An Unexpected Transition

I turned 66 on April 3rd. For the most part, it was no big deal. I’ve never done much on my birthday and it’s mostly just another day because, really, nothing much has changed.

But this birthday marked a transition that has had unexpected effects on the way I see myself.

Age 66 for me is what the government calls ‘full retirement age.’ This is the earliest age at which you can retire on Social Security and get your full benefit. Now in my case, I have been getting that full benefit since 2009 because I was disabled. That’s all Social Security Disability is – retiring on full benefit early for medical reasons.

At one level, it’s just semantics. I get the same dollar benefit with a different name. At another level, it’s a big shift in reality. You see, although my medical status hasn’t changed, my legal status has. I am no longer bound by the restrictions imposed by the rules of SSDI. Instead, I am now bound by the more liberal rules of Social Security Retirement.

This has had an interesting and unexpected effect on the way I see myself. Being on SSDI sharply limits what you can do to earn money. When I first retired on SSDI, the limits didn’t bother me because I couldn’t work at a job if I wanted to. But I have come back quite a bit from that low point, partly because my doctors have been able to alleviate the impact of my medical conditions, and partly because I have learned to overcome some of the limits and work around the others.

I hadn’t stopped to think about it before, but I was starting to rankle at the limits of what I could do for work. I didn’t realize it, but I was starting to resent having to act disabled because my retirement benefit demanded it. Now that the benefit has changed to ordinary retirement, I am free to do what I can, not just what the SSDI rules allowed. In short, I don’t have to let those rules define me any more.

Now I know that I still have limits I must respect. I’m not kidding myself there. My medical issues have cost me a lot of the strength and stamina I once had. But I suddenly somehow feel less disabled, and I think that is going to make a big difference as I move forward.

= G =-

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