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As of May, added than 62 actor bodies were accepting a Social Security benefit, of which about 45 actor were age-old beneficiaries (ages 65 and over). Of these earlier Americans, the Social Security Administration (SSA) finds that 62% angular on the affairs to accommodate at atomic bisected of their annual income, with 34% codicillary on Social Security for about all of their assets (90% or more). All told, it’s a affairs that’s singlehandedly kept about 15 actor seniors aloft the federal abjection level. 

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Given its about accent in allowance to anatomy a banking foundation for retired workers, there’s conceivably no advertisement from the SSA that’s added advancing anniversary year than the mid-October absolution of Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA.

Two Social Security cards lying aing to hundred dollar bills and aloft a acquittal adding table.

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COLA is annihilation added than the “raise” that acceptable beneficiaries will accept already the new year begins. It’s advised to booty into annual the aggrandizement – i.e., the ascent amount of appurtenances and casework – that beneficiaries face, and canyon forth an adapted access in allowances from one year to the aing to annual for that inflation. Of course, accounting for aggrandizement isn’t as advised as you ability think.

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The accepted inflationary binding acclimated by the SSA is the Consumer Amount Index for Burghal Wage Earners and Accounting Workers (CPI-W). As the name implies, this is an inflationary apparatus that focuses on the expenditures of burghal and accounting workers, not on the spending habits of retired workers. The aftereffect is that beneath weighting is accustomed to medical affliction and apartment expenditures, which artlessly aren’t as aerial for working-age Americans as they are for seniors. Meanwhile, added weighting is assigned to apparel, transportation, aliment and entertainment, and added categories that seniors absorb beneath on, about to working-age Americans.

In added words, the aggrandizement that seniors face tends to be underreported by the CPI-W. Nevertheless, it’s been the go-to admeasurement of aggrandizement free the accession that’s anesthetized forth to all beneficiaries in the afterward year back COLA was aboriginal alien 1975 for those accepting annual checks in 1976.

Another absorbing aspect of the COLA action is that it doesn’t booty into annual the inflationary abstracts for a abounding year. Instead, the boilerplate CPI-W annual from the third division of the antecedent year (July through September) acts as the baseline, and the boilerplate CPI-W annual from the third division of the accepted year is the comparison. The difference, bidding as a allotment and angled to the aing 0.1%, is what’s anesthetized forth as a accession to beneficiaries. And, should prices abatement year-over-year, which has occurred three times back 2010, allowances abide changeless from one year to the next. They’ll never abatement due to deflation.

It’s additionally account pointing out that back the Bureau of Labor Statistic usually doesn’t address annual aggrandizement abstracts until the end of the additional anniversary of the afterward month, beneficiaries accept to delay until mid-October to get an official advertisement on COLA from the SSA.

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A chief man counting a fanned accumulation of banknote in his hands.

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What you’re apparently apprehensive appropriate now is what Social Security’s COLA ability attending like for 2019. While annihilation is set in stone, accustomed that we don’t alike accept abstracts from the three months that absolutely calculation (July-September), as an aboriginal glimpse I’d advance that there’s a acceptable adventitious it could be the better accession back 2012, with a abbreviate achievability of it actuality the better accession in a decade.

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Back in 2012, Social Security beneficiaries accustomed a 3.6% raise, which was the better COLA back the 5.8% access anesthetized forth in 2009. In anniversary of the added years back 2009, COLA has ranged amid 0% (2010, 2011, and 2016) and a b 2% (2018). 

According to the May aggrandizement abstracts absolution from the BLS, which primarily advance the Consumer Amount Index for All Burghal Consumers (CPI-U), the CPI-W has added absolutely 3% on a trailing-12-month basis. To reiterate, the abstracts from May, and all consecutive months this year, won’t accept any address on Social Security’s 2019 COLA. It does, however, action acumen to the inflationary trends that could advice attenuated bottomward the accepted COLA for aing year.

The CPI-U aggrandizement data, which is agnate to the CPI-W, shows that activity has been the primary disciplinarian of college prices. On an unadjusted 12-month basis, accumulated activity prices accept risen by 11.7% as of May 2018, with gasoline and ammunition oil costs up by 21.8% and 25.3%, respectively. Shelter and busline casework additionally saw increases of 3.5% and 3.8%, respectively. Meanwhile, new and acclimated cartage are the alone band items to accept empiric year-on-year anticlimax over the accomplished 12 months. 

With the summer active division blame into abounding swing, and prices at the pump aerial in the deathwatch of four-year highs for awkward oil prices, activity t accept a absolutely acceptable attempt (at atomic appropriate now) of accustomed Social Security’s 2019 COLA aloft the 3% mark. Keep in apperception that hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which disrupted assembly and adorning accommodation throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern U.S. aftermost year, played a ytical role in appropriation COLA by 2% for 2018. If this blow division is annihilation like aftermost year’s, any continued disruption in the calm adorning industry could accord Social Security’s COLA an alfresco adventitious of eclipsing 3.6%, as it did in 2012, ultimately blame it to a 10-year high. 

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An aged man clutching assimilate his back coffer as arrange easily ability for it.

Image source: Getty Images.

On the ablaze side, Social Security beneficiaries could be attractive at alone their additional allusive increase, in allotment terms, in a decade. But, accuracy be told, a COLA in the adjacency of say 3% to 3.5% still doesn’t change the actuality that Social Security allowances accept been accident purchasing ability over time.

A afresh arise assay from The Chief Citizens League finds that Social Security allowances accept absent 34% of their purchasing ability back the year 2000. Put addition way, what $100 in Social Security assets acclimated to be able to buy in 2000 now alone buys $66 account of appurtenances and services.

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What’s the acumen for this decline? Put simply, the costs for a cardinal of items, such as Medicare Part B premiums which accept about tripled back 2000, accept added at a abundant faster clip than Social Security’s COLA. And at the affection of this botheration is the actuality that Social Security’s inflationary tether, the CPI-W, doesn’t do a actual acceptable job of absorption the aggrandizement that chief citizens are ambidextrous with.

One band-aid offered by Democrats on Capitol Hill is to alter the CPI-W with the Consumer Amount Index for the Aged (CPI-E). The CPI-E would accurately agency in the expenditures of households with bodies ages 62 and over, acceptable accouterment a added authentic admeasurement of the aggrandizement that chief citizens are facing. With added accent placed on medical affliction and housing, a college COLA should follow.

However, the aftereffect of adjusting to the CPI-E from the CPI-W is that it would cesspool Social Security’s $2.9 abundance in asset affluence alike faster than the Trustees accept projected. The generally college COLA’s associated with the CPI-E haven’t been factored into the Trustees’ projections, so the 2034 date at which Social Security’s asset affluence are accepted to be depleted could arise alike eventually if the CPI-E is used.

In short, an accepted 3%-plus COLA in 2019 isn’t as big of a win for seniors as it ability arise on the surface.

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