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The Social Security COLA the Year You Were Born

Social Security checks, Social Security card, cash
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Each year, Social Security benefits increase by an amount based on the rate of inflation over the previous year. That’s known as a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA.

But how exactly do recent COLAs compare with past increases? We took a look at Social Security data to find out.

Following are the cost-of-living adjustments for every year dating back to 1975, when automatic annual benefit increases began, as well as details for the years prior. Under federal law, the monthly benefits rate must tick up every year that the federal government’s Consumer Price Index rises.

Note that each COLA is listed under the year in which Social Security beneficiaries started receiving it.

2023

Happy senior couple outdoors on patio at sunset
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 8.7%

When this COLA becomes effective: With benefits payable for December 2022 (which beneficiaries received in January 2023)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) — one of the federal government’s measures of inflation — over the one-year period ending with the third quarter of 2022.

2022

Retiree holding cash
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2021 (which beneficiaries received in January 2022)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2021

2021

President Joe Biden
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2020 (which beneficiaries received in January 2021)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2020

2020

man quarantined at home
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2019 (which beneficiaries received in January 2020)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2019

2019

Social Security and money
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2018 (which beneficiaries received in January 2019)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2018

2018

Ventura, California home after fire in 2018
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2017 (which beneficiaries received in January 2018)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2017

2017

President Donald Trump
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2016 (which beneficiaries received in January 2017)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2016

2016

Man with empty wallet
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2015 (which beneficiaries received in January 2016)

What this COLA was based on: Changes (or lack thereof) in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2015

2015

Supreme Court after gay marriage was legalized in 2015
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2014 (which beneficiaries received in January 2015)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2014

2014

Senior checking her mailbox
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2013 (which beneficiaries received in January 2014)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2013

2013

Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2012 (which beneficiaries received in January 2013)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2012

2012

Home destroyed by hurricane
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2011 (which beneficiaries received in January 2012)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2011

2011

Uncle Sam cutting Social Security benefits
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2010 (which beneficiaries received in January 2011)

What this COLA was based on: Changes (or lack thereof) in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2010

2010

Worried seniors reviewing bills
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2009 (which beneficiaries received in January 2010)

What this COLA was based on: Changes (or lack thereof) in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2009

2009

Barack Obama
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2008 (which beneficiaries received in January 2009)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2008

2008

Newspaper headline about the 2008 financial crisis
Norman Chan / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2007 (which beneficiaries received in January 2008)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2007

2007

First generation iPhone in 2007
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2006 (which beneficiaries received in January 2007)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2006

2006

Social Security payment
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2005 (which beneficiaries received in January 2006)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2005

2005

George W. Bush
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2004 (which beneficiaries received in January 2005)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2004

2004

Facebook on a laptop introduced in 2004
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2003 (which beneficiaries received in January 2004)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2003

2003

Sad senior man
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2002 (which beneficiaries received in January 2003)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2002

2002

2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2001 (which beneficiaries received in January 2002)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2001

2001

The Twin Towers in New York City, 2001
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 2000 (which beneficiaries received in January 2001)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 2000

2000

George W. Bush
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1999 (which beneficiaries received in January 2000)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1999

1999

Sad senior looking out a window
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1998 (which beneficiaries received in January 1999)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1998

1998

Woman getting mail
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1997 (which beneficiaries received in January 1998)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1997

1997

Bill Clinton
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1996 (which beneficiaries received in January 1997)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1996

1996

Social Security
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1995 (which beneficiaries received in January 1996)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1995

1995

Michael Jordan
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1994 (which beneficiaries received in January 1995)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1994

1994

Central Perk cafe, a set for the series Friends in 1994
Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 2.6%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1993 (which beneficiaries received in January 1994)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1993

1993

Bill Clinton
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.0%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1992 (which beneficiaries received in January 1993)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1992

1992

1992 Los Angeles riots
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1991 (which beneficiaries received in January 1992)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1991

1991

senior men having fun
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1990 (which beneficiaries received in January 1991)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1990

1990

Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990
Olivier LAURENT Photos / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4.7%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1989 (which beneficiaries received in January 1990)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1989

1989

George H.W. Bush
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1988 (which beneficiaries received in January 1989)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1988

1988

Compact discs or CDs which passed vinyl in popularity in 1988
kazzpix / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 4.2%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1987 (which beneficiaries received in January 1988)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1987

1987

Worried man in retirement
Erickson Stock / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 1.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1986 (which beneficiaries received in January 1987)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1986

1986

Social Security Administration branch in Indianapolis
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.1%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1985 (which beneficiaries received in January 1986)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1985

1985

President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1984 (which beneficiaries received in January 1985)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1984

1984

senior couple working on budget
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 3.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for December 1983 (which beneficiaries received in January 1984)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the third quarter of 1983

1983

Social Security cards
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Beneficiaries saw no bump in their benefits in 1983. The COLA that was scheduled to go into effect in July 1983 was delayed by Social Security amendments, which pushed its effective date back to December 1983 and meant beneficiaries started receiving it in January 1984. The amendments also made all subsequent COLAs payable in January instead of July.

The CPI-W on which COLAs were based also changed in 1983. From 1975 through 1982, COLAs had been based on increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending in the first quarter of the year they became effective instead of the third quarter.

1982

360b / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 7.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1982 (which beneficiaries received in July 1982)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1982

1981

Ronald Reagan
mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 11.2%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1981 (which beneficiaries received in July 1981)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1981

1980

Lake Placid, New York
nyker / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 14.3%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1980 (which beneficiaries received in July 1980)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1980

1979

Sony cassette Walkman
Ned Snowman / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 9.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1979 (which beneficiaries received in July 1979)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1979

1978

Social Security Administration brick sign
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 6.5%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1978 (which beneficiaries received in July 1978)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1978

1977

Atari video game system, invented in 1972
Pit Stock / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 5.9%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1977 (which beneficiaries received in July 1977)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1977

1976

Jimmy Carter
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Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 6.4%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1976 (which beneficiaries received in July 1976)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1976

1975

Social Security payments
Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA): 8%

When this COLA became effective: With benefits payable for June 1975 (which beneficiaries received in July 1975)

What this COLA was based on: Increases in the CPI-W over the year period ending with the first quarter of 1975

1974 and earlier

U.S. Capitol
Orhan Cam / Shutterstock.com

Prior to 1975, cost-of-living adjustments were not automatic or annual — they happened only by legislation. According to the Congressional Research Service, they included:

  • July 1974: 11% increase
  • April 1974: 7%
  • October 1972: 20%
  • February 1971: 10%
  • February 1970: 15%
  • March 1968: 13%
  • February 1965: 7%
  • February 1959: 7%
  • October 1954: 13%
  • October 1952: 12%
  • October 1950: 77%

The Social Security Act became law in August 1935. Social Security numbers were first assigned after November 1936, and the taxes that fund Social Security to this day were first collected in January 1937.

The first monthly benefit was distributed in January 1940 — it was for $22.54. That’s about $456 in today’s dollars.

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