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Social Security Benefits See Biggest Jump in 39 Years

COLA for 2022 is 5.9%
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 13, 2021 8:24 AM CUT

(Newser) – Millions of retirees on Social Security will get a 5.9% boost in benefits for 2022. The biggest cost-of-living adjustment in 39 years follows a burst in inflation as the economy struggles to shake off the drag of the coronavirus pandemic. The COLA, as it's commonly called, amounts to $92 a month for the average retired worker, according to estimates released Wednesday by the Social Security Administration. That marks an abrupt break from a long lull in inflation that saw cost-of-living adjustments averaging just 1.65% a year over the last 10 years, reports the AP. With the increase the estimated average Social Security payment for a retired worker will be $1,657 a month next year. A typical couple’s benefits would rise by $154 to $2,753 per month.

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The COLA affects household budgets for about 1 in 5 Americans. That includes Social Security recipients, disabled veterans, and federal retirees, nearly 70 million people in all. For baby boomers who embarked on retirement within the last 15 years, it will be the biggest increase they've seen. "It's going to be welcome," said analyst Mary Johnson of the nonpartisan Senior Citizens League advocacy group. “But what we are hearing is that even with the COLA, buying power will still be eroded because price increases are still going up.”

The COLA is only one part of the annual financial equation for seniors. An announcement about Medicare’s Part B premium for outpatient care is expected soon. It’s usually an increase, so at least some of any Social Security raise goes for health care. The Part B premium is now $148.50 a month, and the Medicare trustees report estimated a $10 increase for 2022. About half of seniors live in households where Social Security benefits provide at least 50% of their income, and one-quarter rely on their monthly payment for all or nearly all their earnings.

(Read more COLA stories.)

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