With inflation running low, a group that advocates for 1.2 million retired veterans and other seniors says older Americans should expect another year of bad news when it comes to Social Security cost-of-living adjustments.
The Senior Citizens League “is concerned,” according to Chairman Ed Cates. “There appears to be a high risk of either an extremely low annual cost–of–living adjustment (COLA) next year, or worse — none at all.”
COLAs are based on changes in the third-quarter Consumer Price Index for urban consumers and go into effect each January. The CPI-U rose just 0.4% in April from a year earlier. The League argues that the CPI-U doesn’t accurately capture the rising prices of goods and services valuable to seniors, like health care, leaving retirees falling behind.
Since 2000, Social Security benefits have risen 43%, accounting for COLAs and compounding, but typical senior expenses have jumped 75.3%, according to the group.
“Going without any COLA in 2016 has long-term consequences for retirees when real costs continue to climb,” Cates explained in a statement. “People must spend down retirement savings more quickly than expected, and those without savings are either going into debt, or going without.”
Older Americans and disabled Social Security recipients had no COLA last year. However, the group’s research finds that “lower inflation didn’t translate into lower household expenses,” it says.
In the group’s 2016 Survey of Senior Costs, 72% of respondents said their monthly expenses rose by more than $79.
“With today’s Social Security benefit averaging $1,230 per month, that’s an unsustainable level when there’s no benefit increase to match,” Cates explained.