Social Security gave out a zero increase in 2016 and a measly 0.3 % increase in 2017 which was just enough to cover the added cost of Medicare premiums for most seniors. Essentially a zero increase in spendable cash to offset inflation. This coming year, in 2018 we’ll finally see a decent, not great, but decent increase of about 2.2%. This could help a lot of retiree’s as it’s estimated that about 25% rely on Social Security as their only source of income.
There are several major changes to the Social Security and Medicare programs that are slated to take effect a few months from now, beginning in 2018. Some consist of good news, relatively speaking. One change is not so good and will be decried by seniors who enjoy traveling to national parks.
Biggest Social Security Raise in Five Years
Coming off of a zero cost-of-living adjustment in 2016 and a miserly .3 percent COLA in 2017, the predicted raise of 2.2% for 2018 is a big deal, yet still relatively small. After all with inflation running around 2.0% a 2.2% raise doesn’t leave much room for error.
It also serves us well to remember that the inflation rate faced by the group affected by this Social Security change is in most cases higher than the quoted 2% inflation rate. This is because the senior population is faced with medical, medical insurance, deductible, co-pay and drug cost inflation that easily can top 10% or more.
Depending upon what portion that these medical expenses represent in the retiree’s budget, that 10% inflation rate applied toward those expenses could easily wipe out the benefit of a 2.2% COLA adjustment.
So, all in all, this was a modest, yet qualified piece of good news that came out of Washington, D.C. when the Social Security and Medicare trustees projected that Social Security recipients would receive a 2.2 percent cost-of-living adjustment in 2018.
It would be the largest increase since 2012, when the COLA rose 3.6 percent. Social Security recipients received no cost-of-living adjustment in 2016 and just 0.3 percent in 2017.
Average Social Security Benefit Impact
According to the Social Security Administration, the average retired worker brought home $1,368.67 a month in June 2017. Therefore, a 2.2% COLA would translate into an extra $361.33 a year in 2018, or $30.11 a month.
Social Security provides vital income protection to workers and their families. Benefits are indexed annually for inflation When the SSA determines, as they did in 2016 that inflation is 0%, then no COLA will be applied to the following year’s benefit.
Unlike savings accounts, which can be run down, Social Security benefits last a lifetime. Because of this aspect, many investors have come to view their S.S. benefit akin to an annuity, or guaranteed bond component, even better than a fixed income investment because it is inflation-adjusted.
Social Security incorporates a progressive benefit formula that ensures that those with low lifetime earnings receive proportionately larger benefits. Social Security plays a crucial role in reducing poverty among older people. Without Social Security, 41 percent of all older Americans would be in poverty. Because of this large role that Social Security plays in our economy, only 8.8 percent were below the poverty line in 2015.
Relative Importance Of The Social Security Backstop
Social Security is the main source of retirement income for most Americans. Approximately half of people age 65 and older depend on Social Security for more than half of their retirement income. About one-quarter rely on Social Security for all or nearly all of their income. As a reflection of how important this program is, among poor households headed by someone of retirement age, Social Security is virtually the only source of retirement income.