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 5761 questions.

Would My Husband's Survivor Benefits Be Reduced Because Of WEP?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Nov 21 2019 - 5:15pm

According to the estimates we have received from the SSA, my SS benefit is greater than my husband's and the difference is likely to grow when the Windfall Exemption Provision (WEP) is applied to his benefit. He worked for a significant number of years as a teacher in Texas and did not pay into Social Security during that time. However, he has 21 years of work with "substantial earnings" outside of Texas when he did pay into Social Security. It is my understanding that his SS retirement benefit will be reduced to some degree by the WEP. However, if I die first, would his . . . Read More

Would My And My Spouse's Income Make Our Adult Child Ineligible For Food Stamps?

Category: Public Assistance Payments
Nov 21 2019 - 8:18am

Our adult child, living with both parents, receives SSI for cerebral palsy. I was told by SSI representative that it is mandatory for recipients of SSI to apply for SNAP or they will deduct from the SSI check because the food in our home would be considered a gift and has a monetary value. But I think as adults in the home my spouse and I make too much money and the food stamps would be rejected. Or am I supposed to present this adult child as an independent person and a sole person in the household when I complete the food stamp application?


I'm . . . Read More

Am I Correct That I Can File Just For Spousal Benefits If My Wife Applies For Her Benefits?

Category: Filing Strategies
Nov 20 2019 - 3:35pm

Hi Larry,

I’m quite sure you have answered this question a million times already, if not more. I ask this question after reading your book and becoming paranoid about asking the Social Security Administration to start our benefits for fear of making the wrong statement.
I read many of your articles and find that your audience sometimes does not give enough information for you to provide possibly the best response. So, with that said, my wife Barbara’s birthday is September 11, 1954 and my birthday is March 8, 1953. Barbara stopped working in May 2018 due to neck . . . Read More

Will My Widow's Benefits Be Affected If My Son Is Found Disabled?

Category: Survivor Benefits
Nov 20 2019 - 10:18am

My son has autism and some other neurological issues, he is 19. We are applying for social security disability under his fathers (my husbands) deceased record disabled child under the age of 22. MY husband died in 2014 and Previously my son received benefits till he was 19 and half . My question is if he is found disabled how is this going to effect my widows benefit at age 60 that I am entitled to receive, I am 49? In addition, my son needs constant care I had to leave my job because he cannot be alone, therefore can I apply for a supplement for caregiver under the same record . . . Read More

Am I Able To Receive My Deceased Husband's Monthly Benefits?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Nov 20 2019 - 9:59am

I'm 65 still working and NOT getting social security , My husband 72 had been on social security on his 65th birthday and he passed away on 08-05-2019. Am I able to receive his monthly benefits?


I'm sorry for your loss.

You can't actually collect your husband's monthly benefit payments, but it sounds like you'd probably qualify for widow's benefits. However, whether or not you could be paid benefits prior to your full retirement age (FRA) of 66 depends on how much you're earning and your potential benefit amount ( . . . Read More

Can I Still Use Your Software If I Can't Get A Copy Of My Deceased Wife's Earnings History?

Category: Maximize My Social Security Software
Nov 19 2019 - 5:39pm


I am looking at purchasing your software. I have a question: since my wife passed away in April of 2018, I cannot get a copy of her earnings history from the social security office. How will this affect the use of the software, or is there a way to get this information.



Hi Bennett,

I'm sorry for your loss.

Even if can't get a record of your wife's earnings history, Social Security should be able to give you an estimate of how much your gross monthly widower's benefit would be at your full retirement age . . . Read More

Can I Start Drawing My Social Security At Age 62 And Wait Until FRA To Start Drawing Railroad Retirement?

Category: Railroad Retirement & Social Security
Nov 19 2019 - 5:07pm

I have 11+ years in RR employment. I have 20+ years of private sector employment. I am 62. My question is Can I start drawing SS now (reduced benefit) and wait until FRA and then start drawing RR retirement. My RR retirement in all cases is higher in each age bracket.


You could file for Social Security (SS) benefits at age 62 without being required to also file for Railroad Retirement (RR), but I'm not an expert on RR benefits so I don't what effect that might have on the calculation of your future RR annuity. You might want to discuss this issue . . . Read More

Will My Wife's Benefit Rate Increase If I Work Past My FRA?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Nov 19 2019 - 8:25am

Hello Mr. Larry,
Here is my background.
I immigrated to this Country in 1999. I started to work since Dec-1999 as an engineer in County Highway Department. My wife is a housewife and took care of our children and didn’t work outside. She is younger than me by 2 years and 7-months. This December -2019, I will be completing 20 years of working in the local government unit. I will turn 65 years the next February -2020. I intend to work unto my full retirement age (FRA) 66-yrs 2-months and if possible till my wife turn 65 in 2022. I believe she will be eligible to get . . . Read More

Am I Understanding The Earnings Test Rules Correctly?

Category: Earnings Test
Nov 18 2019 - 12:57pm

I am thinking about turning on my wife's social security ( or half of mine and let her's grow) starting 1/1/20. She will be 66 on Nov 20, 2020. She makes about $60k/year. The SSA website states…

In the year you reach full retirement age, we deduct $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above a different limit. In 2020, the limit on your earnings is $48,600, but we only count earnings before the month you reach your full retirement age.

If I am reading that correct they would only count the $50k she earns in Jan thru Oct. She would only be over the limit by $1,400. . . . Read More

Am I Allowed To File For Benefits On My Ex-Spouse's Record At FRA And Allow My Own Benefit Rate To Grow Until Age 70?

Category: Filing Options
Nov 17 2019 - 8:33pm

Hi Larry, my DOB is 4/21/54. I was a stay at home mom until divorced in 2009 (married 35 yrs). I have been working for ten yrs and am eligible to collect $799 at my FRA of 66 in April 2020. My ex-spousal benefit at 66 will be $1,060. I have been told by two SS call center persons that I can start collecting my ex-spousal benefit in April and let mine grow until I’m 70. But according to what I read on the SS website, I missed that option having been born after Jan 1, 1954. I even read the paragraph to one of them. She said that doesn’t apply to me because l am waiting until FRA . . . Read More