That sizeable bump—the largest boost to the benefits in four decades—is expected to raise retirees’ monthly payments by about $90 to an estimated average of $1,657, and a typical couple’s benefits will climb by approximately $150 to $2,754 per month.
“This would be the highest COLA that most beneficiaries living today have ever seen,” Mary Johnson, the Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for the Senior Citizens League, noted in a statement.
Birth Dates Key
So, when can American seniors actually see these increases in their monthly checks beginning next year? According to Medicare.org, “Social Security benefits are not prorated. They start the month following the birthday. The schedule, according to AARP, follows this rule: When the birth date falls between the first and tenth of the month, the payment is issued on the second Wednesday of the month following the birthday month.”
It continues: “For birth dates between the eleventh and twentieth of the month, expect to be paid on the third Wednesday after the birthday month. For birth dates from the twenty-first through the last date of the month, recipients will have to wait until the fourth Wednesday of the month that follows the birthday.”
Loss of Purchasing Power
However, despite the much-needed bigger checks, there are experts out there who still claim that retirees will likely continue to struggle amid the ongoing high-inflationary environment. According to the Senior Citizens League, millions of seniors have had to deal with COLAs that were too low for decades—which has only led to a massive loss of purchasing power.
“Over the past 21 years, COLAs have raised Social Security benefits by 55 percent but housing costs rose nearly 118 percent and healthcare costs rose 145 percent over the same period,” Johnson says.
“COLAs are intended to protect the buying power of Social Security benefits but, according to consumer price data through July of 2021, Social Security benefits have lost nearly one-third of their buying power, 32 percent, since 2000, about the length of a typical retirement. Even worse, it appears that inflation is not done with us yet, and the buying power of Social Security benefits may continue to erode into 2022,” she continues.
The financial site The Motley Fool added that “retirees should take the Senior Citizens League’s warning to heart and not assume their high COLA will actually allow them to maintain the same spending habits without any lifestyle changes. Living on a budget to carefully manage spending during these times of high inflation will be crucial to protecting financial security in their later years.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.