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Seniors Lose 31 Percent of Their Buying Power Since 2000

2014 Annual Survey of Senior Costs Finds Expenses Have Increased More Than Twice as Fast as Social Security COLA

(Washington, DC) – Seniors have lost almost one-third of their buying power since 2000, according to the Annual Survey of Senior Costs, released today by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). The findings are the same as last year, showing no improvement in the buying power of Social Security benefits despite recent low inflation.

In most years, seniors receive a small increase in their Social Security checks, intended to help them keep up with rising costs. But since 2000, the Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) has increased benefits just 41 percent while typical senior expenses have jumped 84 percent, more than twice as fast. Inflation has been at historic lows in recent years and seniors received a 1.5 percent COLA this year.

Category Expense Cost in 2000 Cost in 2014 Percent Increase
2000-2014
Housing Ownership costs N/A* N/A* 40%
  Apartment rental N/A* N/A* 51%
  Homeowner’s Insurance (annual) $508.00 $1,135.00 123%
  Real estate tax $690.00 $1,405.44 104%
  Heating oil (gallon) $1.15 $4.02 251%
  Natural Gas $1.01 $2.83 180%
  Electricity (per kw hr.) $.08 $.12 50%
         
Transportation Gas, all grades (gallon) $1.31 $3.41 160%
  New & used vehicles N/A* N/A* (-1%)
  Oil change $23.11 $45.31 96%
  Maintenance/ repair N/A* N/A* 51%
         
Medical Total out-of-pocket medical expenses $1,074.50 $1,289.53 20%
  Prescription drugs, generic, brand, special $623.70 $548.35 (-12%)
  Dental, general visits $377.40 $510.38 35%
  Medicare Part B premiums (monthly) $45.50 $104.90 131%
  Medicare Part D premiums $25.93 $39.90 54 (since 2006)1
         
Food 10 lbs. potatoes $2.98 $5.98 101%
  1 lb. butter $2.52 $3.55 41%
  Milk (gallon) $2.78 $3.55 28%
  Eggs (dozen) $.93 $2.01 116%
  Ground chuck (lb.) $1.90 $3.59 89%
  Chicken (lb.) $1.06 $1.53 44%
  Bread, white loaf $.91 $1.36 49%
  Coffee (lb.) $3.54 $5.03 42%
  Apples (lb.) $.95 $.1.28 35%
  Oranges (lb.) $.61 $1.12 84%
         
Recreation Recreation, misc. N/A N/A 13%
         
Communication First class postage $.33 $.45 36%
  Basic phone service, land line $55.37 $76.01 37%
         
Apparel Clothing N/A* N/A* (-2%)
         
Other Personal care products N/A* N/A* 6%
  Personal care services N/A* N/A* 37%

*N/A indicates that actual national average price information was “not available.” Numeric price data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was used instead to determine price change.

“This survey illustrates why budget proposals that would cut the growth of COLAs would put millions of older and disabled Americans at risk of insufficient income to cover more growing expenses,” says Ed Cates, chairman of The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). “To put it in perspective, for every $100 worth of expenses seniors could afford in 2000, they can afford just $69 today,” Cates adds.

A senior with the average Social Security benefit in 2000 received $816 per month, a figure that rose to $1,146.80 by 2014. However, that senior would require a Social Security benefit of $1,501.40 per month in 2014 just to maintain his or her 2000 buying power.

The study examined the increase in costs of 33 key items between 2000 and January 2014. The items were chosen because they are typical of the costs seniors must bear. Of the 33 costs analyzed, 27 exceeded the amount of increase in the COLA over the same period. The selected items represent eight categories, weighted by approximate expenditure.

A majority of the 55 million senior and disabled Americans who receive Social Security depend on it for at least 50 percent of their total income, and one-in-three beneficiaries relies on it for 90 percent or more of his or her total income.

To help the protect buying power of benefits, The Senior Citizens League is fighting proposals to cut COLAs. TSCL has developed an online calculator for the public to learn how much a COLA cut would cost in Social Security income.

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With about 1 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Located just outside Washington, D.C., its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of TREA The Enlisted Association. Please visit www.SeniorsLeague.org or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.

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