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Record Increase for Social Security Benefits: When Does COLA Take Effect?

Retirees could get almost $150 more in their Social Security checks every month.

Man holding wad of cash
The rise in Social Security benefits for 2023 is the biggest hike in over 40 years.
Aaron Amat/Getty Images

Due to soaring inflation in 2022, recipients of Social Security benefits are about to see the largest payment increase in their checks since 1981, and the fourth highest bump of all time. The cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security in 2023 will be 8.7%.

That increase in benefits will add up to about $146 more per check for the average retiree, according to the nonprofit AARP. The change is determined by year-over-year inflation in the third quarter -- in this case, July to September 2021 versus July to September 2022.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Social Security Benefits Increase

"The guaranteed benefits provided by Social Security, including the annual COLA, are more crucial than ever as high inflation remains a problem for older Americans," AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said in a statement

When will I see the COLA increase in my Social Security check?

The COLA goes into effect with December 2022 benefits, which appear in checks sent out in January 2023. 

Social Security payments are made on Wednesdays, following a rollout schedule based on the beneficiary's birth date. So if you were born from the 1st through the 10th of the month, your benefits are paid on the second Wednesday of the month, or Jan. 11, 2023.

If your birthday falls between the 11th and 20th of the month, your checks are paid on the third Wednesday, and you'll see your first COLA increase on your Jan. 18 check.

Those born between the 21st and the end of the month receive benefits on the fourth Wednesday, which starts with Jan. 25 in 2023.

When will I know what my benefits are for 2023?

Beneficiaries should receive letters through the month of December detailing their specific benefit rate for the new year. If you miss this letter, you can still verify your increase online via the My Social Security website.

How does this year's COLA compare to previous increases?

Since 1975, Social Security benefits have been adjusted automatically every year based on increases in the cost of living. Previously, lawmakers would have to vote for increases, meaning years could go by before retirees saw a bump in their checks.

The 8.7% increase announced for 2023 is the largest since 1981, when it was 11.2%.

The biggest increase ever, 14.3%, was in 1980, when the US was in the middle of a deep recession. In fact, all the highest COLA were in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Year

COLA

1979

9.9

1980

14.3

1981

11.2


In 2009, 2010 and 2015, there was no COLA due to the lack of inflation during and after the Great Recession of 2008.

For more on Social Security, learn when checks go out, how to access your payments online and how benefits are calculated.