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 7160 questions.

Can My Mother Get My Dad's Social Security Benefits?

Category: Survivor Benefits
Jan 14 2021 - 12:20pm


My dad is 70yrs old and is a Social Security pensioner even if he is not a US Citizen. Sadly he passed away last Dec of 2020. My mom is 63yrs old and they have been married for 37yrs. My mom is living outside of US. We just want to ask and know if my mom can get the Social Security benefits of my dad. Thank you!


I'm sorry for your loss.

Your mother wouldn't be able to continue drawing your father's actual benefits, but it's possible that she may qualify for survivor benefits. I can't tell you whether or not your mother would be . . . Read More

Is It True That I Could Get Social Security Benefits If My Ex-Husband Dies?

Category: Divorced Widow(er) Benefits
Jan 13 2021 - 8:38am

I have heard someone say this is true that I can get the social security benfits when my ex husband would pass if i were 65 I am 61 right now and we were married 13 years and divorced and i did not ever remarry And i would get money before his ex wife too is this or has this any truth to ti.


Yes, it sounds like you would probably meet the requirements for surviving divorced spousal benefits if your ex dies. Your ex's marital history aside from your marriage wouldn't matter to your eligibility. Even if your ex has another spouse or ex-spouse(s) . . . Read More

How Do We Report An Address Change?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jan 12 2021 - 12:22pm

My husband and I came to Florida & stayed because COVID hit. We’ve decided to homestead here and I’m unable to figure out how to change our mailing address. Can you help?


I assume you're referring to changing your address for Social Security purposes. If you sign up for an online account, you should be able to change your address on Social Security's website: Otherwise, you'll have to call them at 1-800-772-1213.

. . . Read More

If My Husband And I Are Both Drawing Benefits And One Of Us Dies, Would The Survivor Only Get One Benefit?

Category: Survivor Benefits
Jan 12 2021 - 9:35am

If both me and my husband are currently drawing Social security if a death occurs we would only get one pay out monthly correct.


Yes, in most cases as long as the surviving member of a couple is at least full retirement age (FRA), they are paid roughly the higher of their two benefit rates.

Best, Jerry

Is This Normal?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jan 11 2021 - 11:41am

Hi, I'm writing you because my father passed on November 28, 2020. He was in assisted living and had a payee to take care of his funds. He had a saving account under the payees name which he received from Social Security. The Payee claims that everything that was in the saving account was sent back to Social Security. My mom contacted Social Security with the understanding that she would be entitled to the money he had left in the bank. Social Security informed her that they have nothing to do with his savings account before his death. My question is, Is it normal for a payee . . . Read More

Should My Financial Advisor Be Liable For Giving Me Incorrect Information?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Jan 11 2021 - 10:20am

I am writing to you for some advice regarding my Social Security Benefits.

I was working with Northwestern Mutual with a paid financial advisor. Four years ago, he helped to combine three different 401(k) accounts into one. He advised me to start collecting my PERA/MERF pension benefits at age 62 which I did. I had been consulting with him about future retirement and thought I had all my ducks in a row. He advised me to start collecting my Spousal SS benefits at age 66 as I continued to work full time. As Covid hit, I decided to retire from the healthcare field earlier . . . Read More

If My Wife File For Her Benefits At FRA Can She Also Apply For Spousal Benefits When I Start Collecting My Benefits?

Category: Filing Options
Jan 10 2021 - 4:00pm

Hi Larry,
My question pertains to spousal benefits. I was born in 1955 and my wife's birth year is 1960. My Social security will be $3095 at FRA and hers will be $905. I intend to collect my SS at maximum age 70 years. If my wife, applies for her SS at FRA, can she also apply for spousal benefits when I start collecting my increased SS when I turn 70? If so, will her benefits be sum of her initial amount plus half of mine ($3095). Thank you


Whenever your wife applies for either her own benefits or for spousal benefits, she'll be deemed to be . . . Read More

What Can I Do To Make Sure That Social Security Computed By Benefit Amount Correctly?

Category: Recomputations
Jan 9 2021 - 4:37pm

I retired at 62 and applied for SS benefits, i am 68 now but my relatives keep telling me that I get a lot less then they get and that there must be an error on my calculation of my benefits by SS. What can I do or who can I contact to make sure they did it correct?


You could submit a written request to Social Security asking them to recompute your benefit rate. The form normally used for that purpose is an SSA-795 ( I should note, though, that unless you . . . Read More

Would I Be Able To Apply For DAC Benefits?

Category: Disabled Adult Child Benefits
Jan 9 2021 - 4:23pm

I got my dads social security when I was a teen in his care. I wasn’t disabled at the time. I got married at 16 and no longer got my dads social security. I became disabled around 18 and divorced a few months later. Would I be able to apply for DAC?


You can always apply, but it doesn't sound like you could qualify for disabled adult child's (DAC) benefits on your father's record. A marriage that occurs during or after a prior period of entitlement to child's benefits would preclude re-entitlement to benefits on the same parent's account, unless . . . Read More

Am I Eligible To Get VA Disability Benefits?

Category: Veterans Benefits
Jan 9 2021 - 8:27am

im married dec. 30, 2020 we meet aug. 2019 so we live in for 1 1/2 years. My husband died jan. 3 2021 because of
ANTECENDENT CAUSE: acute myocardial infarction
UNDERLYING CAUSE: Hypertensive cardiovascular disease; diabetes mellitus type 2.
i will ask if im eligible to get benefits of VA DISABILITY?


I'm sorry for your loss.

I can't tell you whether or not you might qualify for VA benefits because my expertise is limited to Social Security benefits. With regard to Social Security benefits, it doesn't sound likely that you . . . Read More