Many seniors today get all or most of their monthly income from Social Security. Given how inflation has surged, that's put a lot of retirees in a tough spot financially.

Earlier this year, Social Security recipients got their most generous cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in decades -- a 5.9% raise. And the reason for that boils down to high levels of inflation during the latter part of 2021.

But this year, inflation is soaring even more. And now, some experts are projecting that next-year's Social Security COLA could leave this-year's COLA in the dust.

Social Security cards.

Image source: Getty Images.

Could seniors see their benefits rise almost 11%?

It's too early to predict what next-year's Social Security raise will look like. That's because that number is based on third-quarter inflation data, which we've yet to gather.

If inflation holds steady at its current pace, next-year's Social Security COLA could amount to a whopping 10.8%, according to an analysis from the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Even if inflation slows down substantially over the next few months -- something the Fed is trying to make happen by implementing interest-rate hikes -- seniors on Social Security could still be looking at a 7.3% raise for 2022. But given the recent pace at which inflation has soared, we're unlikely to see it completely grind to a halt.

Is a large Social Security COLA a good thing?

Last year, many seniors celebrated the news of a 5.9% COLA. And this year's COLA could far outpace it.

But let's take a minute to remember that the purpose of COLAs is to help seniors keep up with inflation. When COLAs are generous, it's only because living costs are up substantially at the same time.

In fact, seniors who get most or all of their income from Social Security are already falling behind this year because the 5.9% COLA they received in January has by no means kept pace with recent inflation. If next-year's COLA is far more generous, the best seniors can hope for is that it will help them maintain their buying power. But gaining buying power through a large COLA is something seniors shouldn't anticipate.

It's for this very reason that people are advised to bring savings with them into retirement -- so they have income outside of Social Security that may be a better match for inflation. Of course, current retirees may have more limited options for building savings (though working part-time is an avenue worth exploring in today's booming gig economy). But current full-time workers should take care to contribute steadily to an IRA or 401(k) plan to give themselves more buying power down the line.

Not such great news after all

Next-year's Social Security COLA may end up being substantially larger than the last one. But that doesn't mean seniors will automatically have an easier time making ends meet. That's important to keep in mind as we wait for the official announcement later this year.