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<< In other words, are COLA increases applied to the benefit entitlement of those that are not yet receiving benefits, to protect their benefit from inflation prior to retirement, or are they only applied to the social security payments of those already receiving benefits? >>

AFAIK, the latter. However, remember that during your working career your earnings will also reflect the increase from inflation. Your benefits won't be determined until you actually retire, at which time your actual earnings will apply.

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Phil Marti
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