Fixing the social Security COLA

You’ve heard it before. Inflation is not measured accurately for seniors, it’s inadequate, most seniors rely on it … and on and on.

Calls for higher COLAs are based on surveys and generalizations about retirees. Nevertheless, if we want higher COLAs maybe they should be targeted at people in need.

For example, anyone who starts receiving Social Security at the maximum rate at full retirement age, receives no COLA for the first five years. They should have adequate resources and planned ahead.

Or, any retiree paying Medicare IRMAA premiums receives no COLA. That means single beneficiaries with incomes in retirement of $88,000 or more and couples at $176,000 and above income. Those folks are not relying on Social Security.

Such objective measures are easy to apply and better reflect need than asking folks how much they rely on SS.

A net worth based criteria could also be justified, but virtually impossible to apply.

I know, we are wading into means testing waters, but we are not talking about basic benefits for which there is a legitimate claim to earning benefits on a formula basis. We are talking about something additional which in theory is based on need already.

3 comments

  1. I don’t see why someone who saved and planned ahead should be penalized. Let those who made bad choices live with their choices.

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    1. It is not always about bad choices, it could be no choices or limited choices. My mother and father both born in 1930, raised 6 kids from 1948 to 1975. My mother started working in 1948 for 50 cents per hour and when she quit working in 1995 she was making $5.80 per hour, plus tips making beds at a Super 8 motel. My father worked as an auto mechanic / auto body repairman running his own business, with no other employees. and never made more than $10,000 per year. He died in a car accident at age 66 in 1995. My mother is 90 today and is living with my 73 year old sister, you can read my comment below, about how much she is receiving in government benefits. The social security system was started so no retiree would live in poverty, not to be a windfall for the rich, who had better opportunities and standards of living during there working years. The truth is almost no one has paid for the benefits that they will receive from social security if they receive benefits for longer than 10 years. Todays workers FICA taxes, interest on the SS trust fund bonds and income tax on SS benefits is what pays for current benefits. Also, over the next 15 years the trust fund bonds will have to be cashed to pay SS benefits. 10,000 baby boomers are starting SS benefits every day. So we all better be planning for the future cuts that might be coming, when SS funding will only be able to pay for 80% of the promised benefits. .

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  2. As far as COLA goes, a better fix might be to increase the social security benefit for anyone living below the poverty level. And leave the COLA the way it is. Of course that may not help, if low income seniors then no longer qualify for food assistance, rent assistance, utility assistance for winter months, or other aid programs for the needy. My 90 year old mother’s SS benefit is $750 per month, but her Medicare premiums and co-pays are covered by a state program in TX, She also receives $130 per month in SNAP benefits These extra benefits put her about $400 below the single poverty level for the 2020 year. I just turned 65 and I am now paying the Medicare premiums for my wife and I., $297 per month. Now I look at the COLA as an increase that will help cover Medicare premium increases and probably nothing else. I am ok with that because I know that premiums to cover us through other medical insurance programs would be way more expensive.

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