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Book cover reading "cost of living adjustments"


Our COLA Gets Supersized…Sort Of

Aaron Levitt Nov 23, 2017

October is the scariest month of the year. And no, we aren’t talking about the army of ghouls and goblins ringing your doorbell looking for candy. We’re talking about Social Security. More specifically, the announcement of the program’s cost-of-living adjustments.

The reason for the shrieks of terror continues to stem from the program’s miniscule increases in benefits. Thanks to a low inflation index used to calculate the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), payouts haven’t budged in what seems like years. This is in spite of the fact that food, clothing, energy, insurance and healthcare have actually gone up.

For retirees on the program, this has been a horror show of dwindling living standards. But they might just get a bone this year. Our COLAs are getting supersized. That is, before one large caveat is taken into consideration.

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Biggest Jump in Years

When you’re working – at least at a salaried job – you tend to get raises that, at a minimum, keep up with inflation. For those collecting Social Security, the COLA is designed to help the elderly and the poor keep up with the rising standard of living. The increase is determined in October and is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). That’s calculated a little differently than the bread-and-butter CPI we’re all used to. And it turns out that’s been a bum deal for retirees.

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