Every year on October the Social Security Administration (SSA) announces the changes to the Social Security program. The latest adjustments are set to take effect Jan. 1, 2019 according to the SSA’s annual fact sheet. Increased payments start on Dec. 31, 2018.
All beneficiaries will receive a 2.8% increase in payments. The change will affect more than 67 million Social Security beneficiaries in 2019 due to a 2.8% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase. This rise in benefits is meant to counteract the effect of inflation. The (BLS) Bureau of Labor Statistics determines the (CPI.W) Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. The calculation ensures that everyone’s Social Security check has the same value it did the year before.
The 2.8% bump in 2019 means a 0.8% increase over last year’s 2% COLA, which was the most significant increase since 2012 where benefits went up 3.6%. The 2.8% adjustment equates to $39 per month for the average Social Security recipient. The average monthly payout is going up from $1,422 in 2018 to $1,461 in 2019.
The maximum taxable earnings will increase to $132,900. All employees were required to pay a 6.2% Social Security tax in 2018 on income up to $128,400. Earnings above that number were not subject to the tax. The tax rate will stay at 6.2% in 2019. However, the tax cap will increase to $132,900.
The full retirement age will continue to increase. The earliest anyone can start claiming Social Security retirement benefits is 62. Claiming before the full retirement age will result in a permanently reduced payout. The new full retirement age is 66 and four months. Those who are turning 62 in 2019 will have a retirement age of 66 and six months. Full retirement age increases every two months each year until it gets to 67.
Social Security benefits for retirees are partially or fully withheld depending on how much a person earns. Income limits will increase slightly in 2019. Before reaching full retirement age, the earnings limit was $17,640 in 2019. After that, $1 will is deducted from payment for every $2 that exceeds the threshold. The 2019 deadline is $600 higher than 2018’s limit of $17,040.
Social Security disability thresholds are scheduled to increase in the next few years. Over ten million Americans qualify for disability payments, and those thresholds are rising in 2019. The legally blind will collect a maximum of $2,040 a month which shows an increase of $70 per month over 2018. Non-blind persons have a maximum benefit increase of $40 a month to $1,220.
COLA notices can be viewed online. Most Social Security recipients can see their COLA notice online through their mySocialSecurity account starting in December. Notices will still be mailed this year. However, recipients will be able to choose whether to receive their notification online or by mail in the future.
It is smart to remain aware of the changes that could be announced in the coming months. Social Security is a complicated system that is designed to accommodate as many people as possible. Also visit your local Social Security Offices in your area for more information about potential benefits or eligibility. Each person must learn what they are qualified for so that they receive maximum benefits.