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Social Security COLA Could Top 3% in 2019 But Retiree Costs Growing Even Faster

  • Published: 2018-06-06 (Revised/Updated 2018-06-07) : *Press Release: The Senior Citizens League : Contact:
  • Synopsis: 2019 Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) could top 3 percent according to a new estimate released by The Senior Citizens League.

The annual Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2019 could top 3 percent, according to a new estimate released by The Senior Citizens League.

A 3 percent COLA would be the highest since 2012, when the COLA was 3.6 percent. The COLA for 2018 is 2 percent, after there was no COLA in 2016, and just a 0.3 COLA in 2017.

The estimate is based on consumer price index data through April 2018.

"Our estimate could change, because we still have several months of CPI data to go before the COLA is announced in October," says The Senior Citizens League's Social Security policy analyst Mary Johnson.

A 3 percent COLA would increase the average Social Security benefit of $1,300 by about $39 per month.

Elderly man and woman seated in chairs.About This Image: Elderly man and woman seated in chairs."After the past nine years of COLAs averaging just 1.2 percent, one would think people living on Social Security would be dancing in the street," Johnson says. "But that's not likely," she says.

"In reality, retirees are experiencing cost increases in common household expenditures that are growing several times faster than 3 percent," she says.

"The trend of retiree costs growing faster than the COLA has been consistent over the past 8 years, and our research indicates this will continue in 2019," says Johnson, who studies the loss in buying power of Social Security benefits.

According to The Senior Citizens League's annual survey of more than 1,130 retirees, conducted between January and March of 2018, household spending rose by more than $79 per month in 2017 for 55 percent of survey participants.

Chart Illustrating Ten of The Fastest Growing Costs For People Over 65

Fastest Growing Retiree Costs 2017 to 2018
Expense Average cost or numeric value in Jan 2017 Average cost or numeric value in Jan 2018 % Increase
Home heating oil (gallon) $2.63 $3.22 22%
Medigap premiums average premium, all plans $264.45/ mo. $306.64/ mo. 16%
10 lbs. potatoes $5.14 $5.98 16%
Tomatoes (lb.) $2.05 $2.34 14%
Gasoline, all grades, per gallon $2.41 $2.72 13%
Oranges (lb.) $1.19 $1.33 12%
Eggs (dz.) $1.60 $1.77 11%
Total medical expenses $12,125.00 $13,304.00 10%
Motor vehicle insurance 510.919* 554.166* 9%
Propane gas (gallon) $2.39 $2.60 9%

* Numeric value used when no national average price is available.

The Survey Question Asked

"Which of the following most closely represents the amount that your total monthly expenses increased or decreased during 2017?"

Expenses stayed the same or went down 8%

$.01 - $39.00 - 13%

$39.01 - $79.00 - 24%

$79.01 - $119.00 - 24%

More than $119.00 - 31%

The Senior Citizens League

With 1.2 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of The Retired Enlisted Association. Visit for more information.

The Senior Citizens League will be releasing the latest findings on the loss of buying power on June 20, 2018.

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