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'We are still pinching pennies': Local seniors remark on coming Social Security benefit increases

Social Security benefits will increase by 3.2% in 2024, which will add about $50 a month to average retirement benefits nationwide.
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Posted at 7:06 PM, Oct 18, 2023

Come next year, seniors will see their monthly Social Security benefits go up to offset rising costs of living.

According to the Social Security Administration, in 2024, benefits will increase by 3.2%, which will add about $50 a month to average retirement benefits nationwide.

Some retirees in Santa Maria and Orcutt said the increased payments will be a big help with their daily expenses.

“I depend on Social Security. I am real happy whenever I get any type of a raise through Social Security,” said Orcutt senior Bonnie Taylor.

“Well, it is not as much as it was the year before, that is for sure. But every little bit helps,” added Neale Brown, another local senior.

Amid record-high inflation, monthly Social Security benefits rose by 8.7% this year, and by 5.9% in 2022.

And while all the seniors we spoke with said next year’s increases would support them through the rising costs of living, some worry about how the hike in benefits may also have its drawbacks.

“It will help a little bit. I think it was 3.2% or 3.6%. But that goes up, everything else goes down, you know. We are still pinching pennies,” said Steven Martin, who moved to Orcutt in 2019.

Martin says he is fully dependent on Social Security and other retirement benefits to get by.

He and other community members add that in recent years, inflated costs have been inevitable.

“I have seen it going up year by year. It has changed a lot, and it has made a big difference. Every year, I have just had to keep saving, save what I can,” Martin told KSBY.

“Everything goes up. My property taxes go up. My gas goes up, my electric goes up,” Taylor laughed. “My pension does not ever go up.”

In light of the coming increases, some senior advocacy organizations say the boost in monthly payments may push some beneficiaries into higher tax brackets, while also potentially leaving others ineligible for low-income assistance programs.

Despite this, Taylor says the extra dollars will nonetheless be put to good use.

“I figure, if nothing else, it will help go toward a few Christmas gifts for my grand-babies,” she said.

Experts say the year-over-year rise in Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) for Social Security benefits could also result in seniors having to pay Federal Income Taxes for the first time.

Officials with the Social Security Administration say beneficiaries will begin receiving the increased payments on December 29.