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Could You Live on the Average 2022 Social Security Benefit?

By Christy Bieber - Oct 24, 2021 at 12:03PM

Key Points

  • The average Social Security benefit will be a little higher in 2022.
  • Benefits aren't designed to be your sole source of income.
  • Retirees need to be realistic about their benefit amount and have supplementary savings.

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Are retirement benefits alone really going to be enough?

In 2022, the average Social Security benefit will be a bit higher than in 2021. But, would you be able to live on your retirement benefits if you collected anywhere close to what the typical senior receives? 

The answer may surprise you. 

Two older adults smiling and taking a selfie.

Image source: Getty Images.

Living on the average Social Security benefit could be a challenge 

In 2022, the average Social Security benefit is going up to $1,657. This is a $92 increase from the $1,565 average benefit retirees received in 2021. The big benefit increase is a result of the fact that inflation is high, and seniors get periodic cost of living adjustments when prices are going up. Next year, retirees will be getting a 5.9% raise because consumer expenditure costs are rising so much.

If you do a little quick math, you'll see that retirees who are on track to get the average amount of Social Security income would be left with an annual income of $19,884 in 2022. Sadly, you'll likely find that this is not nearly enough money to live comfortably on during your later years -- especially with the federal poverty level at $12,880 for a single-person household.

An income just a few thousand dollars above the federal poverty level can leave seniors facing the worst of both worlds. They'll make too much to be eligible for many of the state and federal benefits programs that could help them make ends meet but too little to afford all the essentials. 

While it may come as a surprise that Social Security benefits aren't enough to live on, the reality is that the program wasn't meant to be your sole source of support and was supposed to be supplemented by savings and a pension. If you have neither, you'll almost inevitably find yourself struggling. 

What to do if you can't live on the average Social Security benefit

Since living on the average Social Security benefit is difficult or impossible -- even in 2022 after retirees receive the largest cost of living increase in 40 years -- it's important to plan for additional income.

If you haven't yet retired, make sure to set a savings goal so your nest egg produces enough money to supplement your retirement benefits. Start saving as soon as possible and aim to automate contributions to a retirement account so you end up with the money you need. 

If you're already in retirement, working part time could help you bring in additional much-needed funds if you don't have a lot of savings. You may also want to relocate to an inexpensive community if you are trying to live on Social Security alone. 

Delaying a benefits claim can also increase the amount of Social Security income you receive if you haven't yet filed for your checks to start. By waiting, you avoid early filing penalties that would reduce your check if you applied for it before full retirement age, and you can earn delayed retirement credits until age 70 that increase your benefit amount. 

These steps still aren't going to give you a Social Security check that you can easily live on, but they can help you make the most of your benefits if you'll rely heavily on them to support you after leaving the workforce. 

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