Close Close

Retirement Planning > Social Security > Claiming Strategies

Social Security COLA Set at 5.9% for 2022

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

What You Need to Know

  • This will be the largest cost-of-living adjustment in 40 years.

The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for Social Security benefits in 2022 will be 5.9%, the Social Security Administration announced Wednesday. That’s the biggest increase since 1982, based on Tuesday’s Consumer Price Index announcement, according to Social Security and Medicare policy analyst Mary Johnson of The Senior Citizens League.

The COLA is based on third-quarter inflation data.

“This would be the highest COLA that most beneficiaries living today have ever seen,” said Social Security and Medicare policy analyst Mary Johnson of The Senior Citizens League, in a statement, noting that inflation patterns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are “unprecedented” in her experience.

The Consumer Price Index, announced Wednesday, was up 5.4% in September versus a year ago and 0.4 % from August, the Labor Department reported Wednesday. (The CPI includes food and energy.)

Economists polled by Dow Jones had forecasted a 0.3% month-over-month increase and a 5.3% increase from a year earlier.

Key components of the increase included the energy index, which rose 1.3 % from the previous month, mainly due to the gasoline index, which rose 1.2%, and fuel oil, which rose 3.9%. The food index rose 0.9%, and new vehicle prices increased 1.3% from the previous month.

September’s core CPI, which excludes food and energy, rose by 0.2% from August and 5.4% from a year ago, according to the BLS. (In August, the core CPI was up 0.1% from July and 4.0% from a year earlier.)

“Over the past 21 years, COLAs have raised Social Security benefits by 55% but housing category costs rose nearly 118% and health care costs rose 145% over the same period,” Johnson said.

In other words: A Social Security benefit that grew to $1,262.40 per month in 2021 from $816 in 2000 should have grown to $1,671 to keep up with rising costs, according to the advocacy group.

Meanwhile, the Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund is on track to be depleted by 2033, a year earlier than estimated in 2020, with 76% of benefits payable at that time, according to the 2021 Social Security Board of Trustees’ report, released in late August.

The Disability Insurance Trust Fund, meanwhile, was projected to be able to pay scheduled benefits until 2057, eight years earlier than last year’s projection. At that time, the report states, the fund’s reserves will be depleted and continuing tax income will be able to pay 91% of scheduled benefits.

Despite the Social Security trust fund’s reserves at the end of 2020 being $2.9 trillion, having increased by $11 billion, there were a variety of factors driving the estimate, the Trustees state.

The report notes that both Social Security and Medicare will face long-term financing shortfalls under “currently scheduled benefits and financing.” Further, both will experience substantial cost growth into the 2030s due to “rapid population aging.”

The finances of both programs have been “significantly affected by the pandemic and the recession of 2020,” the report states. “Employment, earnings, interest rates, and GDP dropped substantially in the second calendar quarter of 2020 and are assumed to rise gradually thereafter toward full recovery by 2023, with level of worker productivity and thus GDP assumed to be permanently lowered by 1 percent even as they are projected to resume their pre-pandemic trajectories.”

The Trustees also noted that elevated mortality rates related to the pandemic through 2023, as well as reductions in immigration and childbearing in 2021-2022 from projected levels in the 2020 report, all affected the projections.