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 2021 is 5.9 percent and is first payable in January 2022.

The table below provides estimated average benefits for certain beneficiary types, at the end of December 2021.

Estimated effect of 5.9-percent COLA on average benefits
at the end of December 2021
Type of benefit Before
5.9% COLA
After
5.9% COLA
Increase
Retired worker $1,565 $1,658 $93
Spouse of retired worker 794 841 47
Aged widow(er) 1,468 1,555 87
Disabled widow(er) 772 818 46
Disabled worker 1,283 1,358 75
Note: The above estimates are based on actual benefit data through September 2021.


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

Estimated effect of 5.9-percent COLA on average family benefits
at the end of December 2021
Type of family Before
5.9% COLA
After
5.9% COLA
Increase
Disabled worker, spouse, and children $2,247 $2,379 $132
Retired worker and aged spouse 2,589 2,742 153
Surviving child(ren) onlya 1,197 1,268 71
Aged widow(er) alone 1,466 1,553 87
Widowed mother and 2 children 3,009 3,187 178
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 September 2021.