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Social Security checks get big boost as inflation rises

Social Security recipients will receive the largest cost-of-living increase since 1982, but is it enough for seniors to make ends meet?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Social Security recipients are set to receive their biggest pay increase in nearly 40 years with the cost-of-living adjustment coming in 2022

Millions of people in the U.S. will see a bump to their checks in January but is it enough for seniors to make ends meet? Let's connect the dots

How much is Social Security going up?

The Social Security Administration says next year's cost-of-living adjustment will be 5.9%. That comes out to an average of an extra $92 per person on the monthly checks. It's the steepest annual adjustment to Social Security since 1982

With the increase, the estimated average Social Security payment for a retired worker will be $1,657 a month next year. A typical couple’s benefits would rise by $154 to $2,753 per month.

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Years of small adjustments

The 5.9% increase comes after years of very small adjustments. For example, in 2021, most people's checks only went up about $20. The Senior Citizens League, an advocacy group for retired people, says Social Security benefits have increased just 55% over the past 20 years. 

That's in comparison to health care and housing costs, which have gone up over 100% in that same time. 

"It's going to be welcome," said analyst Mary Johnson of the nonpartisan Senior Citizens League advocacy group. “But what we are hearing is that even with the COLA, buying power will still be eroded because price increases are still going up.”

Pandemic inflation

We're seeing widespread inflation because of the pandemic. Everything from gas to groceries and other essentials cost more right now. Many industry experts say the global supply chain issues aren't going away anytime soon, so prices will remain high for at least a few more months. 

“It goes pretty quickly,” retiree Cliff Rumsey said of the cost-of-living increases he's seen. After a career in sales for a leading steel manufacturer, Rumsey lives near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. He cares at home for his wife of nearly 60 years, Judy, who has advanced Alzheimer's disease. Since the coronavirus pandemic, Rumsey said he has noted price increases for food, wages paid to caregivers who occasionally spell him and personal care products for Judy, not to mention energy costs.

Seniors on fixed income

Those few extra dollars here and there can add up big time for people on a fixed income. For most seniors, Social Security checks make up at least half of their income, and 1 out of 4 say it's their only source of income each month.

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