Alexandria, VA: How much will the Social Security cost – of – living adjustment (COLA) boost your benefits? “Probably not enough to prevent a loss of benefit buying power,” says Ed Cates, Chairman of The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). The Social Security Administration recently announced that beneficiaries would receive a 1.7 percent COLA effective January 2015, making the sixth consecutive year of exceptionally low growth in benefits. With the average Social Security payment hovering around $1,200 per month, the COLA would boost benefits by around $20.00.
In the past five years the annual adjustment has averaged just 1.4 percent — less than half the 3 percent average of the prior two decades starting in 1990. Retirees and disabled Social Security recipients are reporting that the COLA is doing a poor job of what it’s intended to do — protecting the buying power of their Social Security benefits. According to an annual survey performed by TSCL, Social Security benefits have lost 31 percent of their buying power since 2000.
The financial impact of six years of low COLAs isn’t immediately apparent to the average person, but “It’s a big one, ” Cates says. A new analysis for TSCL that compared the increases from 2010 through 2015 against the prior 3% average found that, altogether, the benefits of the typical Social Security recipient will be about $5,298 lower by the end of 2015. In 2015 the average monthly Social Security benefit will be about $113 lower, and $1,356 less for the year.
“And that’s not all,” says Cates. “Beneficiaries lose the compounding effect they get with higher benefits,” he notes. “Even when inflation returns to more typical levels, beneficiaries’ lifetime Social Security income will continue to be lower,” Cates explains.
Economic recession isn’t entirely to blame for low inflation. For more than three decades the federal government has made a substantial number of changes to the methodology it uses to calculate the consumer price index, which is used to determine the COLA. “Virtually all the changes have tended to reduce the measured rate of inflation,” Cates says. “Not surprisingly, many COLA recipients sometimes tell us they suspect the government is manipulating the inflation measure to cut spending on their benefits,” he adds.
TSCL believes the current COLA is not sustainable for today’s retirees and disabled beneficiaries, and is lobbying for legislation that would provide a minimum COLA of 3% in years in which inflation drops lower. What do you think? Visit TSCL’s website at www.SeniorsLeague.org and take a poll.
With about 1 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Located just outside Washington, D.C., 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. Please visit www.SeniorsLeague.org or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.