Personal Finance

Retirees could see their monthly Social Security checks jump by $175 next year. Is that enough to keep up with inflation?

Key Points
  • Social Security recipients may see one of the biggest cost-of-living adjustments in decades in 2023.
  • For many retirees, it will still be hard to pay their bills amid rising prices.
  • Here are some of the other resources to which they can turn.
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Social Security recipients could see the largest increase to their checks in decades next year.

Even so, for many retirees, the bump in their annual cost-of-living adjustment won't be enough to shield them from the pain of sharply rising prices, experts say.

"Unfortunately, the formula used to calculate the adjustment doesn't reflect the specific expenses that seniors face, especially rising medical costs," said Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works. "Moreover, the underlying benefits are inadequate."

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How much money Social Security recipients could get

Monthly benefits for retirees could rise 10.5% in 2023, according to a recent analysis by The Senior Citizens League, a nonpartisan senior group. That would amount to a $175.10 increase to the average payment of $1,668.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reports the benefit bump for seniors could actually be as high as 11.4% if inflation remains at its current clip.

To be sure, these are both just estimates for now. The actual hike will depend on the rate at which prices rise in the coming months.

Get help with health coverage, prescription costs

Whatever the exact COLA number clocks in at, the extra cash still may not be enough to recover your budget from inflation.

Fortunately, there are many resources to which struggling retirees can turn. These are a few of them.

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High health insurance and prescription costs can take a big bite out of retirees' incomes.

Some may be eligible for assistance with their monthly premiums under the Medicare Savings Program, said Caitlin Donovan, a spokeswoman for the National Patient Advocate Foundation, a nonprofit that helps patients access and pay for health care.

"If you qualify, your premiums, deductibles and copays will be covered, which would be an enormous financial relief for anyone," Donovan said.

In addition, those enrolled in Medicare Part D, which covers prescriptions, should look to see if they qualify for Extra Help. That program can reduce the costs related to your drugs. The benefit can be worth more than $5,000 a year, Donovan said.

There are also a number of charitable organizations that assist seniors with their health-care costs. For example, at Copays.org, you can apply for funds to put toward copays, premiums, deductibles and over-the-counter medications.

The National Patient Advocate Foundation has a financial resource directory in which you can search for local aid for everything from dental care to end-of-life services.

Many retirees qualify for food benefits

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Many older people aren't taking advantage of all the food assistance available to them, experts say. A 2015 study, for instance, found that less than half of eligible seniors participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

"There tends to be a lot of misunderstanding about the program and a lot of stigma, and unfortunately that stands in the way of people seeking help," said Josh Protas, vice president of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

The extra money can go a long way for retirees on a fixed income, though. The maximum benefit a month for a household of one is $250. Grocery stores, online retailers and farmers markets accept the funds.

SNAP has rules around how much you can own in assets and earn in income to get the aid, and Social Security checks are factored in. Still, certain expenses, including your rent and childcare costs, may be deducted, and experts say anyone who suspects they could qualify should apply.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, under which certain low-income people over the age of 60 are eligible for a monthly food package, containing fruits, vegetables, cheeses and more.

Meanwhile, retirees covered by a Medicaid health plan benefit may be eligible for free food through Mom's Meals. Some Medicare Advantage health plans also offer meal benefits under the program for those recently discharged from a hospital or dealing with a chronic disease.

The meals are typically delivered every two to three weeks, and include dishes like Salisbury steak, pasta and meatballs, and sweet and sour chicken. People can let the program know of any allergies, and they accommodate for diets suited to vegetarians as well as to those with certain conditions like cancer or diabetes.

A spokesperson for Mom's Meals recommended seniors who think they might qualify for the free meals contact a Medicaid or Medicare representative.

Seniors can tap thousands of resources

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While you have to be extremely low income to qualify, some retirees will be eligible for the Supplemental Security Income program, a means-tested program for those over the age of 65 or with a disability.

Last December, more than 2.5 million people received both Social Security and the supplemental payment, which can be as high as $841 a month for an individual. You can apply on the Social Security Administration's website or by calling 1-800-325-0778.

For more help, the National Council on Aging has a "benefits check-up" website where you can learn about more than 2,000 resources available to struggling seniors by ZIP code.

The council also has a guide called You Gave, Now Save, including information on the most generous benefits that help older people with expenses like their phone bill and property taxes.