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First Look at 2022 Cost-Of-Living Adjustments and Maximum Contribution Base

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by Calculated Risk on 7/14/2021 10:12:00 AM

The BLS reported yesterday morning:

The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 6.1 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 266.412 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index rose 1.1 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.

CPI-W is the index that is used to calculate the Cost-Of-Living Adjustments (COLA). The calculation dates have changed over time (see Cost-of-Living Adjustments), but the current calculation uses the average CPI-W for the three months in Q3 (July, August, September) and compares to the average for the highest previous average of Q3 months. Note: this is not the headline CPI-U, and is not seasonally adjusted (NSA).

o In 2020, the Q3 average of CPI-W was 253.412.

The 2020 Q3 average was the highest Q3 average, so we only have to compare Q3 this year to last year.

Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows CPI-W since January 2000. The red lines are the Q3 average of CPI-W for each year.

Note: The year labeled for the calculation, and the adjustment is effective for December of that year (received by beneficiaries in January of the following year).

CPI-W was up 6.1% year-over-year in June, and although this is very early – we need the data for July, August and September – my current guess is COLA will probably be around 5.5% this year, the largest increase since 5.8% in 2008 – and it is possible this will be the largest increase since 1982 (7.4%).

Contribution and Benefit Base

The contribution base will be adjusted using the National Average Wage Index. This is based on a one year lag. The National Average Wage Index is not available for 2020 yet, but wages probably increased again in 2020. If wages increased the same as in 2019, then the contribution base next year will increase to around $148,200 in 2022, from the current $142,800.

Remember – this is an early look. What matters is average CPI-W, NSA, for all three months in Q3 (July, August and September).

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