Because Social Security has been around for so many years, you might assume that its rules just stay the same. But that's not so.
Social Security can change from year to year, and some changes may be more obvious than others. Here are a few shifts in Social Security that may have slipped under your radar so far this year.
1. The wage cap increased
You don't have to be collecting Social Security for changes to the program to affect you. If you're working and are a higher earner, you may now be losing more of your income to Social Security taxes.
Each year, there's a wage cap that's set for Social Security tax purposes, and earnings beyond that point are exempt from taxes. Last year, that cap was set at $142,800, but this year, it's increased to $147,000. If you earn $147,000 or more, it means you're paying Social Security taxes on an additional $4,200 of income.
Meanwhile, the tax rate that applies to wages for Social Security purposes is 12.4%. If you're self-employed, this higher wage cap means your tax liability could increase by almost $521 this year. If you're a salaried worker and therefore split that tax liability with your employer, you're looking at around $260 more in taxes.
2. Work credits are harder to earn
In order to receive Social Security benefits during retirement, you need to accumulate 40 work credits in your lifetime. The value of a credit can change from year to year, and you can only earn a maximum of four credits per year.
Last year, $1,470 of earnings got you one work credit. This year, it takes $1,510 of earnings to snag a credit. If you work full-time, this change may not affect you. But if you're a part-time worker, that higher threshold could put you at risk of not acquiring the credits you need to get benefits down the line.
3. Medicare Part B premiums rose
Technically, Medicare is a separate program from Social Security, and so you can argue that higher Part B premiums don't really constitute a Social Security change. But seniors who are on Social Security and Medicare at the same time will no doubt be affected by this year's Part B premium hikes. That's because those higher costs will erode their Social Security raises.
Social Security benefits got a 5.9% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2022 on the heels of rampant inflation during 2021's third quarter. But a big part of that COLA will now be lost to higher Medicare Part B premiums, which are deducted from Social Security benefits for those enrolled in both programs.
Specifically, Medicare Part B rose from $148.50 in 2021 to $170.10 in 2022. That means seniors anticipating a nice raise may see it shrink by $21.60.
Whether you're collecting Social Security or not, changes to the program could have a big effect on your financial picture. Keep reading up on Social Security and pay attention when it's in the news so you don't end up getting caught off guard.