Automatic Determinations

Cost-of-Living Adjustment

COLA History

COLA effect on Social Security retirement benefits

Calculation of retirement benefits

Social Security benefit data by…
    benefit type or
    family type

New beneficiaries coming onto Social Security's rolls tend to have, on average, higher benefits than those leaving, so average benefits normally rise from month to month. This gradual rise in average benefits is altered by abrupt increases due to annual cost-of-living adjustments or COLAs. The COLA for December 2020 is 1.3 percent and is first payable in January 2021.

The table below provides estimated average benefits for certain beneficiary types, at the end of December 2020.

Estimated effect of 1.3-percent COLA on average benefits
at the end of December 2020
Type of benefit Before
1.3% COLA
After
1.3% COLA
Increase
Retired worker $1,523 $1,543 $20
Spouse of retired worker 791 801 10
Aged widow(er) 1,436 1,455 19
Disabled widow(er) 760 770 10
Disabled worker 1,261 1,277 16
Note: The above estimates are based on actual benefit data through August 2020.


The table below provides estimated average benefits for selected family types.

Estimated effect of 1.3-percent COLA on average family benefits
at the end of December 2020
Type of family Before
1.3% COLA
After
1.3% COLA
Increase
Disabled worker, spouse, and children $2,197 $2,226 $29
Retired worker and aged spouse 2,560 2,594 34
Surviving child(ren) onlya 1,172 1,188 16
Aged widow(er) alone 1,434 1,453 19
Widowed mother and 2 children 2,964 3,002 38
a Family with one or more children excludes surviving parent or guardian who is ineligible to receive benefits.
Note: The above estimates are based on actual benefit data through August 2020.