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Thanks, COLA: $2,574 Is the Average 2022 Social Security Check Per Couple

Social Security COLA Increase
Image: Creative Commons.

There’s a pretty good chance that millions of Social Security recipients were jumping for joy when the Social Security Administration (SSA) confirmed in October that there will be a 5.9 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2022.

That sizeable bump—the largest boost to the benefits seen in four decades—is expected to give beneficiaries bigger monthly checks. Just how much? According to the SSA, the new COLA will raise retirees’ monthly payments by about $90 to an estimated average of $1,657, and a typical couple’s benefits will climb by roughly $150 to $2,754 per month.

However, some experts are continuing to assert that these monthly check amounts are far from being enough to have a comfortable retirement.

“While it’s good news that the average benefit is going up next year, the stark reality is that it’s still not nearly enough to live on. A retiree who receives the average benefit would have an annual income of just $19,884. That isn’t enough to cover life’s basic necessities in most parts of the country,” contends the Motley Fool’s personal finance expert Christy Bieber.

“This may be shocking, but it’s actually by design that the average benefit can’t come close to paying for all that a retiree needs. Social Security is supposed to be one of several support sources. It’s meant to replace 40 percent of pre-retirement income, with the rest of the funds a retiree requires coming from these other sources,” she adds.

COLA and a Loss of Purchasing Power

Meanwhile, the Senior Citizens League has pointed out that millions of retirees have been faced with COLAs that were too low for decades (average of 1.4 percent over the past twelve years)—which have only led to a massive loss of purchasing power.

“Over the past twenty-one years, COLAs have raised Social Security benefits by 55 percent but housing costs rose nearly 118 percent and health care costs rose 145 percent over the same period,” Mary Johnson, the Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for the Senior Citizens League, noted in a statement.

“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 continued.

Build Up Savings

Against this concerning backdrop, Bieber advises that individuals should focus on building up their savings accounts early on in their working careers.

“Unfortunately, no matter what steps you take to raise your Social Security benefit above the average, it’s never going to be enough for you to live comfortably on. You’ll need to have money from savings to continue enjoying the same quality of life you did while in the working world,” she writes.

“Investing throughout your career in a tax-advantaged retirement plan can ensure Social Security plays the role it was meant to, acting as one of several income sources you rely on once paychecks stop coming for good,” she concludes.

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.

Written By

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.

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