When disability becomes retirement

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Q. I had a question about your recent story about Social Security survivor benefits. My husband passed in September of 2015 at 66 I was told by that since I started getting disability in that same year and it was more than his benefits, I couldn’t get any of his. In March I’ll be 65 and putting in for my retirement, I was told that I may able to get some of his benefits once I’m retired. Help!
— Unsure

A. Deciphering exactly how Social Security benefits work can be confusing.

We’re sorry to hear about your husband, and we’re glad to help.

As you reach full retirement age, your Social Security disability benefit will automatically convert over to a retirement benefit, at the same amount, said Jeff Rossi, a certified financial planner with Peak Wealth Advisors in Holmdel.

“Since they said that you couldn’t receive any of his benefit, that likely means that your benefit was higher than his,” Rossi said. “You shouldn’t have to `put in’ for your retirement benefit since it will automatically convert at your full retirement age.”

Rossi said if your benefit was higher than his, you wouldn’t be entitled to getting your disability or full retirement benefit along with his benefit. It’s one or the other.

“Since it sounds like you were entitled to more than him, you should just continue to receive your disability and allow it to convert over to your retirement benefit at your full retirement age,” Rossi said. “If you are turning 65 in March 2017, your full retirement age is 66.”

Based on the information provided, it sounds like you are maximizing your Social Security benefit, Rossi said. But to be sure, he recommends you schedule an appointment with the Social Security office nearest you to ensure you are receiving all that you’re entitled to receive.

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This post was first published in November 2016.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.