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Social Security in 2021: States With the Biggest, Smallest Checks

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Despite an effort in Congress to push forward an emergency bill raising the cost of living adjustment for Social Security for 2021, the announced Cost of Living Adjustment of 1.3% still currently stands.

Why does this matter? A substantial number of retirees — 40% — rely solely on Social Security to live. That figure is according to a National Institute on Retirement Security report released in the halcyon days of January 2020, when COVID-19 was just a blip on most Americans’ radar.

Things could arguably be worse now.

In an odd sort of twist, the COLA for Social Security — for people who no longer work, don’t commute, and no longer have a steady paycheck — is calculated based on what people who are working pay for certain things.

By law it is calculated using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. But some point out that this index of costs faced by workers doesn’t accurately reflect the costs of things that retirees  typically purchase.

That’s why some say that the COLA should be calculated using an elderly-specific price index such as the Experimental Consumer Price Index for Americans 62 Years of Age and Older, aka the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).

But for 2021, the calculation using the wage earners’ index stands. So what might the COLA increase of 1.3% look like? MSN calculated the average monthly and annual Social Security benefits for 2021 for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia (see the MSN site for the complete states and their figures).

Related: What do you know about Social Security? Take our quiz and confirm your greatness

The gallery above shows the 5 states that can expect the smallest average Social Security benefits checks in 2021 and the 5 states that can expect the biggest checks.

The word “biggest” is relative, of course. It’s not exactly the best way to describe a monthly dollar amount that in many, if not most, states doesn’t keep a senior citizen adequately housed, fed, secure, and healthy.

Maybe someday, “biggest” will accurately describe the amounts seniors receive in Social Security benefits. Who knows?