June 21 (UPI) -- The buying power of Social Security benefits in 2018 is only two-thirds of what it was less than 20 years ago, an annual report concluded Thursday.
The Senior Citizens League, one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups, conducted the study, which said the buying power of Social Security has lost 34 percent since the turn of the century.
The research found that seniors have lost buying power because cost of living adjustments (COLA) to social security has failed to keep up with rising costs over time, especially within the last year.
The 34 percent loss since 2000 is the largest reduction in buying power to date, since The Senior Citizens League started studying the issue eight years ago.
"The 2018 findings represent a substantial 4 percent loss in Social Security benefit buying power from January 2017 through January 2018. The loss [since 2000] deepened -- from 30 percent in 2017 to 34 percent in 2018," Senior Citizens League analyst Mary Johnson said. "Housing and medical costs --particularly home heating expenses and Medigap premiums -- were among the most rapidly rising costs over the past year."
The study was based on a survey of more than 1,000 seniors from January through March. Participants said their monthly household expenses increased far more than their COLA benefits.
"It's not a pretty picture," Johnson told CNBC. "It's difficult when costs are increasing so much more quickly than COLAs."