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.

Please Note: As we are being flooded with questions, I'm also going to have Jerry Lutz, a former Technical Expert at Social Security, 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 6665 questions.

Is There Some Way To Find Out Who Used My SSN?

Category: Miscellaneous
Aug 4 2020 - 7:34am

Just trying to find out about who's using my social security number ? I don't make enough to file taxes , I live with my son and he has been able to use me on his taxes, this year he tried to and was declined saying someo one else used me, there is no one that could , so is there some way to find out whom did ? I'm not sure but isn't that fraud. That's money my son could use.
Thank You Rita

Hi Rita,

My only area of expertise is Social Security benefits, so I can't help you with tax issues. If someone is working under your Social Security number . . . Read More

Can I Make Voluntary Payments To Get The Credits I Need To Receive SS?

Category: Miscellaneous
Aug 4 2020 - 7:29am

I only have 30 credits in my social security. earnings since I was laid off many years ago. Never work agian in USA. I want to know if you can make violuntaty payment for my sss. So when I reach age of 62 I will get sss retirement.


No, you can't make voluntary contributions to Social Security in order to earn credits. The only way to earn Social Security credits (i.e. quarters of coverage) is by working in Social Security covered employment or self-employment ( . . . Read More

Can You Explain My Wife's Benefits?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Aug 3 2020 - 3:41pm

Hi Larry, I recently started receiving my SS at age 62. I receive $1986 a month and my wife, 63 receives, $1377. I know this doesn't look right except that we have a daughter with special needs that currently receives SSI. We applied for SSDI for my daughter and are still awaiting their decision. I expressed my concern to the person in the SS office about my wife receiving so much and she told me that my wife's SS payment would be readjusted to $1033 once my daughter was approved for SSDI and my daughter would receive the same amount as my wife. I assume this is because of my . . . Read More

What Should My Spousal Benefit Be?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Aug 3 2020 - 3:07pm

Hi Larry, I have been on disability since 2005. My husband passed away in 2012. I am 62 and he would have been 66 this year. What should my spousal benefit be? I am only receiving $100 a month.


I assume what you mean is that you're getting $100 per month from your husband's Social Security record in addition to your own Social Security disability (SSDI) benefit. If that's true and if you've been drawing the survivor benefit since age 60 or earlier, then your survivor rate should be equal to 71.5% of the difference between the higher of a) your . . . Read More

Can I Draw My Husband's Social Security Now That He Has Passed Away?

Category: Widow's Benefits
Aug 3 2020 - 2:57pm

Can I draw my husband Social Security now he has passed away? We was still married but didnt live together cause personal reason. I know if he drawn more than me that I would lose my Social Security is that true? Thank you


I'm sorry for your loss.

You don't need to be living with your spouse at the time of their death in order to potentially qualify for widow's benefits, but you haven't listed enough information for me to know if you meet the requirements for entitlement to widow's benefits. The requirements can be found in the following . . . Read More

Is The Amount That My Wife Is Receiving Correct?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Aug 3 2020 - 11:20am

Larry my wife started collecting her benefit at 62. I waited until my full retirement age. But when they added her to my benefit she not even close to half. I’m receiving $1,954 and she only getting $765. Is that right?


Probably. If a person starts drawing reduced retirement benefits on their own record prior to full retirement age (FRA), the resulting reduction for age that's applied to their benefit rate continues even if they subsequently become entitled to spousal benefits.

For example, say Amy filed for her benefits in 2018 at age 62 . . . Read More

Is It True That My Son Will Continue To Receive Benefits When He Attends College?

Category: Child Benefits
Aug 3 2020 - 11:12am

Hi. I was told by a friend that since I am receiving social security benefits that my son who is currently a senior in high school will be able to continue to receive some financial benefits through social security when he attends college - is this true? Can you tell me how to apply for those benefits while he attends college? Could not find that info on soc sec site. Please help!! Thank you!!!


No. Social Security child benefits end at age 18 unless the child is still attending elementary or secondary school (e.g. high school), or if they're . . . Read More

Is It Correct That WEP Wouldn't Apply To Spousal Benefits?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Aug 3 2020 - 10:52am

This month I'm the full retirement age of 66, and I'm currently receiving a government pension, but I haven't retired through SS. My husband retired at 65 years of age, 7 years ago. His monthly SS benefits is $2,612 and according to my SS statement, my monthly amount at the age of 66 would be $997 before WEP. Since I was born after January 2, 1954, it is my understanding that I can't apply under my husbands record, and suspend filing on my record until I'm 70 years of age. But, I read your response someone else today that said something to the contrary. Specifically regarding . . . Read More

Why Do They Constantly Worry Folks About Possible Shortfalls?

Category: Miscellaneous
Aug 3 2020 - 10:44am

I am on Disability & may soon be moving to question is why constantly "worry" folks about possible "shortfalls?" Sadly we have a lot of Americans passed due to Covid! Did not one of them pay into SSA? Why everyday have some kind of "possible" benefit cuts?


I don't know. It's true that the Social Security trust fund is paying out more than it's collecting in taxes, and that that would eventually deplete the trust fund if nothing changes. However, Social Security has been in existence for more than 80 years now and Congress has . . . Read More

Am I Eligible To Claim Spousal Benefits While I Wait To Claim My Benefits?

Category: Filing Options
Aug 3 2020 - 10:38am

My wife will be at her FRA (66) in Dec 2020. She plans to start her SS benefit then. It's estimated to be ~ $1750/MTH. I'm a bit younger & my FRA is 66.5 in Aug 2023. Thru our married life I was the higher income provider. My benefit at FRA is estimated at $3100/mth. Am I eligible to claim spousal benefits from my wife's benefit while I wait to claim my full benefit in 2023? If so, how much would the spousal benefit be?


No. Only people born prior to January 2 1954 are allowed to file for spousal benefits while their spouse is living without . . . Read More