Social Security COLA Set to Rise in 2023

Consumer prices have spiked this year, meaning a higher Social Security cost-of-living adjustment for 2023.

Photo of $100 bills and a Social Security card
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Social Security benefits will increase by 8.7% in 2023 in response to high inflation, according to the federal government. That will be the largest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) since 1981. That is also higher than the COLA for 2022, which was already high at 5.9%.

According to Social Security, benefits will increase on average by more than $140 per month starting with payments being sent on Dec. 30. The estimated average monthly Social Security benefit payable in January 2023 will increase from $1,657 in 2022 to $1,801 for an individual. The average monthly benefit for a couple who are both receiving benefits will rise $240, from $2,753 to $2,993. And the maximum Social Security benefit for a worker retiring at full retirement age will increase from $3,345 per month to $3,636, an additional $291.

Also, more of workers’ income will be subject to Social Security taxes in 2023. There will be an added $291 Social Security tax applied to the first $160,200 of earnings, up  $13,200 from $147,000 in 2022.

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And based on the increase in average wages, the earnings limit for workers who are younger than full retirement age (67 for people born after 1960) will increase to $21,240. The earnings limit for people reaching full retirement age in 2023 will increase to $56,520.

COLAs are calculated using the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (similar to, but not exactly the same as, the urban dwellers’ consumer price index used in inflation reporting). If prices don’t increase (and even fall) the COLA is zero. That happened in 2010 and 2011 as the economy struggled to recover from the recession, and again in 2016 when plummeting oil prices swept away any chance of a COLA for that year.

How Is the Social Security COLA Calculated?

Any COLA adjustment is driven by changes in the wage earners’ consumer price index. National average prices are used, rather than regional. SSA also calculates the percent change between average prices in the third quarter of the current year with the third quarter of the previous year. The reason the fourth quarter isn’t used is because that number is typically not available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics until mid-January, and the SSA has to make its adjustment on January 1.

Social Security COLAs from 2009-2022

  • 2022: 5.9%
  • 2021: 1.3%
  • 2020: 1.6%
  • 2019: 2.8%
  • 2018: 2.0%
  • 2017: 0.3%
  • 2016: 0%
  • 2015: 1.7%
  • 2014: 1.5%
  • 2013: 1.7%
  • 2012: 3.6%
  • 2011: 0%
  • 2010: 0%
  • 2009: 5.8%
David Payne
Staff Economist, The Kiplinger Letter

David is both staff economist and reporter for The Kiplinger Letter, overseeing Kiplinger forecasts for the U.S. and world economies. Previously, he was senior principal economist in the Center for Forecasting and Modeling at IHS/GlobalInsight, and an economist in the Chief Economist's Office of the U.S. Department of Commerce. David has co-written weekly reports on economic conditions since 1992, and has forecasted GDP and its components since 1995, beating the Blue Chip Indicators forecasts two-thirds of the time. David is a Certified Business Economist as recognized by the National Association for Business Economics. He has two master's degrees and is ABD in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.