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The Sad Reason Social Security Benefits Will Go Up Massively

Jerome Powell Inflation
Image Credit: Creative Commons.

There were reports last month that for all of the inconveniences associated with rising inflation, there was one surprising upside: Higher cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security recipients.

The Senior Citizens League estimated earlier this summer that benefits could jump as high as jump as high as 6.1 percent. That organization’s Social Security and Medicare analyst, Mary Johnson, even said that it would mark the highest adjustment in the 26 years she had been analyzing such data.

Now, the data has been adjusted even further.

According to CNBC, the Senior Citizens League has adjusted its estimate further upward, to 6.2 percent.

“The estimate is significant because the COLA is based on the average of the July, August and September CPI data,” Mary Johnson, a Social Security policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League, said in the organization’s announcement.  “With one third of the data needed to calculate the COLA already in, it increasingly appears that the COLA for 2022 will be the highest paid since 1983 when it was 7.4%.”

The COLA adjustment was 1.3 percent in 2021; whatever the new adjustment ends up at, the change will happen in early 2022.

The Senior Citizens League also noted that rising inflation also has a downside for seniors. That’s because “soaring inflation can still knock a hole in the household finances of retired and disabled Social Security recipients.”

In the same report, the League also published some data listing “Financial Actions Taken by Retirees During COVID-19 Pandemic March 2020 to Present.”

The largest number, at 34 percent, is “spent emergency savings,” followed by 20 percent for “made changes to retirement savings investments.” Tied for third, with 19 percent, were “drew down retirement savings more than usual” and “visited a food pantry or applied for SNAP benefits.” Next, at 12 percent, was “provided room and board, childcare or other assistance for adult children and grandchildren.”

“Retired and disabled Social Security beneficiaries spend their money differently than younger workers, spending more on healthcare and housing,” the League said. “In recent years those categories have increased more rapidly than gasoline but haven’t shown up as higher COLAs because the CPI-W is weighted less heavily for those categories.  When retirees don’t receive a COLA that keeps up with their actual costs, their Social Security benefits lose buying power during the course of a retirement.  Based on inflation through March, research by Johnson indicates that Social Security benefits have lost 30 percent of buying power since 2000.”

Congressman John Garamendi, a Democrat from California, introduced a bill earlier this year called the Fair COLA for Seniors Act, which would “create a new Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) to produce a cost of living adjustment (COLA) that would reflect the expenses seniors have more accurately than the current, flawed calculation that Social Security uses,” the Congressman said in a Facebook post earlier this year.

Garamendi had introduced similar legislation in 2017 and 2019.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

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