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 21 - 30 of 6655 questions.

Can My Severance Pay, PTO & Vacation Pay Show Up As Earned Income?

Category: Earnings Test
Aug 2 2020 - 10:43am

Hi Larry I started receiving widow's social security benefits January 2019. I just received a letter stating that they cannot pay my benefits from January 2019 through April 2019 because I was working. I was not working. I was on temporary disability collecting New Jersey short term disability and disability through the company that I worked for. I was given severance compensation, paid PTO & vaca and am wondering if this can show as earned income?
When I applied to social security I asked the question can I receive temporary disability and widows benefits and was . . . Read More

When Should I Apply To Begin Receiving My Maximum Benefits?

Category: Filing For Benefits
Aug 2 2020 - 10:34am

I turn 70 years old 2021 on June 23rd. I want to start taking my Social Security on July 1st of 2021. When should I apply to SS to begin receiving my maximum benefits?


You can submit your application up to 4 months prior to the month that you want to claim your benefits, but it sounds like you would want to claim benefits effective with June 2021, not July. Social Security considers you to be age 70 for the entire month in which you reach that age, so if you turn 70 on June 23 2021 you'll be eligible for your full age 70 rate if you claim . . . Read More

Can I Claim My Husband's Retirement?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Aug 2 2020 - 10:25am

My husband and I both took early s.s at age 62.we are both over fra. Can I claim his retirement which is higher then mine.Do I go to the s.d. and file.


You can initiate the process of applying for spousal benefits by calling Social Security, but you'll only qualify for spousal benefits if 50% of your husband's primary insurance amount (PIA) is more than your own PIA. A person's PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing their benefits at full retirement age (FRA). You don't mention your and your husband's . . . Read More

Will My FICA Contributions From Part-Time Work Increase My Benefits?

Category: Miscellaneous
Aug 2 2020 - 10:13am

After being approved for SSDI at 57, I started working part time within the limits. Will my Fica contributions from this part time work increase my benefits at full retirement age?
I have been told many times that i will receive same amount i am receiving now. Please clarify


Your benefit rate can be recalculated to credit additional years of earnings, but your recent earnings will only increase your benefit rate if your earning is those years is higher than in one of the previous highest wage-indexed earnings years used to calculate your . . . Read More

Is My Ex-Wife Entitled To 50% Of My Full Retirement Age Benefit Even If She Started Collecting Hers At 62?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
Aug 2 2020 - 9:56am

My name is John, and my ex-wife's name is Donna.

We were married for about 20 years when my wife divorced me. We're still good friends and I think the IRS is taking advantage of her. She retired when she was 62. I'm 63 now, and when I turned 62, I had her reapply to get my social security. My income is substantially greater than hers. My understanding is that even divorced, because we were married more than 10 years, she would be entitled to 50% of what my social security would be at my full retirement. They said that because she retired at 62, she only gets the reduced . . . Read More

Can I Claim Benefits From My Ex-Spouse And My Current Spouse?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
Aug 2 2020 - 9:48am

I was previously married for 20 years to a man that built a good retirement plan with me, he worked nights and I worked Days and raised 3 boys,. We divorced in 2008, he took everything from me and has come between me and my youngest son. He still lives in the home we purchased but now with his current spouse. He is 60 and I am 59. I worked all these years being self supportive and dealing with fibromyalgia, never gave into to big pharma drug use or gave up movement, maintained my body and soul. My question is in reference to my social security benefits which would . . . Read More

Is It True That I Can Collect More From My Ex-Wife's SS?

Category: Divorced Spousal Benefits
Aug 2 2020 - 9:38am

Hi Larry, I plan on claiming my SS benefits at 62, next July. My question is, Is it true that I can collect more from my ex wife's SS. If so how does that affect her? Thanks and stay safe.


You could potentially get benefits from your ex-wife's record as early as age 62 if you meet the requirements ( Assuming that your wife is still living, you could only qualify for divorced spousal benefits if 50 . . . Read More

When Your Ex-Husband Dies, Where Does The Remaining Money Go If It's Not Used Up?

Category: Miscellaneous
Aug 1 2020 - 2:43pm

When your ex-husband dies, where does the remaining money go to, if not used up?


Social Security is an insurance program designed to help replace income lost due to death, disability or old age. It is not an individual retirement account that can be passed on to heirs. Any taxes that a person pays remain in the Social Security trust fund unless and until either that person or their eligible dependents or survivors meet the requirements for entitlement to Social Security benefits. As it true with most insurance programs, there is no guarantee . . . Read More

Will My WIfe Receive Additional Spousal Benefits When I Start Collecting My Benefits?

Category: Spousal Benefits
Aug 1 2020 - 2:30pm

HI Larry,
My wife turned 62 in November of 2019 and is collecting $700 per month as a reduced benefit given her age. I am 61 years of age turning 62 in Sept of 2020 and expect to collect $2800 per month when I turn 66 years and 7 month old (FRA). I am trying to determine if my wife will recieve additional spousal benefit when I begin collecting or do I need to suspend her current benefits, pay back what she recieved and restart the clock for her to get additional spousal benefits. I have read if she collects early she will give up any spousal benefits but I also read one . . . Read More

Will My Wife Receive More If She Files For Spousal Benefits?

Category: Filing Strategies
Aug 1 2020 - 2:25pm

My wife and I both will retire in 2022,I will be 62 she will be 63, social security shows her at 750 a month and me at 1950 a month at that time.Would she receive more if she filed for spousal benefits?


Your wife can't file for spousal benefits without being required to file for her own benefits at the same time. If you're drawing your benefits and if your primary insurance amount (PIA) is more than twice as much as your wife's PIA, she would then be paid her own benefit plus a partial, or excess, spousal benefit. If she starts drawing prior to . . . Read More