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 customer 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 3539 questions.

Would I Be Eligible For Divorced Surviving Spousal Benefits?

Category: Divorced Widow(er) Benefits
Feb 22 2018 - 11:26am

Hello Larry
I am a 65 year old female who is employed with a salary of 58,000$
I was married for 16 years when my husband and I divorced.
I remarried and approximately 2 years later, my first husband died.
My second husband and I divorced about 4 years after the death of my first husband.
Would I be eligible for divorced survival spousal benefits?
If so, would it be better to wait until my FRA? (66).
And how does social security figure out benefits when a worker dies young?
My husband was 41 when he died.
Thank you . . . Read More

Will Taking Out A Loan Affect My Disability Benefits?

Category: Disability Benefits
Feb 22 2018 - 11:19am

If I am 58 and currently receiving SSI Disability checks of around $1200 per month, will pulling out a personal loan of 40k to help pay for my daughters wedding decrease my monthly SSI payments?


Assuming that you are receiving Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) and not Supplemental Security Income (SSI), then the answer to your question is no, taking out a loan wouldn't have any effect on your benefits.

Best, Jerry

What Is Our Best Strategy?

Category: Filing Strategies
Feb 22 2018 - 11:08am

My wife and I are both almost 66 (1952 baby boomers). She presently works F/T but will be retiring this year. I work part time.
Her 2017 income was $59,000, my 1099 income was $67,000.
We have a significant 401k savings ($800k) and intended to forego collecting SSI benefits until age 70.
Over the next year or so, her income will go to zero and mine will shrink as well.
Is that the best strategy ?


Hi Bill,

I would need to know the amounts of your and your wife's potential benefit rates in order to . . . Read More

Is It Correct That I Can't Draw Railroad Retirement Benefits If My Social Security Benefits Are Higher?

Category: Railroad Retirement & Social Security
Feb 22 2018 - 10:59am

Larry, I understand that I will have no RR retirement benefit from my ex-husband's RR retirement (we were married 20 years) if I start collecting SS at age 62, and it is more than the RR benefit would be. Is that correct? Also, if I choose to not collect SS benefit and draw RR retirement, can I still also work? If so, is their a limit on earnings? Thank you.


My expertise is limited to Social Security (SS), not Railroad Retirement (RR) benefits. What I know is that if you file for both SS & RR benefits, the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) will . . . Read More

Do You Know Of A Chart Or Table That Summarizes Social Security's Main Provisions?

Category: Miscellaneous
Feb 21 2018 - 11:32am

Are you aware of a chart or table that best summarizes the main provisions of Social Security Retirement Benefits for workers, spouses and family, including restricted application filing, deemed filing, widow benefits, etc. Maybe you could make one!! :)


I think it would be unrealistic to properly address all of those issues in a chart, but Larry co-wrote a best-selling book that fully explains all of the provisions that you mentioned. If you're not familiar with the book, you can get more information here: . . . Read More

If I File A Restricted Application On My Ex's Record, Do I Have To Wait 4 Years To Switch To My Own Record?

Category: Filing Options
Feb 21 2018 - 7:10am

I will turn 66 in November 2019. If I file a restricted application on my ex spouse's record, do I have to wait four years to switch back to my own? I have been divorced 20 years and do not know how much 50% of his benefit will be. Thank you.


No, you could switch to your own record at any time. You should be able to find out approximately how much you could receive in divorced spousal benefits by contacting Social Security. You may then want to use our maximization software to compare your options and determine your best overall strategy.

. . . Read More

Am I Able To Work Full-Time And Still Receive Full Social Security Benefits?

Category: Filing For Benefits
Feb 21 2018 - 7:01am

Dear Larry,
I will reach FRA on Nov. 6, 2018, and my wife will reach FRA on Oct. 10, 2018. I have more than needed SS credits to receive benefits while my wife is eligible for health benefits but does not have enough credits for other benefits.

I would like file and receive benefits beginning 01/02/2019 but would like to continue working at least part-time. When should I file the requisite paperwork with Social Security Admin to receive my first check in Jan or Feb 2019? Am I able to work full-time if I decide to do so and still receive full SS benefits?

. . . Read More

Do I Have To Be Deceased In Order For My Wife To Qualify For Child-In-Care Spousal Benefits?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Feb 20 2018 - 4:14pm

I am currently 61 years old with a 30 year old disabled from birth son and wife who turns 62 in Jan 2019. I will retire this June 2018. I turn 62 in August 2019 when I file for SS benefits starting Sept 1 2019 will my wife be able to file for child in care benefits ? I was told that that only applies when the husband is deceased. With a full retirement of $2796 and a family max of $4892 the SS office told me I would receive $2038 at age 62. My son would receive 50 % of my Full Retirement amount $1398 and my wife would receive 37.5% or $1048. I think that she should be able to . . . Read More

What Effect Will WEP Have On My Ex-Wife's Divorced Spousal Benefit?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Feb 20 2018 - 3:58pm

My ex-wife and I are almost exactly the same age, turning 65 in about 6 months. At 65, I will claim and receive a pension based on non-covered employment. My ex will file for spousal benefits when we turn FRA at 66. What effect will WEP have on her divorced spousal benefits on my record? Also, if I file for divorced spousal benefits on her record will WEP be a factor? Stumped in SinCity ;-)


It sounds like WEP will be an indirect factor in what your ex-wife receives from your record, since her divorced spousal rate would be calculated based on 50% . . . Read More

Is A Disabled Person Who Is Forced To Take Early Retirement Automatically Eligible For Medicare?

Category: Medicare
Feb 20 2018 - 10:58am

When a disabled person on SSI & Medicaid is forced into early retirement (age 62) is that person automatically eligible for Medicare or does the person have to wait until age 65? If eligible, does that person need to apply themselves or once receiving Social Security does Medicare automatically begin since Medicaid was terminated? Does the person need to reapply for Medicaid? Can the person possibly receive both as primary & secondary coverage?


People required to file for Social Security retirement benefits at age 62 as a condition for . . . Read More