(Washington, DC) – Sixty - five percent of retirees participating in a new survey by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL) report that their monthly household expenses in 2020 rose by more than $80. That includes 40 percent of survey participants who reported that their monthly household expenses are up by $120 or more. Yet the same survey also found that 63 percent of participants indicated that their 2021 COLA, which was 1.3 percent, raised their net monthly Social Security benefit by less than $15 after the deduction for the Part B premium.
Things could get worse for older households. Some economists and policy makers worry that the new economic stimulus will cause consumer prices to spiral. Consumer price index data through February showed a big jump in some prices and suggests that the next Social Security COLA may in fact be much higher — the highest since 2019 when the COLA was 2.8%. “But right now, those higher prices erode the buying power of Social Security benefits,” says Johnson who studies the impact that rising prices have on the purchasing power of Social Security recipients. According to research by Johnson, from January of 2000 to January of 2020, Social Security benefits have already lost 30 percent of buying power.
Johnson cautions, “The current inflationary trend may only be temporary, because prices today are compared with a big sudden drop in prices a year ago when the impact of COVID-19 first began to hit our economy.” “The jump we see now is centered primarily on energy prices, but a number of other spending categories have stayed relatively flat,” she says.
There is one trend that of particular concern for all consumers. “There’s a relentless march upward in the cost of foods, especially sources of protein, (meats, poultry, seafood), dairy, as well as fruits and vegetables, Johnson says. Some categories of food prices especially for fresh fruits and vegetables have climbed in recent years due to widespread damage from severe weather and wild fires. “COVID-19 simply added another layer of disaster cost due to loss of restaurant and school lunch markets, labor shortages for growing, harvesting and food processing, and transportation disruptions,” Johnson says. “This is the year to plant a vegetable garden,” Johnson says.
The $1,400 stimulus checks will help millions of retirees to cope at a time when Social Security checks don’t buy as much due to low COLAs while food and energy costs are climbing. The Senior Citizens League supports boosting Social Security benefits and tying the annual COLA to a consumer price index that more closely reflects the spending patterns of older Americans. To learn more and participate in surveys visit www.SeniorsLeague.org.
With 1.2 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan seniors’ groups. 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 The Retired Enlisted Association. Visit www.SeniorsLeague.org for more information.