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Social Security Benefits to Edge Up 1.7 Percent in 2013

The nation's elderly and disabled Social Security recipients will receive a 1.7 percent increase in payments in 2013. This is expected to raise the average monthly payment for the typical retired worker by $21.  The increase is less than half of last year’s 3.6 percent  cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

In any case, the modest rise will be partially offset by Medicare's premium increases for 2013, which will be announced soon.  Most Medicare recipients have their premiums deducted from their Social Security payments.  The same COLA will apply to pensions for federal government retirees and most veterans.

“While this modest increase will help, much of the COLA will be consumed by health care and prescription costs, which continually outpace inflation," said Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of AARP.  "Every day, retirees and other beneficiaries struggling to make ends meet still feel like they’re falling further behind.”

The COLA by the Numbers

Starting in January 2013, the average monthly Social Security retirement payment will rise from $1,240 to $1,261 a month for individuals and from $2,014 to $2,048 for couples. The 1.7 percent increase will apply to both elderly and disabled Social Security recipients, and individuals who receive both disability and retirement Social Security will see increases in both types of benefits.  The maximum Social Security benefit for a worker retiring at full retirement age, which is age 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954, will be $2,533 a month.

The Social Security COLA also raises the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security taxation to $113,700 from $110,100.  This means that those earning incomes above $113,700 will pay no tax on any income above that threshold.

The COLA increases the amount early retirees can earn without seeing a cut in their Social Security checks.  Although there is no limit on outside earnings beginning the month an individual attains full retirement age, those who choose to begin receiving Social Security benefits before their full retirement age may have their benefits reduced, depending on how much other income they earn.

Early beneficiaries who will reach their full retirement age after 2013 may now earn $15,120 a year before Social Security payments are reduced by $1 for every $2 earned above the limit. Those early beneficiaries who will attain their full retirement age in 2013 will have their benefits reduced $1 for every $3 earned if their income exceeds $40,080 in the months prior to the month they reach their full retirement age.

For 2013, the monthly federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment standard will be $710 for an individual and $1,066 for a couple.

For a complete list of the 2013 Social Security changes, go to: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/colafacts2013.htm

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