Automatic Determinations

Cost-of-Living Adjustment

COLA History

COLA effect on Social Security retirement benefits

Calculation of retirement benefits

Social Security benefit data by…
    benefit type or
    family type

New beneficiaries coming onto Social Security's rolls tend to have, on average, higher benefits than those leaving, so average benefits normally rise from month to month. This gradual rise in average benefits is altered by abrupt increases due to annual cost-of-living adjustments or COLAs. The COLA for December 2013 is 1.5 percent and is first payable in January 2014.

The table below provides estimated average benefits for those in current-payment status at the end of December 2013 for selected types of beneficiaries or families.

Estimated effect of 1.5-percent COLA on average benefits
at the end of December 2013
Type of benefit or family Before
1.5% COLA
1.5% COLA
Benefit type All retired workers $1,275 $1,294 $19
All disabled workers 1,129 1,146 17
Family type Disabled worker, spouse, and children 1,914 1,943 29
Retired worker and aged spouse 2,080 2,111 31
Surviving child(ren) onlya 1,043 1,059 16
Aged widow(er) alone 1,225 1,243 18
Widowed mother and 2 children 2,585 2,624 39
a Family with one or more children excludes surviving parent or guardian who is ineligible to receive benefits.

Note: The above estimates are based on actual benefit data through October 2013.