Making Your Money Last

Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2021: 1.3%

For the average recipient, the monthly increase won't even cover a fill-up at the gas station — but it beats nothing.

The Social Security Administration announced that benefits will increase by 1.3% in 2021. That is the smallest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) since 2017 — but consider that, earlier this year, thanks to pandemic-induced price gyrations — retirees were looking at the prospect of no 2021 increase at all.

The estimated average monthly Social Security benefit payable in January 2021 will increase from $1,523 in 2020 to $1,543 — that’s one Andrew Jackson. The average monthly benefit for a couple who are both receiving benefits will rise $33, from $2,563 to $2,596. And the maximum Social Security benefit for a worker retiring at full retirement age will increase from $3,011 per month to $3,148, an additional $137.

Also, more of workers’ income will be subject to the Social Security tax in 2021. The Social Security tax will apply to the first $142,800 of earnings, up $5,100 from $137,700 in 2020.

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). Any adjustment is based on the percentage increase for average prices for the third quarters of the preceding and current years. 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 Great Recession, and again in 2016, when plummeting oil prices swept away any chance of a COLA for that year.

Most Popular

12 Costs of Owning a Cat
how to save money

12 Costs of Owning a Cat

Housecats may be known for their aloofness and low-maintenance attitude, but they're not cheap. Here's what you can expect to spend if you plan on ado…
October 16, 2020
How to Pick the Right Medicare Plans for You
Healthy Living on a Budget

How to Pick the Right Medicare Plans for You

As you're signing up for Medicare, you must learn the basics of Medicare Part A, Part B, Part D, medigap plans, Medicare Advantage plans and even doug…
September 30, 2020
Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans
taxes

Election 2020: Joe Biden's Tax Plans

With the economy in trouble, tax policy takes on added importance in the 2020 presidential election. So, let's take a look at what Joe Biden has said …
October 15, 2020

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.
June 26, 2020
Managing Your Money in an Uncertain World
retirement planning

Managing Your Money in an Uncertain World

As you return to work after being away due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some financial basics you need to make sure you have covered.
October 19, 2020
Don’t Let Low-Interest-Rate Fatigue Push You into Taking Too Much Risk
retirement planning

Don’t Let Low-Interest-Rate Fatigue Push You into Taking Too Much Risk

Investors searching for safe short-term places to park their money that offer decent returns have been coming up empty for quite a while. Instead of s…
October 19, 2020
Considering Early Retirement? 5 Things to Know
Making Your Money Last

Considering Early Retirement? 5 Things to Know

Before you accept a buyout, do the math to see if you really can afford to retire. (We'll show you how.) Then follow up with these tried-and-true stra…
October 15, 2020