By Reagan Borick, Levin Law Class of 2023
A retiree’s social security check will likely increase as much as 6.2 percent due to a cost-of-living adjustment, according to a recent analysis by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL). A 6.2 percent increase would raise the average senior’s monthly benefit by about $97.00. Compare this to the 1.3 percent increase in 2021, for about $20.00. Recent data shows that energy, transportation, and vehicle prices have increased dramatically this year. These increases weighed heavily in the expected 2022 cost-of-living adjustment.
Seniors Judy West and Fred Sevon have been renting together in North Port since 2020. As life partners, they share an apartment and depend on social security income for all expenses. Their two-bedroom unit is affordable only because they combine their money. Individually, neither would be able to afford the rent. Judy says what many seniors know, “Living on a fixed income is not easy. Our rent increased $88 in February when our lease renewed. I’ve noticed increases at the supermarket and the gas station.” Fred thinks the idea, “is great.” But, he says, “I’ll believe it when I see it. We’ve had a couple of years with no real increases at all. Our rent was a big jump. It would be good if we could put a bit more into savings.”
A recent survey by TSCL supports Fred’s concerns. Thirty four percent of retirees reported spending emergency savings since the pandemic began in March 2020, and 19 percent stated they had drawn on retirement savings more than usual.
Fred and Judy pondered the social security increase at the Venice Senior Friendship Center, after a consultation with an attorney from Gulfcoast Legal Services. Gulfcoast attorneys advise and assist eligible seniors at the Center for no cost. Gulfcoast will open a Venice office in fall 2021.
“RENTCafe estimates that the average rent in Venice rose by 9% within the last year. The USDA consumer price index predicts meat prices will increase by 2.5%, and fresh fruit by 4.5%. It’s clear that housing and food costs will continue to cause inflation,” says James Clegg, Gulfcoast Housing attorney. “One rule of thumb is that housing costs should be no more than 30 percent of your gross monthly income. When you crunch the numbers, this isn’t realistic for seniors who rely on social security to pay the rent.”