Advocacy / Social Security / Your Social Security Advisor

2021 COLA Announced — Good News/Bad News

COLAThe good news is Social Security recipients will get an increase in benefits starting in January 2021.  The bad news is it will not be much.  The Social Security Administration just announced a 1.3% bump, as they do each October for the following year.  Still, it is important to qualify a few things as to what a cost of living adjustment (COLA) is and what it is not.  It isn’t a “raise” in the true sense of the word, at least as we generally think of one.  COLAs are meant solely to keep one’s buying power from decreasing over time.  You don’t really “get ahead” or “win.”  You merely keep from falling further behind.  Seniors often hope for a something like a 5% COLA, but keep in mind a 5% COLA would mean prices would be increasing at the pretty fast clip of 5%.  You are no better off with a 5% “raise” when inflation is the same.  You just keep pace.  In that context, a 1.3% COLA simply means prices have been fairly flat, and indeed they have been for the past year.

The counter argument is always that seniors have unique purchases like health care, insurance, and prescriptions that often outpace regular inflation.  There is truth to that, though much progress has been made with competition for both drugs and Medicare Advantage plans for those 65 and over.  Some plans have seen a decrease in premiums year over year.  Finally, in the context of the pandemic, a 1.3% COLA should be very welcome news.  Millions of Americans have had their pay cut and/or hours trimmed back.  Millions more have lost their jobs altogether, and unemployment benefits typically pay, at most, just half of one’s lost salary.  In many states it is far less.  Social Security benefits can NEVER go down.  They can only stay the same or rise over time.  That is perhaps the silver lining and/or the best way to view the anticipated 1.3% increase for the over 64 million collecting benefits starting January 1, 2021.

AMAC believes Social Security must be preserved and modernized.  This can be achieved by making modest changes in cost of living adjustments and the retirement age, with no additional taxes on workers.  AMAC advocates for a bipartisan compromise, “The Social Security Guarantee Act,” taking selected portions of bills introduced by former Rep. Johnson (R-TX) and current Rep. Larson (D-CT) and merging them with the Association’s own well researched ideas.  One component is Social Security PLUS, a new, voluntary plan that would allow all earners to have more income available at retirement.  This component is intended to appeal especially to younger workers.  AMAC is resolute in its mission that Social Security be preserved and modernized and has gotten the attention of lawmakers in DC, meeting with a great many congressional offices and their staffs over the past several years.  Read AMAC’s plan here.

Jeff Szymanski works in political communications for the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC), a senior benefits organization with nearly 2.3 million members.  He writes often about budget issues and on Social Security.

Reprinted with Permission from - Social Security Report

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Linda
1 month ago

My biggest concern about Social Security is… have they been using that fund for all the legal rigamaroll they have put President Trump through this last year? And if so, they should refund it from their personal democrat salaries!

Mary Lou
1 month ago

What I don’t understand is that in my state of Michigan, the most a unemployed person can receive is $362 per week on top of the $400-$600 extra due to COVID. If seniors are expected to live off what they get monthly ($48 less than the the total of $362 per week, in my case), why do the unemployed workers need to get the extra $400-$600 weekly? What I’m trying to say is that if seniors are expected to live of what they currently have (with no COVID extras),then why can’t the unemployed person live off the current amount of… Read more »

C Collins
1 month ago

Contrary to this article, my social security check went down. Part B cost changes which affects net and some kind of income adjustment I don’t understand also contributed to my SS ck being >$44 less. Regardless of why, it’s less.

Kim
1 month ago

Even though the COLA is small, this is preferable to higher cost increases across the board.

But that didn’t prevent my prescription premium from almost doubling for 2021! I will ask my insurance agent to look around for a new package during the next ~two months, when we can change the policy. Although I’m not paying too much for Part D Rx coverage, I thought drug prices have come down. (I take 2 inexpensive generics.)

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