The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently announced that the 2021 annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for benefits will be 1.3%. That’s a small but essential increase for millions of beneficiaries who will see a rise in their monthly payments starting in January.

Larger checks for retired, disabled workers

For the average retired worker, the monthly Social Security benefit will rise by $20 to $1,543 in January from $1,523 in 2020. For the average retired couple who both collect benefits, the payment will increase by $33 to $2,596, up from $2,563. The average disabled worker will see monthly benefits increase by $16 to $1,277 from $1,261. The maximum Social Security check for an individual retiring at full retirement age will rise to $3,148 a month in 2021 from $3,011—an increase of $137.

Tax cap goes higher

As it does every year, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the payroll tax is going up. In 2020, the maximum amount of taxable earnings is capped at $137,700; in 2021, that figure climbs to $142,800. Earnings over that amount aren’t subject to Social Security taxes next year.

Earning test limits climb

In the year you hit full retirement age, the earnings test limit leaps to $50,520 a year ($4,210 a month) as of 2021, up from $48,600 a year ($4,050 a month) in 2020, and SSA holds back $1 for every $3 you earn. The month you reach full retirement age, Social Security stops holding money back because of your work income, and there are no longer earnings limits.

A break on Medicare premiums

Under a recent change in law championed by AARP, the new Medicare premium will be less than previously projected, thus preserving part of the COLA for most beneficiaries. Initially, higher emergency Medicare spending due to COVID-19 was expected to lead to very high Medicare premiums in 2021. Most beneficiaries would have seen their COLA wiped out by Part B premium increases had the law not been changed.

Many unexpected things happened in 2020, so let’s move forward into 2021 with as much information as possible. Call us today at 336-659-7060 with any questions you have and to ensure your Social Security benefits will be what you expect during your retirement.

Adapted from AARP