Social Security recipients got a big boost to their monthly checks this year, but it still likely was not enough for millions of seniors.

The 5.9% cost of living adjustment (COLA) that was added to Social Security benefits in 2022 — which was the highest in four decades — fell short of the actual inflation rate by an average of 46% each month, according to an analysis by The Senior Citizens League.

That means average Social Security checks failed to cover the increasing cost of goods and services by $42 each month, or $508 for the year.

Even with recent signs that inflation might be moderating, the COLA still falls short of the mark, according to the league.

For example, the 5.9% adjustment was well below the 7.1% inflation reading for November, as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

The Senior Citizens League says it recently surveyed adults 65 and older and found that inflation is creating hardship for these retirees. For example:

  • 33% say they have applied for food stamps or visited a food pantry over the past 12 months, up from 22% in 2020.
  • 17% have applied for assistance with heating costs, up from 10% in 2020.

The fastest-growing costs for seniors fall into 10 categories, according to the league. The increases are:

  • Home heating oil: Up 68%
  • Airfares: 42.9%
  • Flour and prepared mixes: 24.6%
  • Health insurance: 20.6%
  • Natural gas: 20%
  • Oil change and coolant: 19.1%
  • Canned vegetables and fruit: 18.7%
  • Soups: 17%
  • Turkey: 16.9%
  • Pet food: 15%

In a summary of the findings, Mary Johnson, a Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for the Senior Citizens League, says:

“If you are helping or gifting older family and friends this holiday season, these items are a great starting point for thoughtful giving that can make a big difference.”

The 2023 COLA already has been announced. At 8.7%, it is even larger than this year’s adjustment. Time will tell whether the COLA will be up to the task of meeting — or even exceeding — next year’s inflation rate.

If rising prices have left you struggling to make ends meet, check out “10 Sure-Fire Ways to Beat Inflation.”

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