The average Social Security payment changes every month for a simple reason: Whenever new beneficiaries enter the system and others leave it, their payments impact the average in one direction or the other. The changes aren’t usually much from month to month, but they can be pretty big from year to year.
Look no further than this year, when Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment was 8.7% — the highest in more than four decades. The 2023 COLA, based on the previous year’s soaring inflation rate, pushed the average check up by $146 a month vs. 2022.
If you’re already receiving a Social Security retirement benefit, your payment won’t change until next year, when the 2024 COLA goes into effect. But it’s still helpful to see what the average Social Security benefit is and how it changes over time.
Here’s a look at how Social Security benefits have changed in recent months and what they will likely be in fall 2023.
What Was the Average Social Security Payment in Each Month of 2023?
Here’s what the Social Security Administration has reported as the average retirement payment during the first seven months of the year:
- January 2023: $1,779.16
- February 2023: $1,781.63
- March 2023: $1,833.23
- April 2023: $1,834.80
- May 2023: $1,787.31
- June 2023: $1,788.89
- July 2023: $1,790.56
How Much Will the Average Social Security Payment Likely Be in Fall 2023?
Nobody will know the average payment for fall 2023 until the SSA releases its monthly statistical snapshots for September, October and November. However, based on the trend from January to July, you can expect the average to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,780 to $1,800 a month.
That doesn’t mean your payment will be at or even near that number. Depending on how much you earned during your career and when you claimed Social Security retirement benefits, your payment could be much higher or lower than average.
According to the SSA, the maximum Social Security retirement check is $4,555 a month in 2023. The lowest special minimum benefit is $49.40 in 2023, depending on how many years of coverage you have.
How Much Was the COLA in 2022 and 2023?
After many years of meager cost-of-living adjustments, the Social Security Administration really pumped up payments for recipients in 2022 and 2023 due to inflation rates that hit 40-year highs. For 2022, the COLA was 5.9%, while the 2023 COLA rose to 8.7%.
What Are the Projections for the COLA in 2024?
With inflation easing throughout 2023, Social Security recipients can expect the 2024 COLA to drop to around 3%. A COLA of 3% would raise the average monthly benefit in 2024 by about $53.60 from current levels.
How Can You Maximize Your Social Security Payment?
If you’re already drawing Social Security benefits, there’s not much you can do to increase them other than wait for next year’s COLA. But if you’re still in the workforce, there are two primary ways to bump up your benefit.
The first is to maximize the amount you earn every year. The SSA calculates your benefit based on the 35 top-earning years of your working career, up to the annual wage base. In 2023, the Social Security wage base is $160,200, so the more you earn up to that limit, the higher your benefit will ultimately be.
The second way to boost your payout is to delay filing for benefits. Full retirement age, or the age at which you’re entitled to your full Social Security benefit, is 67 for most workers. However, you can file for benefits as early as 62 or as late as 70. For each year you delay filing after age 67, your monthly payment amount will jump by a whopping 8%, to a maximum of 24% if you file at age 70.
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