Through seven months of the counting period toward the January 2023 federal retirement cost of living adjustment, the COLA count stands at 6 percent, following an increase in April of 0.5 percentage points in the inflation index used to set the COLA.
Barring a change of direction in inflation during the rest of the measuring period, the count already is in line to top the increase paid in January of this year, which was 5.9 percent for those retired under CSRS and 4.9 percent for those retired under FERS who are eligible for COLAs (generally not until reaching age 62).
That increase was the largest since the 8.7 percent paid in 1982, before the FERS system even existed.
Cost-of-living-adjustments (COLAs) are effective on December 1 of each year and are applied to the annuity payments made the following month. COLAs for those retired less than one year are prorated according to the date on which they retired. If you retire in January, your first adjustment will be made in January of the following year and will be for 11/12ths of the COLA amount. If you retire in February it will be 10/12ths, and so forth. Future COLAs will be for the full amount.
COLA Based on Consumer Price Index
The COLA is based on the change in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI/W) average of the third calendar quarter of one year to the next. If the inflation count finishes negative, benefits are frozen but not reduced. Also, in that situation the starting point for the next COLA count remains the same.
Note: Social Security COLAs follow the same formula except that a full Social Security COLA is paid even to someone who has drawn benefits for less than a year.