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 5216 questions.

Will Social Security Look At Whether Or Not You Are Performing Substantial Services No Matter How Much You Earn?

Category: Earnings Test
Jun 20 2019 - 4:49pm

Hi, I read on a web site that if you start SS prior to FRA and are self employed that SS will look at whether or not you are performing substantial services in each year up to FRA even if you are under the annual earnings limit. Is that incorrect?


No. Substantial services in self-employment, which Social Security in most cases defines as devoting more than 45 hours to a trade or business in a month, is only considered if the self-employed person's net earnings exceed the annual earnings test exempt amount. Also, substantial services in self- . . . Read More

Should We Pay Into Social Security To Increase Our Benefits If We're Working In Japan?

Category: Earnings Subject To Social Security Taxes
Jun 20 2019 - 4:31pm

Dear Larry - my husband and I have been living and working in Japan for a number of years. We qualify for SS benefits based on our earlier employment in the US. My question is - we are now looking towards retirement but still in Japan and working and our salaries here are much higher here - does it make sense to pay into SS in these last few years of work to increase our SS benefits - the software you have seems to indicate this is the case but wanted to be certain. Just FYI - working outside of the country we did not pay SS but, of course, pay all other US taxes and Japan . . . Read More

What Can I Do About My Overpayment?

Category: Social Security Overpayments
Jun 20 2019 - 6:56am

My social security benefits were suspended because i owe. An overpayment it been suspended since. May 2019 i cant pay my rent my car insurance my phone. Bill i have stop working since jan 4 2019 so i apply back overim so upset about this i also


I don't know enough details about your case to be able to properly advise you, but if you can't pay your bills without your Social Security benefits you should contact Social Security and ask for a lower rate of recovery of your overpayment. That way you would at least be able to receive a portion of your . . . Read More

Am I Correct About How Our Benefits Would Be Calculated?

Category: Filing Strategies
Jun 20 2019 - 6:46am

My wife and I are 54 with a forecast PIA of $2500/mo at FRA and 62 with forecast PIA of $500/mo at FRA.
My thought is that there would be little downside for the older, lower PIA already retired worker to claim early now, and for the younger person with higher PIA continue to work and not claim till 70. Am I correct in my take that the reduction in benefits if claimed now would reduce the 62 yr old to $375 but when the 54 year old reaches FRA the spousal benefit would be $1250 less the $ 500 FRA amount plus the $375 individual benefit or $1125

or would the spousal . . . Read More

Am I Eligible To Receive Benefits From My Ex-Husband's Record?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
Jun 19 2019 - 7:39pm

Hi Larry. I am currently recieving disability benefits. I am 60. Ok, with that being said, i would like to know if i am eligible to recieve benefits from my ex husbands record? He is currently still working. We were married over 10 years.
Thank you


The earliest that you could claim divorced spousal benefits on the record of a living ex-spouse is at age 62, and you would only be eligible for additional divorced spousal benefits if 50% of your ex's primary insurance amount (PIA) is higher than your Social Security disability (SSDI) benefit . . . Read More

Can I Collect Both U.S. Social Security Widow's Benefits And My Husband's UK Pension?

Category: Foreign Pensions
Jun 19 2019 - 7:19pm

I am a 61-year old widow. My husband of 30 years passed last April, 2018 from cancer. I am collecting his SSI-Widow's Benefits here in the USA. I am American, he was from England, and always maintained his British citizenship. He came here in 1985 and has worked and lived here up until 2018. Question: Can I collect both SSI-Widow's Benefits here in the USA and also collect my husband's UK Pension? He worked in UK for about 15-17 years before moving to USA. I am in process of applying for his pension in UK as he had wanted me to do before he passed. However, I don't want to risk . . . Read More

Is Someone Who Received SSDI Eligible To Suspend Their SS Payments After FRA In Order To Receive DRCs?

Category: Delayed Retirement Credits
Jun 19 2019 - 3:44pm

My husband began drawing SSDI in late 2015 at the age of 63. A few months after he reached FRA he requested that his SS payments be suspended in order to qualify for DRC. When he did so one agent at the local SS office informed him he was not eligible for DRC. Another agent overheard the conversation and corrected the first agent, so his SS payments are currently suspended. We have since read in a newspaper column about SS that anyone who has been on disability is not eligible to earn DRC. I have also read that on some websites. So, having heard varying few points from others, . . . Read More

Would An Identity Thief Be Able To File For My Social Security Benefits?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jun 19 2019 - 9:41am

My identity was stolen through Capital Forensics in Nov. 2018. They got everything, address, Social Security #, Driver's License #, Address, Birth Date: would someone be able to file for my Social Security benefits?

I have called several times & gone into a local office to notify of the ID theft & asked it to be documented. I was told not to worry, One person said I had to file in person & show my driver;'s license (they got the #), another said it couldn't be done because it's attached to IRS (I don't see how that would stop it.) had my web site option . . . Read More

Is There A Book I Can Purchase?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jun 19 2019 - 9:29am

I was just reading the AARP magazine and it mentioned Jerry Lutz and maximize my social security. Is that a book that can be purchased? Thanks Kevin.

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for asking. I just answer the Social Security questions submitted here on the website. However, the Social Security book that Larry co-wrote 'Get What's Yours - Revised' is available for purchase. You can find more information about the book on the following website: . . . Read More

When Should I File My Restricted Application For Spousal Benefits?

Category: Filing For Benefits
Jun 18 2019 - 5:27pm

My wife will be retiring 11/30 this year at age 65 and will begin to draw social security benefits on 1/1/20. I fall into the grandfathered age group and can claim a restricted application on spousal benefits. My question is this, when should I apply for those benefits? Do I need to wait until my wife has actually received her first check or is anytime after she has applied for her social security benefits okay. Thank you.


You could potentially apply for spousal benefits as early as the same day that your wife applies for her benefits. But, you . . . Read More