PNS Daily Newscast - November 21, 2018 

Senators from both sides of the aisle want Trump to clear the air on the Khashoggi killing. Also on the Wednesday rundown: Massachusetts leads the U.S. in the fentanyl-overdose death rate; plus we will let you know why business want to preserve New Mexico’s special places.

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Social Security COLA: A Win, But Not a Windfall

For retirement readiness, South Dakota ranks lowest among the states, according to a new survey by Ubiquity Retirement and Savings. (
For retirement readiness, South Dakota ranks lowest among the states, according to a new survey by Ubiquity Retirement and Savings. (
October 29, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The cost of living increase, or COLA, that takes effect in 2019 for people on Social Security will be the most generous in years - but it's still mostly grocery money and not a trip to the beach.

The average South Dakota recipient collects about $1,300 a month from Social Security, which means with the increase, the typical senior is looking at about a $40 monthly boost, or $468 per year. Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy analyst with the Senior Citizens League, said this is the largest COLA increase since 2012.

"And there have been three years when there was no cost of living adjustment at all,” Johnson said. “And in 2017, it was only three-tenths of a percent, or almost zero."

Johnson said people who receive less than $600 dollars in Social Security income won't see any net increase in their benefits.

More than 62 million people collect Social Security in the U.S., including nearly 129,000 in South Dakota. Johnson said the low cost-of-living increases are concerning, because those who depend the most on this income are losing significant buying power over the years.

"Since the year 2000, Social Security benefits have lost about 34 percent of their buying power,” she said. “And that has really big implications for anybody trying to live on Social Security if they don't have lots of savings."

Johnson said people often underestimate how much money they'll need to live on in retirement, and end up spending their savings faster than they planned, or going into debt by taking out a second mortgage. Health care and high medication costs are often to blame. She added seniors in rural areas often face the greatest challenges.

"A lot people simply did not have the type of job where they had the opportunity to have a 401(k) or to save,” Johnson explained. “And 60 percent of retirees are dependent on Social Security for over half of their income."

She noted South Dakota seniors are at least fortunate to be in one of 37 states that doesn't impose state income taxes on Social Security earnings.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD