social security

The Incredible Shrinking 2% Social Security COLA

Monthly benefits will increase, on average, $27 in 2018. Or will they?

Drumroll please. The Social Security Administration today announced that 61 million beneficiaries will receive a 2% cost of living adjustment (COLA) starting with benefits paid in January 2018. That's music to the ears of seniors who got a skimpy 0.3% hike at the beginning of this year, after being stiffed with no COLA at all in 2016. Next year's 2% hike, which is based on inflation as measured by the consumer price index, is the largest since a 3.6% increase in 2011.

Social Security says the average benefit will rise by $27 a month.

But don't start feeling like the drum major at the head of a parade just yet. Come January, you'll more likely feel like the guy sweeping up at the end.

There's a good chance that most, if not all, of the increase will be spirited away to cover higher Medicare premiums before it ever makes its way into the automatic deposit into your bank account. Part of the blame goes to a rule that's actually designed to help beneficiaries, and successfully has been doing just that for the past few years.

The "hold harmless" provision prevents Medicare Part B premiums, which in most cases are deducted from Social Security benefits, from rising by more dollars than benefits do. So, when COLAs are small or nonexistent, premiums can't rise as fast as they should to keep pace with rising medical costs. The provision covers most beneficiaries, except first-time enrollees, those who don't have premiums deducted from benefits (because they haven't begun receiving benefits) and those subject to high-income premium surcharges.

Most Popular

Refunds for $10,200 Unemployment Tax Break to Begin This Month
Coronavirus and Your Money

Refunds for $10,200 Unemployment Tax Break to Begin This Month

The IRS will start issuing automatic refunds sometime in May to people eligible for the unemployment benefit tax exemption.
May 1, 2021
The Benefits of Working Longer
Empty Nesters

The Benefits of Working Longer

Delaying retirement for a couple of years—or even a few months—is the most effective way to improve your retirement security.
April 29, 2021
10 Dividend Growth Stocks You Can Count On
dividend stocks

10 Dividend Growth Stocks You Can Count On

What should investors prioritize in dividend growth stocks? A history of aggressive payout expansion, and the ability to generate enough cash to keep …
May 3, 2021

Recommended

14 Social Security Tasks You Can Do Online
retirement

14 Social Security Tasks You Can Do Online

Why visit a government office to get your Social Security business done? You can do much of that online.
April 2, 2021
How to Estimate Your Social Security Benefits
social security

How to Estimate Your Social Security Benefits

There are a few tools you can use to calculate your Social Security benefits, including signing up for a my Social Security account.
April 23, 2021
Social Security Earnings Tests: 5 Things You Must Know
social security

Social Security Earnings Tests: 5 Things You Must Know

If you’re still working and claim Social Security early, your benefits could be reduced, at least temporarily.
April 14, 2021
Social Security Recipients Are Finally Getting Their Third Stimulus Check
Coronavirus and Your Money

Social Security Recipients Are Finally Getting Their Third Stimulus Check

The IRS is finally sending third stimulus check payments for Social Security and other federal beneficiaries who didn't file a 2019 or 2020 tax return…
April 13, 2021