What Could A COLA of No Less Than 3 Percent Mean For You?
By Shannon Benton, Executive Director
The Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is provided to protect the buying power of Social Security benefits from rising prices. Yet for almost a decade, retirees have had to manage their household budgets despite COLAs that have been at unprecedented lows. During this period, typical retiree costs have continued to rise several times faster than overall inflation and, consequently, Social Security benefits have lost one-third of their buying power since 2000.
Over the past nine years, COLAs have averaged just 1.4%, so it comes as a frustrating surprise to retirees to learn that, in the decade prior to 2000, COLAs averaged 3% per year, more than twice the average today. Because COLAs compound, and the monthly benefit grows over time, lower COLAs mean less Social Security income than retirees might have planned for. That in turn means spending through retirement savings more quickly than planned.
TSCL has been working to get legislation enacted that would require a minimum COLA of no less than 3%, even in years when inflation falls below that amount. There’s a lot of money at stake for retirees. An analysis prepared by Advisor editor Mary Johnson estimates that Social Security benefits for anyone retired since 2009 would be 18% higher today had Social Security recipients been protected by such a 3% minimum. An average benefit of $1,075 in 2009 has increased to $1,229.60 in 2019. But had beneficiaries received a minimum COLA of no less than 3%, that benefit would be $1,453.10 per month today — more than $223.50 per month higher!
That’s why I’m excited and proud to announce TSCL’s endorsement of The Guaranteed 3% COLA for Seniors Act (H.R. 3389) introduced in the House by Representative Eliot Engel (NY-16) and its companion bill in the Senate (S. 1923) introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI). TSCL believes this bill will go a long way toward stopping the erosion in the buying power of your Social Security benefits. Now it’s your turn. You can help draw attention to this legislation by contacting your Members of Congress and asking them to co-sponsor The Guaranteed 3% COLA for Seniors Act. For contact info or to send an email to your elected lawmakers visit the TSCL at www.SeniorsLeague.org.
In the months ahead, The Senior Citizens League will continue to work for enactment of this and other legislation that would strengthen and enhance Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries. For progress updates, follow The Senior Citizens League on Twitter and Facebook.