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 5384 questions.

Can My Husband Get His Social Security Even If I'm Still Working?

Category: Filing Options
Aug 19 2019 - 5:42pm

If I am 53 and my husband is 62 and he wants to retire, can he get social security even if I am still working?, is he affected because I am still working? How does that work with our age difference? I don't plan to retire until I am 65 or so but he wants to retire now at 62. Or can he receive his benefits at a reduced amount and I still continue to work until I am 65 and not 67?


Yes, he could. Your earnings would have no effect on your husband's ability to draw his own Social Security benefits. The difference between your ages and your planned . . . Read More

Is Our Plan Doable?

Category: Filing Strategies
Aug 18 2019 - 6:36pm

Based on what I’ve learned from your book, “Get What’s Yours, The Revised Secrets to Maxing out Your Social Security”, I believe I’ve developed a plan for myself and my wife to follow that will enable us to achieve what your book’s title suggests. I would appreciate your review of this four step plan to provide advice in three areas:
1. Is the plan doable? Do current Social Security rules allow for each of the four steps?
2. Are you aware of any potential “Gotchas” or other issues related to this plan? I’m concerned about Gotcha #2 from your book that says “Once You . . . Read More

Does A Person Need To Notify Social Security If They Do Volunteer Work?

Category: Disability Benefits
Aug 18 2019 - 6:15pm

If someone on SSDI is an unpaid volunteer, and the organization reimburses them for their bus fare, does the volunteer need to report that--and if yes, how? Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


In general, if a person is simply reimbursed for out of pocket expenses involved with their volunteer work it won't affect their Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits. However, there are some special rules involved with doing volunteer work when receiving SSDI (https:// . . . Read More

Why Can't I WIthdraw The Conversion Of My Disability Benefits To Retirement Benefits?

Category: Disability Benefits
Aug 17 2019 - 1:55pm

I received disability benefits which were converted to retirement benefits less than a year ago. I would like to withdraw those benefits so they can grow until age 70. I understand that a withdrawal request when an automatic conversion is involved is governed by GN 00206.001 F, which incorporates by reference GN 00206.005A. The latter provision itemizes the types of benefits that must be repaid upon a WD request when an automatic conversion is involved and, importantly, does NOT include disability benefits among the itemized benefits that must be repaid. It seems to me that a . . . Read More

Will My Wife Still Receive 50% Of My PIA Even If Her Own Benefit Rate Is Reduced Due To WEP?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Aug 17 2019 - 1:36pm

Thanks for your answer about wep and gpo.

It looks like it's very clear gpo shouldn't be an issue.

However in regards to wep. My wife does normal benefits based upon US work history. Since technically draws her own after applying for spousal benefits, and her TOTAL will be 50% of my PIA (the difference being her spousal benefit) is it possible the reduction we were notified of is a WEP reduction on her record?

Even if that was the case, it seems like they should apply the wep reduction to her benefit first and and still bring her to a total of 50% of my . . . Read More

What Do I Need To Do If I'm Moving Outside Of The U.S.?

Category: Miscellaneous
Aug 17 2019 - 1:22pm

Moving out of country what do I do about as?


I can only advise you with regard to Social Security, and if you're receiving benefits from Social Security you'll need to notify them about your move. You can do so either by visiting a Social Security office or by calling 1-800-772-1213. Whether or not moving to another country would affect your benefits depends on the type of Social Security benefits you receive, your citizenship status, and the country to which you're moving. For more information, refer to the following Social Security . . . Read More

What Is The Relationship Between WEP And GPO?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Aug 16 2019 - 4:51pm

My wife has just been notified her Canada pension based upon earnings will reduce her spousal social security by 2/3 of her CP

I have read the SS OM that states Foreign pensions are not subject to GPO but in have also read SS documents that it is subject to reduction because of WEP.

Can you explain the relationship between WEP and GPO.

Should we file an appeal?


The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) only affects benefits payable based on a person's own work history, specifically Social Security retirement and disability . . . Read More

What Recourse Do I Have?

Category: Spousal Benefit
Aug 16 2019 - 4:20pm

What recourse do I have? I called SSA only to be told that at my FRA (in a few weeks as I was born pre-1954) that a restricted application on my husband's benefit would be 50% of what he is currently getting (based on his claiming at at 62). SSA Rep did not give any credence to what you advised (in your email of 7/6/19; and confirmed with what I've read from other resources), that such an application would be based on my husband's PIA (to include COLAs since he began benefits). SSA rep said it would be up to the Claims Reps' interpretation of the policy when I apply for . . . Read More

More Of The Story

Category: Widow's Benefits
Aug 16 2019 - 4:08pm


I want to thank you publicly for all of your help, I was the person who contacted you a couple of weeks ago about my husband's social security check. and widow's benefit. The SS rep I had spoken to had mistakenly told me that I would only get what my husband would have made at full retirement age, not including the delayed retired credit amount. I spoke with this same rep yesterday and cited section 407.1 (you pointed that out) and he called me back this morning and stated I indeed am entitled to the full amount my husband was receiving at death, at age 70.

. . . Read More

How Much Can Our Daughter Receive If My Husband Applies For His Benefits?

Category: Child Benefits
Aug 16 2019 - 10:09am

My husband wants to retire in 12/2020 he will be 65 years old and 1 month. His estimate PIA from social security is 2,226. We have a 13 year old kid. When he retires the kid will be 14 (first year in high school). His FRA is 01/22 with a est benefit of 2399. My question is will my kid be eligible to receive retirement benefits from social security from my husbands even though I am still working full-time. If so, how much is she able to receive? What is the approx family maximum.


Your daughter could receive a child's benefit of up to 50% of your . . . Read More