Ask Larry

Professor Laurence Kotlikoff, Economics, Boston University 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 4182 questions.

Is It True That I Can Get 50% Of My Husband's Social Security?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Jun 21 2018 - 7:30am

I am 72 years old and my husband is 77. We both collect our SS. His is $17,600. Mine is $14,000. We are both retired and not working. I was told that I can claim 50% of his SS. Is it true? How do I do that. Thanks.


No. What you are referring to is a spousal benefit, and you could only get spousal benefits if 50% of your husband's full retirement age rate is more than your own full retirement age rate. Based on the amounts cited in your question that's apparently not true in your case, although you could check with Social Security to be sure . . . Read More

What Is The Best Month To File To Get The Most Delayed Retirement Credits?

Category: Delayed Retirement Credits
Jun 21 2018 - 7:14am

What is the best month to file to get the most DRC, delayed retirement credits, until the SSA updates their system to give full credits? Is it December or January? If I file three months ahead, according to the SSA, to get a January payment, I would need to file in October. Also, according to the SSA, the January payment is not payable until the following month. YOu must have lived the entire month to collect.


There isn't necessarily a 'best' month, but in order to immediately receive credit for all of the delayed retirement credits (DRC) you've . . . Read More

Am I Eligible To Receive Extra Social Security Benefits For Having Served In The Military?

Category: Deemed Military Wages
Jun 21 2018 - 7:03am

Am I eligible to receive extra social security benefits having served on active duty from Feb. 1956 to Feb. 1959?


Not necessarily. What you would be eligible for are military wage credits (MWC) and deemed military wages (DMW) for that period of time. Those extra wage credits could then be used in the calculation of your retirement benefit rate, which may or may not increase your rate depending on how much you earned in other years.

For more information on MWCs refer to this section of Social Security's Handbook: . . . Read More

How Much Can I Make In The Months Before I Reach Full Retirement Age?

Category: Earnings Test
Jun 21 2018 - 6:50am

I will turn 66 on april 13, 2019 will social security adjust how much I can make for the first 3 months of the year?


If you just want to draw benefits starting with April 2019, it won't matter how much you earn in the first 3 months of 2019. But, if you want to draw reduced benefits starting with January 2019, you'll need to earn less than the 2019 exempt amount in the first 3 months of next year. The exempt amount for people reaching full retirement age in 2018 is $45,360, so it should be at least that much in 2019.

Before deciding when . . . Read More

Does Your ESPlanner Software Cover All Of The Things Your Maximize My Social Security Software Covers?

Category: Maximize My Social Security Software
Jun 20 2018 - 1:57pm

Does your esplanner software cover all the things that your Maximize my Social Security software covers, or are we better off buying both?


The ESPlanner does not optimize Social Security, but MaxiFi does. The video on the homepage of this site is a nice introduction to our software options, and you can use the 'contact us' link at the bottom of the homepage if you have further questions about the software.

Best, Jerry

Can I File For Spousal Benefits While My Own Benefits Are Suspended?

Category: File and Suspend
Jun 20 2018 - 11:38am

I filed and suspended 1/1/16 at age 66. My wife may file for ss at age 66 on 12/2/18. Can I file for spousal benefits when she files for ss?


You can file, but you'll only be eligible for spousal benefits if 50% of your wife's full retirement age rate (PIA) is higher than your PIA. Since you've already filed for your own retirement benefits, even if they are suspended, that continues to be your primary benefit for life. If you subsequently file for spousal benefits the most you could receive as a spouse is the difference between your own benefit . . . Read More

Am I Understanding Correctly?

Category: Filing Strategies
Jun 20 2018 - 11:25am

I would like to know if I am understanding this correctly. I am 63 yrs. old. I have to wait until my full retirement age of 66 and 2 months to receive spousal benefits, then collect my own at age 70. My husband is already collecting his full benefits. Thank you


No, that strategy won't work for you. Congress changed the law in 2015 to require people born after January 1 1954 to also file for their own benefits whenever they file for spousal benefits, even if they file for spousal benefits at full retirement age (FRA) or later. If you had been . . . Read More

If A Person Makes A Lot Of Money And Collects SSI Have They Done Anything Wrong?

Category: Earnings Test
Jun 20 2018 - 10:18am

If a person works for six mo. and makes a lot of money and collects SSI. Number one has that person done any thing wrong. If that she goes over the limit will she lose there SSI benefits, What is the limits and if that person is over the limits what will SS take back.


If a person who is under full retirement age (FRA) and drawing Social Security earns too much, it can result in a full or partial offset of their benefits. In 2018, people who won't reach their FRA before the end of the year are permitted to earn up to $17,040 without losing any of . . . Read More

Isn't My Brother's Wife Eligible For Some Amount Of Social Security Survivor Benefits?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Jun 20 2018 - 10:04am

My brother recently died at 68. He started receiving soc.sec. benefits at 62 in the amount of @1600 monthly.
His wife, also 68, is a retired school teacher who was never eligible for soc. sec. and draws a teacher pension in the amount of @51000 a year. Isn't she eligible for some amount of social security survivor benefits?
Thank you.


I'm sorry for your loss.

The answer to your question is probably not, except for a $255 one-time death benefit. It sounds like your brother's wife would also technically qualify for widow's . . . Read More

Is This Plan Correct?

Category: Filing Strategies
Jun 20 2018 - 9:56am

My question: My wife, who’s 62, has been getting Social Security disability since she was 51. (She had a stroke.) I’m 65.

Her benefits are more than mine.

Our plan is to:
-- When I reach my full retirement age of 66 (I was born in 1952), I apply for spousal benefits on her record.
-- When she turns 66 and 2 months (she was born in 1955), when SSDI automatically converts into a retirement benefit, she’ll voluntarily suspend benefits until she’s 70. I’ll be 69 then, and I’m going to have to stop receiving spousal benefits.
-- When I’m 70, I’ll . . . Read More