The Social Security Administration recently released important financial information for 2021, including tax changes for those currently employed and cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for retirees. So whether you are already retired or preparing to in the next few years, the SSA’s announcements contain good and bad news for you.
The Good? Benefits Are Increasing
Those receiving Social Security benefits will see a 1.3 percent COLA increase in 2021. This change will impact around 70 million Americans - including 8 million SSI beneficiaries.1
On average, a retiree who will receive Social Security benefits in January 2021 will experience a roughly $20 increase in their benefits, going from $1,523 to $1,543. For a couple in which both members will receive benefits, they will see an average change from $2,563 to $2,596.1
You may notice that this year’s COLA increase is smaller than it has been in the past two years, so it may be a comfort to remember that an increase is never guaranteed in the first place. In 2009, 2010, and 2015, COLA held at zero percent, and in 2016 the COLA was only 0.3 percent. These may be more reliable comparisons for this year’s change than the significant 2.8 percent increase of 2018.2
The Bad? Taxes Are Increasing Too (For Some)
For those still working, the amount of earnings subject to Social Security tax has increased 3.7 percent from $137,700 in 2020 to a maximum of $142,800 in 2021.1 Employees and their employers will each continue to pay 6.2 percent of applicable earnings toward the 7.65 percent combined Social Security and Medicare rate.1 The 3.7 percent increase in applicable income is only in reference to the Social Security portion of the combined tax rate. Self-employed individuals will still be responsible for paying the full 15.3 percent of the Social Security and Medicare tax rate.1
For reference, the maximum Social Security tax in 2021 for a high-earning employee would be $8,853.60 - or $17,707.20 total including both the employee and employer’s contribution. This is compared to 2020’s maximum of $8,537.40, or $17,074.80 total.
The Need To Know? Earning Limits For Retirees
Awareness of the changes concerning earning limits in 2021 is especially important for the demographic who are under the Social Security Administration’s determined “full retirement age,” if you are receiving a paycheck alongside your Social Security benefits.
Currently, full retirement age is considered to be 66, if you were born between 1943 and 1954. Below is a chart provided by the SSA in regards to full retirement age:3
Year of Birth
|Full Retirement Age|
||66 & 2 months
66 & 4 months
||66 & 6 months
||66 & 8 months
||66 & 10 months
|1960 & later
Those receiving benefits who have not yet reached full retirement age will be docked $1 in benefits for every $2 earned above $18,960 (or $1,580 per month) in 2021. This is an increase of $720 from 2020's $18,240 per year limit.
It’s important to note that this limit increases somewhat substantially for those who will be reaching full retirement age that year. For 2020, that income limit is $48,600 per year, or $4,050 per month. In 2021, retirees will see that limit increase to $50,520 per year, or $4,210 per month. Applicable income earned above this amount will be withheld at a rate of $1 dollar for every $3 earned above the limit.
Beginning in the month you reach full retirement age, you will no longer be subject to earning limits.
Keeping track of changes in tax rates and future income is an important part of having a well-established retirement plan. If you’re wondering how these changes will affect your own financial standings, reach out to your financial advisor for more information.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.