National Association of State Retirement Administrators

Cost-of-Living Adjustments


Periodic cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) in some form are provided on most state and local government pensions. The purpose of a COLA is to wholly or partly offset the effect of inflation on retirement income. Considerable variation exists in the way COLAs are designed, and in many cases they are determined or affected by other factors, such as the actual rate of inflation or the financial condition of the plan. COLAs add both value and cost to a pension benefit. Public pension COLAs have received increased attention in recent years amid two competing factors: in the wake of the Great Recession, many states reduced benefits, followed by a spike in inflation since early 2021. This brief presents a discussion about the purpose of COLAs, the different types of COLAs provided by government pension plans, and an overview of recent state changes to COLA provisions. 

Date published

June 2023


Keith Brainard, Research Director
Alex Brown, Research Manager

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