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Despite Social Security increase, Raleigh retiree says it's 'difficult'

Posted October 16, 2012

— More than 56 million people who collect Social Security will get a slight raise next year of 1.7 percent. Retired workers, who collect on average about $1,240 a month, will see an increase of about $21 a month.

The increase, which starts in January, is tied to a measure of inflation released Tuesday. It shows that inflation has been relatively low over the past year, despite the recent surge in gas prices, resulting in one of the smallest increases in Social Security payments since automatic adjustments were adopted in 1975.

About 8 million people who receive Supplemental Security Income will also receive the cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, meaning the announcement will affect about 1 in 5 U.S. residents. Social Security also provides benefits to millions of disabled workers, spouses, widows, widowers and children.

One of the affected workers is Jean Robertson, a 73-year-old Raleigh resident who retired as a mental health worker in Philadelphia 12 years ago due to a two-time battle with cancer. She lives on $920 a month from Social Security and says she is dealing with the greatest financial challenge she has ever faced.

“It’s very difficult lately. (The) price of gas and the food is going up,” she said. “I limit my driving because of the price of gas.”

Roberson says she doesn't like to owe people money and refuses to put off paying bills or to live on credit.

“A lot of times I don’t have any paper money in my pocket, but I don’t have anybody ringing my doorbell and beating up my telephone,” she said.

Roberson says she is grateful for an increase in Social Security benefits next year, even at 1.7 percent. However, she says it's still tough to make ends meet.

“It doesn’t even out at all,” she said.

North Carolina State University professor Robert Clark has studied issues involving Social Security and says he wasn't surprised by the amount of the increase.

Increases are determined by a formula involving the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, a broad measure of consumer prices generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It measures price changes for food, housing, clothing, transportation, energy, medical care, recreation and education.

“By statute, Social Security benefits are increased at the same rate as (the) increase in consumer prices,” said Clark, who works in N.C. State’s College of Management. “So, no congressman votes on this. The president doesn’t have to sign anything on it. This is an automatic increase based on specific legislation.”

Since 1975, the annual COLA has averaged 4.2 percent. Only five times has it been below 2 percent, including the two times it was zero in 2009 and 2010. Before 1975, it took an act of Congress to increase Social Security payments.


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  • bus driver Oct 17, 2012

    Teddy, I currently live on $2000 a month, with a house and car payment. While I do have to watch my money, it is enough. The difference in those that draw SS is that they are generally of retirement age and have the additional cost of medical needs.

  • charmcclainlovesdogs2 Oct 17, 2012

    It was meant to supplement what you did on your own.

    You are right on that. But many don't have even that extra to fall back on. Now what?

  • teddyspaghetti Oct 17, 2012

    I can always use the extra money but I wish soc security would have kept the money to reduce the federal deficit. gwk8845

    Feel free to write a check payable to the deficit....

  • teddyspaghetti Oct 17, 2012

    Let's be honest here. SS was NEVER meant to be your ONLY retirement plan. It was meant to supplement what you did on your own.

    Let's use some numbers. Say the government takes $400/month from your salary (averaged over your career!). You start working at 20 and retire at 65. The interest rate has to be relatively low since it's the government after all (let's use 3%) and you draw from SS for 20 years.

    The amount of money that you have at 65 is about $500,000. Divide that by 12 then 20. That means that SS would pay you $2000 per month. That sounds like a lot if your house is paid for and you live VERY frugally, but alas, in most cases that is not the case. Most of us could not live on that.

    SS is just one of your retirement paths. You will need to invest on your own in addition to SS in order to survive in your old age....*IF* SS is around anymore!!!!

  • childofNC Oct 17, 2012

    The payout should be limited to the amount paid in plus interest or investment return. Not sure why the government stepped in to get in the business of handling retirement in the first place.

  • GK N.Ral Oct 17, 2012

    I can always use the extra money but I wish soc security would have kept the money to reduce the federal deficit.

  • storchheim Oct 17, 2012

    whatelseisnew, where should "the Feds" get the 10,000 per baby?

  • artist Oct 17, 2012

    "These 47% of our citizens include our senior citizens, veterans, and persons with disabilities. "


    So - do these 47% pay any federal taxes? (regardless of the reason).

    No. They do not.

    So Romney's statement was factual.

    My retired parents pay federal taxes every year.

  • artist Oct 17, 2012

    "my father receives social security, and I can assure you...his standard of living is really LOW. I think it's shameful the way we treat our elders in the United States. For all they have done for us, and this is the best we can do???"

    Well... you are a lousy daughter.

    Is that all he has? SS?

    And you are not helping him for all he has done for you?

    So... what do you want the rest of America to do... pay you father's way? (BTW - theirs is the generation that are receiving far more than they ever put into the system)

    But why complain to us.. that we are mistreating you father? We are putting up our tax money to assist your father.... but it is not our responsibility to carry him fully. More of that responsibility belongs to YOU.

  • samdutes Oct 17, 2012

    These 47% of our citizens include our senior citizens, veterans, and persons with disabilities. Use your common sense in casting your vote for President Obama." Tarheel7074

    You need to check your facts, my parents are retired and they are all of these except part of the 47%.......they still pay taxes unlike the 47% you are talking about.