Social Security survival strategies with COLA only at 0.2%
If you asked a Social Security recipient for a penny for their thoughts on next year's projected 0.2% cost of living adjustment, they could give it to you, but they'd only have $1.99 left.
That's because the small increase would equal only an extra $2 a month for someone getting a $1,000 check, based on estimates released last week. And that's after Social Security recipients saw no raise at all for 2016 — only the third time in four decades that has happened. The final figure for 2017 should be released in the fall.
Cost-of-living increases are based on the nation’s general rate of inflation, and the prices for the goods and services used to calculate inflation have barely budged.
However, experts say the actual cost of living for Social Security beneficiaries is rising and their quality of life is falling. Social Security recipients have lost nearly a fourth of their buying power over the last 15 years, according to the Senior Citizens League.
For those Social Security recipients concerned about making ends meet going forward, here are some tips:
• Cut back spending. Given that housing represents more than one-third of their expenses, older Americans might look for ways to free up the equity in their homes by downsizing or taking out a reverse mortgage, or find ways to cut their costs by exploring options such as home-sharing.
• Increase income. On average, older Americans get about 34% of their total income from Social Security; 33% from earnings; 11% from personal assets such as money in IRAs, 401(k) plans and taxable accounts, and 22% from pensions. To boost income, they could invest more aggressively in higher-yielding and perhaps more risky assets, such as long-term bonds and high-dividend-paying stocks; go back to work; or if they are still working, take on more hours.
• Pressure politicians. “Candidates who don’t take a stand on Social Security in this important election year choose to put the program’s strength at risk in the long-term," AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said in a statement. "Though people of all ages rely on it, its importance to older Americans — already under tremendous pressure from wage stagnation and shrinking pensions — is only likely to grow."
Contributing: Nathan Bomey and Robert Powell