By Nathalie Voit

Social security benefits are about to get a boost from the federal government. Millions of beneficiaries will see a 5.9% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) added to their monthly checks in 2022. The upcoming adjustment will be the largest ever increase for retirees in nearly four decades of legislation.

The increases are set to begin at the end of the year, according to a Social Security Administration (SSA) press release from Oct. 13. Most beneficiaries will see the changes take place in January 2022. 

The COLA amounts to approximately $92 more per month for the average retired worker. According to estimates, the standard social security check is approximately $1,565 a month, raising the average monthly payments for retirees to $1,567. A typical couple will see their benefits rise by $154 to $2,753 per month, the SSA reported.

“The cost of living adjustment is an automatic adjustment every year and is one of the most valuable features of Social Security,” said Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, an advocacy group focused on improving benefits.

The announcement arrived as inflation swelled to its highest rate in 13 years in September. The COLA is a direct response to counter the 5.4% surge in inflation recorded by the BLS last month. 

The last major boost for social security recipients occurred in 1982 when the COLA was adjusted to 7.4%. Over the last 10 years, benefits averaged just 1.65% a year, reported AP. The COLA for 2021 was 1.3%, for example.  

“You never want to minimize the importance of the COLA,” said retirement policy expert Charles Blahous. “What people are able to purchase is very profoundly affected by the number that comes out. We are talking the necessities of living in many cases.”

Consumers should not count on the increases happening every year, Altman said. 2009 saw a significant adjustment of 5.8%, but no further adjustments were made for the next two years. Nonetheless, this year’s increase will allow retirees to keep up with the rising pace of inflation. 

“We wait to hear every year what the increase is going to be, and every year it’s been so insignificant,” she said. “This year, thank goodness, it will make a difference,” said Kiddy Ruderman, a retired former executive assistant from NYC who has been collecting benefits for around 10 years.