220. $1180 was the SGA amount in 2018. SGA is the upper . . . Read More