The Social Security Administration announced on Friday, October 13, 2017, that the monthly Social Security benefits for more than 66 million Americans will increase 2.0 percent in 2018. The 2.0 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to Social Security beneficiaries in January 2018. This is the largest COLA we have seen since 2012.
Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. The maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $128,700.
The earnings limit for workers who are younger than "full" retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) will increase to $17,040. (They deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $17,040.)
The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2018 will increase to $45,360. (They deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $45,360 until the month the worker turns age 66.)
There is no limit on earnings for workers who are "full" retirement age or older for the entire year.
Medicare has not yet announced if there will be an increase to their premiums which could offset the increase seen to Social Security benefits.
History of Automatic Cost-Of-Living Adjustments (COLA)
The purpose of the COLA is to ensure that the purchasing power of Social Security benefits is not eroded by inflation. It is based on the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year a COLA was determined to the third quarter of the current year. If there is no increase, there can be no COLA.
The CPI-W is determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor. By law, it is the official measure used by the Social Security Administration to calculate COLAs.
Congress enacted the COLA provision as part of the 1972 Social Security Amendments, and automatic annual COLAs began in 1975. Before that, benefits were increased only when Congress enacted special legislation.
Beginning in 1975, Social Security started automatic annual cost-of-living allowances. The change was enacted by legislation that ties COLAs to the annual increase in the CPI-W. The change means that inflation no longer drains value from Social Security benefits.
Automatic Cost-Of-Living Adjustments received since 1975
July 1975 -- 8.0%
January 1998 -- 2.1%