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 5621 questions.

Can My Wife Switch To Spousal Benefits When She Turns 65?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Oct 11 2019 - 5:06pm

My wife has been on social security disability for approximately 10 years.She is turning 65 in March,I am 68 and collecting my benifits.Can my wife switch to spousal benifts when she turns 65?
It would be an increase of 220.00 a month.
Thank you


Your wife couldn't switch to drawing just spousal benefits instead of her own benefits, but she could potentially file for additional spousal benefits from your record. However, if she chooses to start drawing spousal benefits prior to the month she reaches full retirement age (FRA) her . . . Read More

How Can We Take Advantage Of The Spousal Benefit?

Category: Filing Strategies
Oct 11 2019 - 4:58pm

I was born 12/8/1953 and my husband was born 1/13/1954, so we will both be at FRA within a few months. We have been married 40 years. We are interested in taking advantage of the spousal benefit, since I was born before the cutoff for this benefit. I'm not sure which of us needs to file a restricted claim for the spousal benefit and which of us files a regular claim. Thank for your help!


You're the only one of the two of you who could file a restricted application for spousal benefits only. Your husband doesn't have that option because he was . . . Read More

Can I Discontinue My Benefits And Wait Till Age 70?

Category: Suspending Retirement Benefits
Oct 11 2019 - 4:53pm

Larry I am 66 years old currently collecting my social security once I reached my FRA. I work full time still. Can I discontinue my benefits and wait till age 70 to increase my benefits or will it not make a difference at this time


Yes, you can voluntarily suspend your benefits anytime from full retirement age (FRA) until age 70. If you do so, your subsequent benefit rate will be increased by 2/3rds of 1% for each month that you choose to suspend your benefits ( . . . Read More

Do I Have To Re-Apply For My Own Benefits?

Category: Filing For Benefits
Oct 11 2019 - 4:43pm

I've been collecting half my ex-husbands SS since 66. DO I have to re-apply for my own benefits? I am about to turn 70 and have tried to contact SS multiple times with no success. When I try to re-apply online they tell me I am already receiving benefits. when I call and finally get someone they tell me they will send me a letter soon (never comes).



Yes, if you filed a restricted application for just divorced spousal benefits only then you would have to file a separate application if you want to claim benefits on your own record. . . . Read More

Is It Correct That I Couldn't Draw Both My Own Benefits And My Deceased Spouse's Benefits?

Category: Filing Options
Oct 11 2019 - 4:33pm

I receive my deceased spouses dic. If that amount is higher than his soc security I was told I would not receive any soc sec benefit. Is that true


I'm not sure I understand your question. If you're receiving survivor benefits on a deceased spouse's Social Security record and you file for your own benefits, you could only be paid the higher of the two amounts. You may want to use our software ( to explore your filing options so that you can . . . Read More

Do You Have Any Advice For Us?

Category: Social Security Overpayments
Oct 11 2019 - 4:19pm

We have experienced multitude of problems with my 26 year old disabled son’s SSI/SSDI benefits, Medicaid, and Medical Assistance. The following agencies continue to make unbelievable systematic errors time after time: Maryland Department of Human Services, Social Security Administration, and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

My son has lived in the State of Maryland since September of 2017. He has received SSI since August 2014. He also receives SSDI disability benefits under his disabled father's record. In the state of Maryland, he automatically receives . . . Read More

Can My Husband File For His Benefits Now And Then Switch To A Spousal Benefit When I File?

Category: Filing Options
Oct 11 2019 - 4:05pm

Dear Larry,
My husband, DOB 10/23/53 is eligible for FR this month. But he also is under the GPO because he worked for the government for 40 years. My DOB is 6/17/57 and I will wait until my FRA at 66.5 to file. Can he file now and get his small amount and then switch to spousal benefit when I file? I know he might be eligible for a restricted application due to his age, but I don't understand if it would apply to our situation.


Your husband could file for his own benefits now and then potentially file for additional spousal benefits when . . . Read More

If Both Members Of A Couple Drew Benefits And One Of Them Dies, What Will The Survivor Draw?

Category: Survivor Benefits
Oct 11 2019 - 3:50pm

If a spouse passes away & both drew SS due to the deceased passing from cancer what will the surviving spouse draw? Both had to draw ss before age 65 due to the illness. Thank You


If both members of a couple are drawing benefits and one of them dies, the surviving spouse can only be paid up to a maximum of the higher of a) their own Social Security retirement benefit rate, or b) their deceased spouse's Social Security retirement benefit rate, or c) 82.5% of the deceased's primary insurance amount (PIA). However, the surviving spouse could . . . Read More

Can I Continue To Make Contributions To My 401k?

Category: Miscellaneous
Oct 11 2019 - 3:44pm

I am approaching 70 in a few months. I filed for social security benefits at 66 and immediately suspended the benefits. I have no intention of retiring as long as I can do the work I love (and get paid well paid for). I know I have to start collecting at 70, can I continue to make payments to my 401k, increasing them to the max to offset the additional income. Can I continue to make catch-up contributions to my 401k? Does my strategy make sense?


I'm sorry, but my only area of expertise is Social Security benefits so I can't answer tax questions. . . . Read More

Is It True That They Look At Your Past 5 Years To Determine Your Benefit Rate?

Category: Retirement Benefits
Oct 10 2019 - 8:59pm

My spouse died before I turned 60. He was receiving social security benefits. I remarried before I started collecting widow benefits. Now at age 65 I am receiving disability as at a discounted rate, because my husband receives disability ss and I am receiving a payment from worker compensation. just received a letter from ss saying they were taking me off of disability and putting on retirement ss. Is it true that they look at your past 5 years to determine your monthly benefit. Can I still receive my deceased husband's benefits? I am still disabled and cannot work. I hoping . . . Read More