Seniors Lose 31 Percent of Their Buying Power Since 2000 2013 Annual Survey of Senior Costs Finds Expenses Have Increased More Than Twice as Fast as Social Security COLA

Seniors Lose 31 Percent of Their Buying Power Since 2000 2013 Annual Survey of Senior Costs Finds Expenses Have Increased More Than Twice as Fast as Social Security COLA

May 15, 2013 (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). TSCL is one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan senior advocacy groups.

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 38 percent while typical senior expenses have jumped 81 percent, more than twice as fast.  Inflation has been at historic lows in recent years and seniors received a 1.7 percent COLA this year.


Category Expense Cost in 2000 Cost in 2013 Percent Increase, 2000-2013
Housing Ownership costs N/A N/A 37%
Apartment rental N/A N/A 46%
Homeowner’s insurance (annual) $508.00  $993.00  95%
Real estate tax (annual) $690.00 $1,405.44 104%
Heating oil (gallon) $1.15 $3.97 247%
Natural gas (per thousand cubic feet) $6.37 $9.19 44%
Electricity (per kw hr) $.08 $.11 38%
Transportation Gas, all grades (gallon) $1.31 $3.37 157%
New & used vehicles N/A N/A (-1%)
Oil change $23.11 $66.03 186%
Maintenance/ repair N/A N/A 49%
Medical Total out-of-pocket medical expenses $1,074.50 $1,338.94 25%
Prescription drugs, generic, brand, special $623.70 $635.05 2%
Dental, general visits $377.40 $565.69 50%
Medicare Part B premiums (monthly) $45.50 $104.90 131%
Medicare Part D premiums $25.93 $40.18 55% (since 2006)[i]
Food 10 lbs. potatoes $2.98 $5.98 101%
1 lb. butter $2.52 $3.50 39%
Milk (gallon) $2.78 $3.53 27%
Eggs (dozen) $0.93 $1.93 108%
Ground chuck (lb.) $1.90 $3.40 79%
Chicken (lb.) $1.06 $1.50 42%
Bread, white loaf $.91 $1.42 56%
1 lb. coffee $3.54 $5.90 67%
Apples (lb.) $.95 $1.35 42%
  Oranges (lb.) $.61 $.99 62%
Recreation Recreation, misc. N/A N/A 12%
Communication First class postage $.33 $.45 33%
Basic phone service, local $55.37 $73.44 33%
Apparel Clothing N/A N/A (-2%)
Other Personal care products N/A N/A 5%
  Personal care services N/A N/A 36%


“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 Larry Hyland, TSCL chairman.  “To put it in perspective, for every $100 worth of expenses seniors could afford in 2000, they can afford just $69 today.” Hyland adds.

A senior with the average Social Security benefit in 2000 received $816 per month, a figure that rose to $1,129.80 by 2013.  However, that senior would require a Social Security benefit of $1,477.00 per month in 2013 just to maintain his or her 2000 buying power.

The study examined the increase in costs of 32 key items between 2000 and January 2013. The items were chosen because they are typical of the costs seniors must bear.  Of the 32 costs analyzed, 20 exceeded the COLA.  The selected items represent eight categories, weighted by approximate expenditure.

A majority of the 54 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 rely on it for 90 percent or more of their total income.

To help protect the buying power of earned 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.  Visit




With about 1 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 TREA The Enlisted Association. Visit for more information.



Shannon Benton, Executive Director, 1-800-333-TSCL (8725)

Mary Johnson, Social Security policy analyst, 540-832-5513,