Maybe you’ve heard that Social Security payments are getting their largest cost-of-living adjustment in decades this month.
That certainly sounds like a good thing on paper, but the devil is in the details. After all, you’ve probably also heard there’s monster inflation right now.
How big is this Social Security increase, really, and what will it affect? More importantly, when can you get it?
Keep reading for all those answers and more. Here’s what you need to know about the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2022.
1. The amount of your Social Security increase
In October, the Social Security Administration announced the biggest COLA increase in Social Security benefits since the early 1980s.
The 5.9% increase works out to an estimated $92 more per month for retired workers, on average.
After a decade of anemic COLA increases, it’s certainly a welcome change. Unfortunately, it may not be cause for too much celebration.
2. It won’t go that far
Many Social Security recipients have their Medicare Part B premium withheld from their benefit payments. Part B covers doctor visits and outpatient services.
So for all of those folks, any increase in their Medicare Part B premium comes off the top of any increase in Social Security benefits.
We explained the bad news in our recent story “Traditional Medicare Premiums Will Soar in 2022” — the standard premium is increasing to $170.10 per month, up from $148.50 in 2021.
That’s an increase of $21.60 per month. So, if the 5.9% COLA increases your Social Security payment by $92 per month, for example, but your standard Part B premium is withheld from your benefits, your monthly payment actually would increase by only $70.40 — before taxes, that is.
Taxes are another reason that the 2022 COLA isn’t as exciting as it sounds.
We explain the math in “Why the Social Security Bump Will Cost Some Retirees in 2022,” but the gist is this: About half of retirees owe taxes on up to 85% of their Social Security benefits, which effectively means they owe a piece of their COLA to Uncle Sam.
3. Your COLA could increase your tax bill
The COLA will increase retirees’ Social Security income. That extra income could in turn cause some retirees to owe more taxes on their benefits in 2022 than they owed in 2021.
It could also cause some people who aren’t currently taxed on their Social Security income to owe Uncle Sam a portion of their benefits in 2022.
You can mitigate this issue by filing a Form W-4V with the Social Security Administration. This won’t change whether you’re taxed on your benefits; instead, it allows you to have taxes withheld from your benefits so you don’t get blindsided later by a big tax bill or a penalty for not making tax payments throughout the year.
4. When you will start receiving your COLA
- If your birthday falls on days 1 through 10: You will receive your payments on the second Wednesday of each month, meaning you will receive your first payment with the 2022 COLA on Jan. 12.
- If your birthday falls on days 11 through 20: You will receive your payments on the third Wednesday, meaning you will receive your first 2022 payment on Jan. 19.
- If your birthday is on days 21 through 31: You will receive your payments on the fourth Wednesday, meaning you will receive your first 2022 payment on Jan. 26.
However, if you’ve been receiving Social Security benefits since before May 1997, or also get Supplemental Security Income benefits, your first payment with the new COLA will arrive on Jan. 3. (SSI benefits are supplemental income for elderly, blind or disabled people who have very little income.)
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