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Social Security benefits’ buying power is fading, despite adjustments

Blank Social Security checks are run through a printer at the U.S. Treasury printing facility Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. William Thomas Cain/ Getty Images

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Social Security benefits will grow by 1.6% in 2020, thanks to the program’s annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

That’s a smaller increase than in either of the past two years (this year’s increase was 2.8%; last year’s was 2%) but a bigger than average boost compared to the past decade.

The annual COLA is based on the Consumer Price Index for working-age residents of urban areas. But it’s widely accepted that this figure fails to account for seniors’ higher spending on health care and housing, which are experiencing significant inflation. Changing that would require an act of Congress.

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