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 6950 questions.

Will My Sister Be Able To Collect Social Security At Age 62 If She's Getting A Railroad Spouse Pension?

Category: Railroad Retirement & Social Security
Oct 19 2020 - 6:08pm

Sister is a registered nurse and paid into Social Security for over 30 years. At age 60 she started receiving a railroad retirement from her husband that retired from the railroad. Will she be able to collect social security at age 62 which will be Jan 2020 since she has well over the 40 quarters to make her eligible for social security and medicare and the railroad retirement?


Your sister can claim Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62, but whenever she files for her Social Security benefits the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) . . . Read More

Is There Any Way To Not Have My Canadian CPP Benefits Deducted From My U.S. Social Security Benefits?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Oct 19 2020 - 5:39pm

I worked in Canada for 14 years and receive a CPP pension; and, I've worked in the US and receive max SS pension available since did not apply for US SS until I turned 70 yrs. (NB: I'm a US citizen & Canadian Landed Immigrant.)
In computing my US social security benefits (for state of Minnesota), my CPP pension amount is deducted from my available US SS benefits; which doesn't seem fair, since I paid taxes (when working in both the US & Canada). Is there any way to not have my Canadian CPP benefits deduced from my available US SS benefits (Windfall application)? . . . Read More

How Does SSI Affect WIC And Section 8 Payments?

Category: Public Assistance Payments
Oct 19 2020 - 5:36pm

I am a Care Manager. One of my client' s receive WIC and Section 8. the family wants to know how SSI will effect their WIC and Section 8 payments


I'm sorry, but I'm unable to answer your question. My expertise is limited only to Social Security benefits.

Best, Jerry

Does Signing A Release Make My Severance Pay A Special Wage Payment?

Category: Earnings Test
Oct 19 2020 - 5:25pm

I was laid off Sept 30, 2020. I had to sign a Release to be eligible to collect a severance pay (one year long, every 2 weeks at regular pay amount).
Question: does signing the Release allow the severance pay to be characterized as Special Payment and therefore not counted as income?


With or without a release It sounds like your severance pay would be classified as a 'payment on account of retirement', and as such would be considered a special wage payment (SWP) excludable from counting for earnings test purposes. You'll need to notify . . . Read More

When Should I Apply?

Category: Filing For Benefits
Oct 19 2020 - 5:10pm

Is payment benefit calculated on when you apply or when you receive your first payment? My birthdate is 6/9/1954. I'd like to receive my first payment in January 2021 at the increased rate for waiting 6 months past FRA. When should I apply? Thank you so much!


The timing of your application is irrelevant to the computation of your benefit rate. If you want your delayed retirement credits (DRC) to be used in the initial calculation of your benefit rate, you should choose January 2021 as your month of election (MOE) to start your benefits. You . . . Read More

Would The Widow I'm Dating Lose Either Of The Pensions She Receives If We Get Married?

Category: Widow(er) Benefits
Oct 19 2020 - 9:37am

Am dating a widow, female at age 67 and she recieves her late husbands pension from where he worked and his social security. Does she lose either of those if we got married. I still work and my socoal security is higher than hers, I am 69.


I have no idea what rules apply to the employer pension this lady is receiving, but getting married to you would have no effect on her Social Security widow's benefits. Marriages that occur after a person reaches age 60 have no bearing on their eligibility for Social Security widow(er) benefits ( . . . Read More

Is Social Security Forgetting About The January 2 1954 Rule For Spousal Benefits?

Category: Filing Options
Oct 19 2020 - 9:22am

Hi Larry,
Is Social Security just forgetting the January 2, 1954 rule for spousal benefits??!
I’m fairly certain my mother is being misinformed my her local SS office and it’s making me angry. Her birthday is 2/12/1954, she was married 10 years, divorced, not remarried. My father (her ex) is currently collecting benefits. She has earnings history similar to, if not slightly greater than, my father’s. The rep at her local SS office has stated now multiple times (I was on one such call) that she IS ELIGIBLE to collect 50% of my father’s benefit (and retroactively for . . . Read More

Will My Sister Lose Her Benefits If She Sells Her Home And Buys Another House?

Category: Disability Benefits
Oct 19 2020 - 9:18am

My sister is on SSDI and AHCCCS if she sells her home and buys another house with me will she lose her benefits?


I'm only able to answer questions about Social Security benefits. I have no idea what AHCCCS is, but selling and/or buying a home would have no impact on a person's Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits.

Best, Jerry

How Can I Calculate My PIA?

Category: Retirement Benefits
Oct 19 2020 - 8:44am

I was born in 1951
How can I calculate my PIA and does the amount increase if I don’t start claiming benefits until age 70
From age 66 to 70 I have continued to work and my wages exceed the maximum social security wage amount
thank you


First you'd need your full Social Security covered earnings history, and then you need to wage-index each year prior to the year in which you turned age 60. The indexing factors for people born in 1951 can be found here: https:// . . . Read More

Can My Earnings Credits Be Transferred To My Wife?

Category: Miscellaneous
Oct 18 2020 - 4:19pm

I retired with civil service retirement and have 30 quarters of social security and don't plan on adding any more quarters. Is there some way my wife can add these 30 quarters to her social security for her retirement. Thank you.


No. Social Security earnings credits earned by one person cannot be shared with or transferred to another person.

Best, Jerry