WASHINGTON — The typical retiree’s monthly Social Security check will get only $3.92 bigger next year.
That amounts to an increase of just 0.3 percent — the smallest ever put in place to help cover higher prices.
That’s still an improvement from this year, when the lack of inflation kept benefits from increasing at all. The average retiree’s monthly benefit is currently $1,305.30.
Social Security benefits go to 66 million people, including retirees, widows, orphans and people with disabilities. The annual cost of living adjustment was put in place in 1975.
Retiree benefits can be higher than average depending upon their earning history and how old they were when they began drawing checks.
The maximum benefit today for someone retiring at full retirement age is $2,639 a month. Even that larger benefit check will grow by just $7.92 next year.
A drop in oil and gas prices has kept overall inflation in check in recent years. The benefits freeze in 2016 was the third time this decade that there has been no increase in benefits. The other years were 2010 and 2011.
Some have argued that the inflation reading used to calculate the adjustment is flawed because retirees typically do not drive as much as younger people who commute to work. So retirees don’t benefit as much from lower gas prices.
“Over the last five years, Social Security COLA’s have remained small or nonexistent,” AARP said. “Every cent can matter to beneficiaries and their families. After last year’s zero COLA, this year’s announcement doesn’t offer much help to the millions of families who depend on their Social Security benefits.”
Retirees also spend a bigger proportion of their money on health care, for which prices have risen faster than overall inflation.
“As prescription prices skyrocket and Medicare premiums and other health costs increase, many older Americans have understandable concerns,” AARP said.
At the same time, retirees are hurt by low interest rates because many depend on savings to cover at least part of their living expenses.