Retirees Get a Raise as Inflation Persists

Q: I keep hearing a lot about inflation and prices of many items seem to keep getting higher.  I assume my Social Security benefits will go up in 2022 as well?

A: Yes, inflation continues to be a challenge for many of us.  Fortunately, your Social Security benefits will be increasing significantly in 2022 to help offset some of the pain.  Here’s what you need to know.

First the good news: Retirees will get a generous increase in their Social Security checks come January 2022. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase by a whopping 5.9% in 2022, the biggest increase in 40 years.1 That means that the average monthly retirement benefit of $1,565 will grow to $1,657. Although Social Security accounts for only about 30% of overall retirement income, millions of retirees — over 10% — rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. So the increase will be more than welcome for many. 

The bad news is that the boost only adds to an already disturbing inflation picture. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) came in 6.2% higher in October compared with a year earlier, even faster than an already heady 5.4% pace through September, and above economists’ forecasts. Rates have moderated since summer, but they remain stubbornly high. Prices for cars, fuel, rent, meat, and other groceries are noticeably higher, and many families are feeling the pinch.

Bottlenecks, Shortages, and Stimulus

The root cause of the rising prices is of course Covid. The pandemic has caused major disruptions in supply chains across the globe. From microchips to lumber, supply bottlenecks have led to shortages and price increases. Labor shortages have exacerbated the situation, particularly in leisure and hospitality businesses, resulting in wage increases — many long overdue. Add to this the massive government stimulus packages passed since the spring of 2020, and you have the perfect inflationary storm.

The big question is: will it persist? Are we headed toward a 70s-style inflation cycle? Six months ago, the consensus answer to this question was an emphatic no. The uptick was widely expected to be short-lived, basically just a rebound from the price drops at the outset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Since then, however, supply chain problems have festered and structural issues such as labor shortages have surfaced. What’s more, the price of oil has more than doubled over the past year, up 35% in just the past two months. Although most economists still believe that inflation will moderate in the coming months, many are less certain in their outlook. There is also the matter of the huge infrastructure and spending bills currently before Congress, which if passed, will add to inflationary pressures.

For its part, the Federal Reserve is increasingly concerned that supply disruptions could last long enough to prompt consumers and businesses to expect higher prices, setting off an upward spiral of wage and cost increases. It has already signaled a slowdown in bond purchases, and could start raising interest rates if the inflation numbers remain elevated. But raising rates is not a popular move in Washington, on Wall Street, or on Main Street, so the Fed will likely proceed very cautiously, with definitive moves — if any — unlikely before year-end.

What You Can Do

In the face of rising prices, consumers do not have many options. You can be more selective in your purchases, charge more for your services if you’re self-employed, or try to convince your employer to raise your salary to compensate. But in the end, if food, rent, and fuel cost more, you have to pay more.

For investors, the key to staying ahead of inflation is to seek investments that have the potential to deliver higher returns. Historically, stocks have shown the greatest ability to outpace inflation over time, although past performance is no guarantee of future results. There are also inflation-indexed bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury, but they generally make sense only if you expect a major uptick in inflation. 

Talk to your financial professional to see what investing strategy might best suit your circumstances in an inflationary or rising rate environment. 

Notes:

1SSA.gov Press Releases, October 13, 2021.

Jeremy R. Gussick is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional affiliated with LPL Financial, the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer.*  Jeremy specializes in the financial planning and retirement income needs of the LGBTQ+ community and was recently named a 2020 FIVE STAR Wealth Manager as mentioned in Philadelphia Magazine.** He is active with several LGBTQ+ organizations in the Philadelphia region, including DVLF (Delaware Valley Legacy Fund) and the Independence Business Alliance (IBA), the Philadelphia Region’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce.  OutMoney appears monthly.  If you have a question for Jeremy, you can contact him via email at [email protected]

Jeremy R. Gussick is a Registered Representative with, and securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC.

This material was prepared with the assistance of LPL Financial. This material is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. There is no assurance that they views or strategies discussed are suitable for all investors or will yield positive outcomes. Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.

Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) help eliminate inflation risk to your portfolio, as the principal is adjusted semiannually for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), while providing a real rate of return guaranteed by the U.S. government. However, a few things you need to be aware of are that the CPI might not accurately match the general inflation rate; therefore, the principal balance on TIPS may not keep pace with the actual rate of inflation. The real interest yields on TIPS may rise, especially if there is a sharp spike in interest rates. If so, the rate of return on TIPS could lag behind other types of inflation-protected securities, like floating rate notes and T-bills. TIPs do not pay the inflation-adjusted balance until maturity, and the accrued principal on TIPS could decline, if there is deflation.

*As reported by Financial Planning magazine, June 1996-2020, based on total revenues.

**Award based on 10 objective criteria associated with providing quality services to clients such as credentials, experience, and assets under management among other factors. Wealth managers do not pay a fee to be considered or placed on the final list of 2020 Five Star Wealth Managers.

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