Automatic Determinations

Cost-of-Living Adjustment

Graph of AWI series

Recent indexed program amounts

Latest index
The national average wage index for 2013 is 44,888.16. The index is 1.28 percent higher than the index for 2012.

Indexed earnings used to compute initial benefits
When we compute a person's retirement benefit, we use the national average wage indexing series to index that person's earnings. Such indexation ensures that a worker's future benefits reflect the general rise in the standard of living that occurred during his or her working lifetime.

When indexing an individual's earnings for benefit computation purposes, we must first determine the year of first eligibility for benefits. For retirement, eligibility is at age 62. If a person reaches age 62 in 2015, for example, then 2015 is the person's year of eligibility. We always index an individual's earnings to the average wage level two years prior to the year of first eligibility. Thus, for a person retiring at age 62 in 2015, we would index the person's earnings to the average wage index for 2013, or 44,888.16. We would multiply earnings in a year before 2013 by the ratio of 44,888.16 to the average wage index for that year; we would take earnings in 2013 or later at face value. (See two examples of indexed earnings.)

Indexed program amounts
We use the average wage indexing series to update several amounts that are important to the operation of Social Security's Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program.

In addition, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation uses the national average wage index to compute flat-rate premiums for PBGC-insured single-employer and multiemployer plans, as required by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

Determination of the National Average Wage Index for 2013
To determine the national average wage index for calendar year 2013, we multiplied the 2012 national average wage index of 44,321.67 by the percentage change in average wages from 2012 to 2013, as measured by annual wage data we tabulated. The wage data are based on wages subject to Federal income taxes and contributions to deferred compensation plans.

The average amounts of wages calculated directly from our data were $42,498.21 and $43,041.39 for 2012 and 2013, respectively. To determine the national average wage index for 2013 at a level that is consistent with the national average wage indexing series for prior years, we multiply the 2012 national average wage index of 44,321.67 by the percentage change in average wages from 2012 to 2013 (based on our tabulated wage data). In other words, the national average wage index for 2013 is 44,321.67 times 43,041.39 divided by 42,498.21, which equals 44,888.16.

The complete average wage indexing series is shown below.

National average wage indexing series, 1951-2013
Year Index
1951 2,799.16
1952 2,973.32
1953 3,139.44
1954 3,155.64
1955 3,301.44
1956 3,532.36
1957 3,641.72
1958 3,673.80
1959 3,855.80
1960 4,007.12
1961 4,086.76
1962 4,291.40
1963 4,396.64
1964 4,576.32
1965 4,658.72
1966 4,938.36
1967 5,213.44
1968 5,571.76
1969 5,893.76
1970 6,186.24
1971 6,497.08
1972 7,133.80
1973 7,580.16
1974 8,030.76
1975 8,630.92
Year Index
1976 9,226.48
1977 9,779.44
1978 10,556.03
1979 11,479.46
1980 12,513.46
1981 13,773.10
1982 14,531.34
1983 15,239.24
1984 16,135.07
1985 16,822.51
1986 17,321.82
1987 18,426.51
1988 19,334.04
1989 20,099.55
1990 21,027.98
1991 21,811.60
1992 22,935.42
1993 23,132.67
1994 23,753.53
1995 24,705.66
1996 25,913.90
1997 27,426.00
1998 28,861.44
1999 30,469.84
2000 32,154.82
Year Index
2001 32,921.92
2002 33,252.09
2003 34,064.95
2004 35,648.55
2005 36,952.94
2006 38,651.41
2007 40,405.48
2008 41,334.97
2009 40,711.61
2010 41,673.83
2011 42,979.61
2012 44,321.67
2013 44,888.16