Social Security Benefits Lose 23% of Buying Power

Social Security Benefits Lose 23% of Buying Power

Rising household costs and record low cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) in recent years are eroding the buying power of more than 57 million Social Security recipients.  In fact, Social Security benefits have lost 23% of buying power since 2000, according to The Senior Citizens League’s 2016 Survey of Senior Costs.

Social Security beneficiaries received no annual benefit boost in 2016 due to low inflation last year.  But low inflation didn’t translate into lower expenses for the majority of older households.  In an earlier survey this year, ninety-four percent of retired participants indicated their monthly expenses went up by more than $79.  The trend isn’t anything new.  In fact, since 2000, COLAs rose a total of just 36.3%, while typical senior expenses have jumped more than twice as fast, by 75.3%.  The fastest rising costs — Medicare Part B and prescription drugs —increased by 168%, some 4.6% faster than COLAs.

The 2016 Survey of Senior Costs examined the increase in costs of 38 key items between January 2000 and January 2016.  Of the 38 costs analyzed, 29 exceeded the amount of increase in the COLA over the same period.  Here are the six fastest rising costs:


Six Fastest Rising Retiree Costs From 2000 - 2016

Expense Average cost or numeric value*

Jan. 2000

Average cost or numeric value*

Jan. 2016

Percent increase


Amount higher than COLA increase 2000- 2016
Medicare Part B premiums (monthly) $45.50 $121.80 168% 4.6 times higher
Prescription drugs (annual) $1,102.00 $2,938.23 167% 4.6 times higher
Homeowner’s insurance monthly premiums $508.00 $1,256.00 147% 4.1 times higher
Eggs (dozen) $0.93 $2.33 139% 3.8 times higher
Real estate taxes $690.00 $1,579.06 129% 3.6 times higher
Medigap monthly premiums $25.93 $121.80 111% 3.1 times higher


To help protect buying power of benefits, TSCL and its members are lobbying Congress for an emergency COLA.  TSCL supports The Seniors And Veterans Emergency (SAVE) Benefits Act (S.2251) introduced by Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA), and H.R. 4144 introduced by Representative Tammy Duckworth (IL-08), that would provide 70 million older Americans with one-time increases to their Social Security checks.  The legislation would provide roughly about $580 in additional income per beneficiary this year.