Social Security benefits are intended to help retirees make ends meet. But a recent study from the Senior Citizens League highlighted just how quickly the expenses that retirees have to pay outpace the annual growth of Social Security payments through cost-of-living increases, also known as COLAs.

In the following video, Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool's director of investment planning, takes a closer look at the study, describing how Social Security COLAs work to help benefits keep up with inflation. As Dan notes, the study says that almost all retirees face rising costs that dwarf their COLAs, with half having costs that rise at six times or more their COLA amount. Yet there's still debate about whether COLAs are too high or too low, with some arguing they should be even smaller in order to support the financial stability of the Social Security program. Health-care coverage is a key problem that senior citizens face, and even though the rate of increases in health-care costs has slowed lately, it still represents a huge risk. Dan concludes that it's important when making your initial Social Security benefits decision not to assume that COLAs will keep up with your expenses, and that can make it smarter not to claim earlier than you absolutely have to.

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Dan Caplinger and The Motley Fool have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.