Retirees Struggle with New Social Security COLA Forecast at Just 2.6% for 2025 Amid Rising Inflation

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As we await the official Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) numbers, the Senior Citizens League (TSCL) has revised its long-term Social Security COLA forecast for 2025 to 2.6%. While this is an increase from the February 2024 forecast of 1.7%, it might not be enough for seniors struggling to keep up with inflation.

How Much Could The Average Retirement Benefit Increase?

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The increase in your benefits due to the COLA depends on your current Social Security benefits. Here’s a breakdown of the average retirement benefits for seniors aged 62, 67, and 70, showing how a 2.6% raise would impact their monthly payments next year:

Age 62:
– Current Average Retirement Benefit: $1,298.26
– Retirement Benefit After 2.6% COLA in 2025: $1,332.01
– Change in Monthly Social Security Benefit: $33.75

Age 67
– Current Average Retirement Benefit: $1,563.06
– Retirement Benefit After 2.6% COLA in 2025: $1,603.70
– Change in Monthly Social Security Benefit: $40.64

Age 70
– Current Average Retirement Benefit: $2,037.54
– Retirement Benefit After 2.6% COLA in 2025: $2,090.52
– Change in Monthly Social Security Benefit: $52.98

Don’t Forget Medicare Increase

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The estimates for the benefits increase are not entirely precise because the COLA is not applied directly to your current benefit. Instead, it is calculated based on your primary insurance amount (PIA), which represents the benefit you would have received if you had started claiming at your full retirement age. This updated PIA is then adjusted based on whether you earned delayed retirement credits or incurred penalties for early filing.

If you pay Medicare premiums directly from your Social Security, like most retirees, part of your raise may be offset if premiums go up.

These factors mean your actual benefit increase may vary, even if you currently receive the average Social Security benefit for your age group. Nonetheless, these estimates offer a reasonable projection of how much money the average retiree may receive once the COLA is applied next year, as long as there is no significant deviation from the expected CPI-W.

 

Calculation of COLA Estimates

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The Social Security Administration determines its COLA annually based on the average yearly increases in the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers from July through September.

This index closely mirrors the overall index released monthly by the Labor Department, with minor variations.

The COLA is calculated by comparing the percentage change in average prices between the third quarter of the current year and the third quarter of the previous year.

Usage of CPI-W Metric For COLA Calculation

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CPI-W stands for Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. COLA is based on CPI-W.

While the full-year CPI-W rose by 3.8% last year, the third-quarter CPI-W only climbed by 3.2%. As a result, Social Security benefits lagged behind inflation and saw a loss in purchasing power. This trend will persist if CPI-W inflation exceeds 3.2%.

Decrease In COLA Compared To Prior Years

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The latest estimate is grounded in the March 2024 CPI-W, which stood at 3.5%, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Last year’s Social Security COLA was 8.7%, while this year’s adjustment is 3.2%. The 2024 COLA adjustments as a result of 3.2% increase in their Social Security payments boosted the average retiree benefit by $59 per month.

As retirees grapple with inflation, the forecasted 2.6% COLA for 2025 represents a potential setback.

Is CPI-W The Right Metric For Retirees?

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Many experts argue that the CPI-W—which tracks everyday spending on items like food, housing, and consumer goods for workers—doesn’t accurately capture inflation’s impact on retirees. They suggest that Social Security COLAs should be based on the Consumer Price Index for Americans aged 62 and older (CPI-E), as this index more precisely reflects the costs faced by older adults.

How Would CPI-E Change COLA Calculations?

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Some economists, however, contend that the CPI-E may not always be the best measure for older Americans and might not necessarily lead to a higher COLA.

Nonetheless, if this proposed change to Social Security proves to be a more accurate reflection of the costs seniors face, the 2025 COLA forecast of just 2.6% becomes even more concerning. Throughout this year, the CPI-E has risen faster than the CPI-W each month.

In the first quarter of 2024, the CPI-E rose by 3.6%, while the CPI-W went up by just 3.2%. Last year, the full-year CPI-E climbed 4.6%. As CPI-E inflation continues to exceed CPI-W inflation, Social Security benefits may lose even more purchasing power in the coming year.

Rising Costs Hit Seniors Hardest As Shelter, Hospital Services, and More Surge

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Once again, the expenses seniors spend the most on have seen some of the steepest increases.

Shelter costs climbed 5.7% year-over-year, while hospital services saw a 7.5% spike, the highest increase since October 2010, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Transportation services soared by 10.7%, and electricity prices rose 5.0%.

COLA is designed to assist Social Security recipients in keeping up with inflation and maintaining their standard of living, but in practice, it hasn’t been effective.

Poverty among Americans aged 65 and older has risen to 14.1% in 2022 from 10.7% in 2021, marking the largest increase among all age groups, according to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Daily Necessities Rising Faster Than COLA

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The Senior Citizens League 2024 Senior Survey indicates

– 43% retirees experienced a rise in household expenses exceeding $185 per month in 2023.
– 71% reported household costs increasing by more than 3.2% in 2023, the percentage used to set the COLA.
– 53% have used up their emergency savings.
– 61% reported food as their most significantly increased expense.

Taxes Take a Bite From Social Security Checks

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As retirees file their taxes this year, many seniors are likely realizing they owe taxes on their Social Security benefits.

The 5.9% COLA increase in 2021, the 8.7% bump in 2023, and the 3.2% rise this year have all raised retirees’ incomes. The amount of Social Security subject to taxation depends on total income, and some states may also tax these benefits.

Since income thresholds for taxing Social Security benefits have never been adjusted for inflation since the tax was introduced in 1984, more older taxpayers have become liable for the tax over time.

Additionally, as retirement income grows, the portion of benefits subject to taxation can also increase.

Retirees Found 2024 COLA Increases Low

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A survey by Atticus reveled financial distress due to the smaller than expected 2024 COLA increase.

– 62% of surveyed seniors are unhappy with the 3.2% COLA for 2024, with nearly identical dissatisfaction levels among men (63%) and women (62%).

– Almost 60% of seniors are already facing financial hardship with their current Social Security benefits.

– 70% of single seniors are struggling financially with their current Social Security income.

– Nearly 40% of seniors intend to find work due to the modest COLA increase, with 47% of single seniors considering employment to boost their income.

– Men are 23% more likely than women to pursue full-time employment in response to the COLA increase.

More than 20% retirees have gone back to work.

Social Security Solvency

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COLA not keeping pace with expenses is part of a larger issue where the solvency of Social Security and Medicare is projected only till 2035 and 2036.

If no changes are made to the programs before these dates, benefits will need to be cut as per the Social Security Administration Trustees’ Report.

While the 2025 COLA may offer a slight increase in benefits, it’s prudent not to depend too heavily on Social Security if alternatives are available. If benefits continue to erode in purchasing power, your checks may not stretch as far in future years, despite yearly adjustments.

Not everyone has the option of multiple income streams. For those relying solely on benefits, the COLA remains a crucial annual support. However, if you’re able to save additional funds or secure an extra income source, you might find it more manageable to lessen your reliance on Social Security.

How Can You Supplement Your Social Security?

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Americans have few choices in their golden years. They can either sacrifice their quality of retirement life or continue to work longer. Younger Americans must start saving and investing aggressively, assuming the current dire projections worsen as they retire.

While financial experts suggest setting aside 10% to 15% of your yearly income, initiating your savings journey with a modest amount and progressively increasing it is a viable approach, particularly if you carry outstanding debts from credit cards, healthcare expenses, or student loans. Use a free tool like Personal Capital from Empower to automatically create a budget based on your current spending.

Prioritizing your employer-matched 401(k) contributions is crucial, as it essentially translates to free money. Many employers extend matching contributions, typically ranging from 2% to 4% of an employee’s annual salary which can be invested in stocks.

Once you’ve maximized your 401(k) employer match, exploring additional avenues like an individual retirement account (IRA) becomes a consideration. An IRA, separate from your employer, offers options such as the traditional retirement account and Roth IRA, both popular choices for long-term savings.

Besides stocks, one can also invest in real estate. If you do not want to be a landlord dealing with tenants and toilets, crowdfunded real estate platforms offer options to invest with General Partners managing the deals.

Looking Ahead and Preparing for the 2025 Social Security COLA and Beyond

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As we anticipate the official Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) announcement in a few months, it’s clear that even with the projected increase to 2.6% for 2025, seniors may continue to face financial hardships due to inflation rates that outpace COLA adjustments. This underscores the importance of either having a diversified approach to retirement planning or advocating for policy reforms that better address the economic realities of aging populations.

For those who can, diversifying income sources and saving strategically remains crucial. Initiatives like increasing savings rates, investing in retirement accounts, and exploring other investment opportunities should be considered sooner rather than later. These steps are vital not only for current retirees but also for younger generations who may face similar, if not more severe, challenges upon reaching retirement age.

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Maximize Your Benefits: Essential Social Security Strategies for Singles

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While singles may have fewer Social Security filing options than married couples, smart planning around when to claim benefits can pay off for anyone, including those flying solo.

Maximize Your Benefits: Essential Social Security Strategies for Singles

 

Top 10 Global Hotspots with the Fastest-Growing Millionaire Populations Revealed, Only 3 U.S. Cities Make the Cut

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Henley and Partners have identified and ranked the global cities with the highest concentration and fastest growth of millionaires, centi-millionaires, and billionaires for 2023. Below is a list of the top 10 cities.

Top 10 Global Hotspots with the Fastest-Growing Millionaire Populations Revealed, Only 3 U.S. Cities Make the Cut

The 10 States Taxing Social Security in 2024 and the 2 That Just Stopped

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As 2023 tax filing season draws to a close, retirees across the nation are adjusting their financial plans for 2024, but a crucial detail could drastically alter the landscape of retirement living: the taxing of Social Security benefits. While many bask in the belief that their golden years will be tax-friendly, residents in specific states are facing a reality check as their Social Security benefits come under the taxman’s purview. Conversely, a wave of relief is set to wash over two states, marking an end to their era of taxing these benefits. This shift paints a complex portrait of retirement planning across the U.S., underscoring the importance of staying informed of the ever changing tax laws. Are you residing in one of these states? It’s time to uncover the impact of these tax changes on your retirement strategy and possibly reconsider your locale choice for those serene post-work years. Here are the 9 states taxing social security benefits.

The States Taxing Social Security in 2024 and the 2 That Just Stopped

Shift From Employee to Investor Mindset with the Cashflow Quadrant Methodology by Robert Kiyosaki

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Countless systems have been established that provide a much better understanding of what income generation is, how it can be used, and how individuals can organize their financial life as they work towards financial freedom. One of the more successful and better-known examples of financial education is the Cashflow Quadrant, the book by Robert Kiyosaki. Rich Dad’s Cashflow Quadrant was revolutionary for the way it organized money and helped people better learn how to increase their income. As the name implies, there are four quadrants within the Cashflow Quadrant. By mastering each of the four categories – or specializing in one – a person can increase their revenue stream and ultimately make more money.

Shift From Employee to Investor Mindset with the Cashflow Quadrant Methodology by Robert Kiyosaki

Retire Abroad and Still Collect Social Security? Avoid These 9 Countries Where It’s Not Possible

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Dreaming of retiring to a sun-drenched beach or a quaint village? Many Americans envision spending their golden years abroad, savoring the delights of new cultures and landscapes. However, an essential part of this dream hinges on the financial stability provided by Social Security benefits. Before packing your bags and bidding farewell, it’s crucial to know that not all countries play by the same rules when it comes to collecting these benefits overseas. Here are the nine countries where your dream of retiring abroad could hit a snag, as Social Security benefits don’t cross every border. Avoid living in these countries so your retirement plans don’t get lost in translation.

Retire Abroad and Still Collect Social Security? Avoid These 9 Countries Where It’s Not Possible

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