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Social Security Benefits on the Rise

 

October’s release of inflation data from the Bureau of labor Statistics (BLS) was the last piece of the puzzle needed to determine the 2019 Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). For this reason, October is always an incredibly pivotal month for Social Security beneficiaries. Social Security benefits account for at least half of the monthly income for 62% of retired workers.

Over 62 million people currently receiving a monthly benefit check will get a “raise” (Social Security COLA) in January that will average 2.8%.

What will this “raise” look like for the average Social Security recipient?

2.8% is the highest raise beneficiaries will receive since 2012. “Notably, higher energy prices (e.g., gasoline and fuel oil), along with shelter inflation, were most responsible for pushing COLA higher.”

These are only estimated averages from the SSA; these numbers could change by the time January rolls around:

  • Retired workers: Before receiving a 2.8% COLA, the average retired worker is expected to bring home $1,422 a month. But after their “raise,” the average retiree should be netting $1,461 a month, or an extra $468 per year.
  • Aged couple, both receiving benefits: At the moment, the average aged couple where both retirees are receiving benefits brings home $2,381 a month. After a 2.8% COLA, this figure is expected to increase to $2,448 monthly. That’s $804 extra a year for the average aged couple as of January 2019.
  • Disabled workers: We often forget that while Social Security is geared to protect seniors during retirement, it also provides benefits to around 10 million disabled workers and their families. With the average disabled worker taking home $1,200 a month, the 2.8% COLA will add $34 monthly, or $408 annually, to boost this payout to $1,234 per month.
  • Aged widow(er), alone: Similarly, we forget that nearly 6 million people, most of them aged beneficiaries, may also receive survivor benefits once their spouse passes away. For seniors whose partner has passed, the average Social Security benefit is expected to increase by $38 monthly ($456 annually) to $1,386 after the 2.8% COLA. (The Motley Fool)

Although it appears that average benefits seem to be rising by a decent amount in 2019, it’s important to remember, these are ONLY averages. Your unique case may be totally different.

A good example is those who were protected by the 2016 and 2017 hold harmless provision, designed to keep Medicare costs down for recipients who have their Part B premiums deducted from their monthly Social Security checks. This provision protects against rapid increases in Medicare premiums, by making sure the Part B premium percentage never rises at a faster rate than Social Security’s COLA. This keeps benefits from falling year after year for about 70% of Part B enrollees.

Although Medicare Part B premiums remained the same in 2017 and 2018, this 70% of recipients still had added Part B costs in 2018, being forced to play catch-up for previous years. In other words, some or all of their 2% COLA in 2018 went toward their Medicare Part B premiums.

The other 30% of beneficiaries were: new recipients, those who have chosen to be directly billed for Medicare, and those who are holding off on claiming Social Security until a later age. They didn’t see any added Part B costs for 2018.

Your claiming age can also have a huge impact on your monthly payout. “…your payout grows by 8% for each year you hold off taking it, beginning at age 62 and ending at age 70.” But, waiting isn’t always the best option. Other factors that “will certainly play a role in your claiming decision” are your health, marital status, and financial well-being.

“Long story short, Social Security’s 2.8% COLA is going to be a positive for more beneficiaries next year than the 2% COLA was in 2018. But the true impact will vary based on the unique situations of each beneficiary.”

The Law Offices of David L. Hood: Representing Social Security Disability Applicants in South Carolina

At the Law Offices of David L. Hood, we fight for the rights of the disabled. If you are considering a Social Security disability application or appeal, schedule a free consultation with us today at no risk to you. We handle all SSD cases on a contingent fee basis, which means you won’t pay attorney’s fees unless we help you receive benefits.* You can easily contact us by filling out our quick and easy online contact form or by calling (843) 491-6025.

*Clients are not liable for any expenses, unless there is a recovery in their case; however, if there is a recovery in their case, clients will be liable for expenses. Attorney’s fees are based on a percentage of the recovery, which will be computed before deducting expenses

Other online resources used for this article:

The Motley Fool, https://www.fool.com/retirement/2018/06/03/hold-harmless-has-come-back-to-haunt-many-social-s.aspx

The Motley Fool, https://www.fool.com/retirement/2017/10/21/social-securitys-2018-raise-may-not-reach-up-to-70.aspx

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