Higher Social Security payments start in January

Social Security benefits will be 3.2 percent higher in 2024, the latest of annual increases that weren’t always a sure thing.

The cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which was officially announced in October by the Social Security Administration, begins in January for the monthly benefits currently paid to more than 66 million beneficiaries. The same increase applies to approximately 7 million recipients of Supplemental Security Income.

The amount of the boost is based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, which is determined by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. By law, it’s the official measure used by the Social Security Administration to calculate COLAs.

The COLA for 2024 is less than half of the 8.7 percent increase in 2023. The year before that, the increase was 5.9 percent. From 2017 to 2021, the amounts ranged from less than 1 percent to 2.8 percent.

COLA’s aren’t automatic. The purpose of them is to help the purchasing power of Social Security benefits from being eroded by inflation, but they didn’t exist until Congress authorized them in 1972, and they weren’t automatic until 1975. Before that, benefits increased only when Congress passed special legislation.

National organizations such as the Senior Citizens League and AARP have pointed out that most older Americans relying on Social Security report that persistently high prices affect their household budgets.

Jo Ann Jenkins, chief executive officer of AARP, said “retirees can rest a little easier at night knowing they will receive an increase in their Social Security checks to help them keep up with rising prices” of gas and groceries. She said AARP wants Congress “to work in a bipartisan way to keep Social Security strong and provide workers and retirees with a long-term solution that current and future retirees can count on.”

With most seniors out of the workforce and living on fixed incomes or retirement savings, the rapidly rising cost of living the past two years has put a financial strain on older households.

Beyond inflation, however, seniors need more money than ever to live comfortably in retirement. And while they are living longer, they also face greater health issues than the rest of the population, which comes at a high cost. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate that per-capita healthcare spending for seniors is nearly three times as high as that for the working-age population.

Faced with these circumstances, Americans 65 and older are staying in the workforce longer. Researchers note that in 2000, just 4 percent worked full-time, while in 2021, 8.6 percent did. And the U.S. has nearly 23 million more seniors now than in 2000 due to the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, meaning millions more are choosing to extend their careers.

Working seniors have benefited from steadily rising wages as they have become a larger part of the workforce. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the median wage for a full-time working senior has grown from $41,715 in 2000 to $55,000 in 2021. And within the last decade, the median wage for seniors surpassed the median wage for the rest of the working-age population, whose wages have largely been stagnant. Today, the typical full-time working senior earns $3,000 more annually than the typical worker aged 16 to 64.er into life. Analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau found that seniors employed full-time in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area earn an adjusted median wage of $54,116 annually, compared to the national median for working seniors of $55,000

Hybrids are a turn away from gas

With gas prices surging and broadening efforts to reduce carbon emissions, you may be eyeing car models that promise to reduce or even eliminate your reliance on gas. However, depending on your lifestyle, location, finances, driving habits, and other factors, you may not be ready to go fully electric just yet. The good news? A hybrid is a transitional vehicle to put you on the path to more sustainable driving now.

Hybrid vehicles, which combine smaller gas engines with battery-powered electric motors, make it possible for anyone to contribute to the fight against carbon emissions and reduce their gas expenses. In fact, today’s hybrids achieve 20 to 35 percent better fuel economy than conventional internal combustion engines, according to Green America. In the short term, hybrids are a cost-effective option compared with most all-electric vehicles currently on the market. While a battery-powered electric vehicle will save even further on fuel costs down the line, the average transaction price for one of these rides is above $60,000.

A hybrid is also a key alternative to electrics for drivers who live where the current electric vehicle infrastructure doesn’t support everyday use, or for those who can’t charge a vehicle at home. With greater fuel economy than a traditional internal combustion engine, and requiring no lifestyle overhaul to operate, hybrids are one way to reduce carbon emissions today.

Given these varied benefits, and the rising number of available vehicles with a hybrid powertrain, it’s no surprise that annual hybrid sales in the United States have more than doubled since 2019. Prices are leveling, and budget-conscious buyers can find options under $30,000, including the Toyota  Corolla Hybrid and the all-new Prius. Boasting all the latest safety and multi-media features, along with sleek exterior design, you won’t have to compromise on style or performance in the quest for efficiency.

Source: StatePoint Media

How do younger adults feel about suggestions of raising certain age limits for Social Security benefits? To find out, ResumeBuilder.com surveyed more than 700 Gen Z individuals (born between 1997 and 2012, with the oldest now 24) and Millennials (between 25 and 40 years old). The results:

  • 51 percent of the two age groups want a lower full-retirement age; and 60 percent want it changed to 60 or lower. Reason: Giving more employment opportunities to younger workers.
  • 16 percent say the retirement age should be raised, and 34 percent say it should stay where it is now (66 and two months for people born in 1955, 67 for those born in 1960 or later).
  • Two-thirds are counting on Social Security money when they qualify, yet almost half believe there won’t be any.
  • 75 percent believe wealthy Americans shouldn’t qualify for Social Security.

Currently, 62 is the earliest age at which benefits can be claimed. Full benefits can be received starting at 66.

Resumebuilder.com, an online service for designing resumes and career resources, conducted the survey in response to support from Nikki Haley, a Republican candidate for president, for raising the retirement age as way to prevent Social Security funds from running out. Such a proposal, including one by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators to make 70 the new age for full-benefits eligibility, is a subject of political and societal debate. Opposition exists within Congress, the general public, and seniors’ advocacy groups.

The federal government has said 2033 is the year when there could be insufficient funds to fulfill Social Security payouts.

Raising the age for full benefits reportedly wouldn’t affect people already receiving benefits. The impact would be highest for younger adults, who might have to work longer.