This Could Be the Most Important Week for Social Security Recipients In Decades

This Could Be The Most Important Week For Social Security Recipients In Decades

Some things in life are exaggerated. Those gadgets you see on late-night infomercials usually aren’t as revolutionary as depicted. The earth-shattering news brought to you breathlessly by cable news anchors isn’t always as crucial as they proclaim.

However, sometimes things live up to their hype. You’ve no doubt heard about a major Social Security announcement that’s imminent. This truly could be the most important week for Social Security recipients in decades.

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Circle Thursday on your calendar

The Social Security Administration (SSA) hasn’t officially revealed the exact date of when it will announce the next cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The agency’s website only says, “We will announce the next COLA in October 2022.”

But you can circle Thursday, Oct. 13, on your calendar as the date of the COLA announcement with a high level of confidence. For one thing, the SSA announced the last benefits increase on Oct. 13, 2021. More importantly, though, there’s a reason behind this specific date.

The SSA depends on data from a little-known government agency — the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) — to calculate the annual COLA. To compute the Social Security benefits increase, the SSA compares the average of the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) in the third quarter of the current year with the average of the inflation metric in the same period of the previous year. BLS crunches the numbers to determine the CPI-W on a monthly basis.

The CPI-W for September 2022 is the only remaining figure that the SSA needs to calculate what the next Social Security increase will be. And the BLS is scheduled to reveal the number on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, at 8:30 a.m. EDT. The SSA should make the official announcement of the COLA soon afterward.

Living up to the hype

But will this week really be the most important one for Social Security recipients in decades? There’s a strong case to be made that it will be.

Retirees and other beneficiaries of Social Security have experienced the steepest price increases for goods and services in a generation in 2022. Inflation has skyrocketed for multiple reasons, including supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The upcoming COLA announcement should provide hope of at least some relief from inflation. Experts predict that the next Social Security increase will be 8.7%. It’s possible, though, that the adjustment could be a little higher or lower than that level.

Whatever the actual COLA is, it’s a near certainty that the increase will be the highest in more than 40 years. Since automatic annual COLAs were implemented in 1975, there have been only four years when the amount was greater than 8%. All of them occurred before 1982.

Good news and bad news

As is often the case with major milestones, there’s both good news and bad news with the impending historic Social Security COLA. The good news is obvious: Retirees and others receiving Social Security benefits will soon see their monthly checks rise significantly. What’s the bad news? The huge increase won’t be enough to fully offset the effect of inflation.

One key reason why the COLA won’t be enough is that it comes too late to cover the high costs that Social Security recipients have already incurred. Another problem is that the CPI-W inflation metric used to calculate the increase doesn’t accurately reflect the spending patterns of seniors, especially with regard to healthcare.

Despite these issues, though, this is an enormously important week for Social Security recipients. That’s no exaggeration.

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