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 21 - 30 of 5867 questions.

When I Reach Age 66 Can I Receive My Social Security And Still Collect Spousal Benefits?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Jan 18 2020 - 9:55am

When I get to be 66 can i recive my social security and still collect spousal benefits?


No, you couldn't get both benefits in full. If you apply for both spousal benefits and Social Security retirement benefits based on your own work record, you'll only receive basically the higher of the two benefits. If your spousal rate is higher than your retirement benefit rate, Social Security would pay you your full retirement benefit plus a partial spousal benefit equal to the difference in the 2 benefit rates. Regardless of which benefit is higher, . . . Read More

Is It Correct That My Husband And I Can't Both Get Our Benefits?

Category: Disability Benefits
Jan 17 2020 - 3:24pm

if u are married and u and your spouse is disable but they took away my husband ssi because of my disability money. is that right why cant we both get our money


I'd need a lot more information to be able to answer your question. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs based program, so any income that you or your spouse have can affect the amount of those benefits as well as your eligibility for SSI. On the other hand, Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits are not needs based so income from sources other than a person's own work and . . . Read More

Should I Give Up My Medicare If I Have Medicare Advantage?

Category: Medicare
Jan 17 2020 - 3:05pm

If I have medicare and I am also on with my spouse's medicare ⁹advantage. Is that ok, or should I give up my medicare so as not to pay a premium?


Medicare Advantage is simply a supplement to regular Medicare. You must qualify for Parts A & B of Medicare in order to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, and you must still pay your Part B premiums ( So, the short answer to . . . Read More

Can You Explain Why I've Received My Payment Earlier Than Normal For The Last 2 Months?

Category: Payment Dates
Jan 17 2020 - 2:51pm

I have historically received my SS deposit on the 4th Wednesday of each month. Beginning in December 2019 my SS deposit was made on the 3rd Friday. Again now in January 2020 my SS deposit was made on the 3rd Friday. I cant seem to find a reason for the change in date nor do I know if this is just a fluke or if the 3rd Friday is now my new deposit date. If you have any information that would explain why the change I would appreciate hearing from you - THANKS!


Assuming that you haven't become entitled to a different type of Social Security benefit ( . . . Read More

Can I Still Collect Medicare If I Have Fewer Than 40 Quarters Of Social Security Coverage?

Category: Filing Options
Jan 17 2020 - 2:28pm

I have worked 30 years in a school system and contributed to the Maine State Retirement System. My husband has always been self-employed and is of retirement age planning to start collecting this year. I have only paid in 20 quarters of social security in my working career and want to know if I can still collect Medicare (my insurance will be too expensive when I retire) and if my husband passes away before me, how much am I eligible to collect from his social security (percentage). Thank you.


Yes, it sounds like you'll be able to qualify for . . . Read More

Will My Wife Be Subject To The Windfall Elimination Provision?

Category: Non-Covered Pension - WEP / GPO
Jan 17 2020 - 12:35pm

My wife is a German citizen who worked as a Doctor in Germany in the 1980's and has contributed and still contributes monthly to the German Doctors' Pension, Badem-Wuerttemburgische Versorgungsanstalt fuer Aertzte. We both reside in the US and she is now a US citizen, eligible for Social Security at age 62 in 3 years, having worked 24 years in the US. Only a handful of hear earnings years in the US would be considered substantial earnings years by Social Security.

I understand her pension to be a private one with voluntary contributions, not a German government pension . . . Read More

Is My Understanding Correct And Does Our Plan Make Sense To You?

Category: Filing Strategies
Jan 17 2020 - 12:26pm

Larry, I am 67 and my wife is 58. I am retired and started taking Social Security at my FRA of 66. Based upon my work record, I get near the maximum payout. My wife is planning to work until Age 62. Based upon her work record, she will be eligible for a near maximum payout as well. My thought is that she should start collecting right away at age 62, acknowledging the reduced benefit with this thought: If I pass anywhere near my "actuarial life" ( somewhere around 84), she would then get 100% of my SS income - in the meantime, we collect 100% of mine and 65-70% of her maximum. . . . Read More

When I Turn 62 Can My Wife Draw A Portion Of My Social Security?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Jan 17 2020 - 12:18pm

HI, When I turn 62...can my wife draw a portion of my Social Security?....


Your wife could only potentially receive spousal benefits on your record if you are drawing your Social Security retirement or disability benefits. Your wife would also need to be at least age 62 or have a child in her care who qualifies for child's benefits on your account and who is either under age 16 or disabled. Additionally, unless your wife was born prior to January 2 1954 or has an eligible child in her care, she could only qualify for spousal benefits from your . . . Read More

Why Does It Seem That Social Security Doesn't Want People To Be Happy?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jan 17 2020 - 12:13pm

Why is it that Social Security really does not like it when two people that is to work and when the do it hurt one or both persons Medicare?? Is it that Social Security does not want a peron that loves someone to ever be happy?? Seems to me that is the case.


I'm not sure what you're referencing, but the Social Security Administration simply enforces the regulations that are passed into law by Congress. If you believe that a Social Security regulation is unfairly affecting you, you may want to contact your representatives in Congress about your . . . Read More

If The Amount I Receive Won't Change, Can I Go Ahead And Retire?

Category: Miscellaneous
Jan 17 2020 - 11:59am

I'm 62, on disabilty, because the amount I receive wont change, can i go ahead and retire


I'm not sure what you're asking. If you're drawing Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits and you're working, then I assume your earnings are below $1260 per month since higher earnings could cause your benefits to be terminated. Your earnings won't increase your SSDI benefit rate or your future Social Security retirement benefit rate unless your calendar year earnings are higher than one or more of your previous highest earnings years that Social . . . Read More