Plug this into your retirement planning budget for 2014: The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the cost of living adjustment, or COLA, for 2014 will be 1.5 percent, slightly less than 2013's 1.7 percent. The official announcement will be made in the middle of October.
The COLA not only affects Social Security, it also sets the annual increases for federal retirees; Supplemental Security Income, known as SSI; military retirement, and veterans' pension benefits. Plus, eligibility for Medicare extra help, Medicaid and eligibility for federal and many state food and housing assistance programs also are tied to the annual COLA.
If you were receiving the average worker's Social Security retirement benefit of $1,224 in July, your increase, effective Jan. 1, would likely be $18.36 per month or about $220 a year. Don't spend it all in one place.
In his 2014 budget request, President Barack Obama proposed using a different COLA calculation, the chained CPI, as a way to help control the cost of Social Security. The House Republican Study Committee also has urged adoption of the chained CPI. With bipartisan support, there is a good possibility the chained CPI could become reality as early as 2015 -- it's too late for 2014.
If the chained CPI were to be implemented -- this is just a hypothetical -- the 2014 COLA increase would be about 0.25 percent lower, or 1.25 percent, in 2014. That would make next year's increase for the average Social Security recipient about $15 a month -- $3 lower than it will be with the current calculation. Over 10 years, the National Association of Retired Federal Employees estimates that the average Social Security recipient would lose a total of $240.
The good news is that the chained CPI would make a significant difference in the amount of money the federal government spends on Social Security. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in March that if the chained CPI were implemented in 2014, that it would save Social Security $127.2 billion from 2014 to 2023.
That's a step in the right direction.