For some, Social Security serves as a financial “safety net” supplementing their retirement savings or pension, while for others, it’s their only source of income. The value of this income, however, can drastically vary based on one’s geographical location.
Across many regions in the United States, the mean monthly Social Security benefit of $1,775.81 (as of December 2022) may barely cover basic necessities. But in Florida, particularly for couples earning a collective Social Security income of $3,551.62, there are more viable options. The Sunshine State offers a number of towns where surviving solely on Social Security checks is more feasible, especially for couples.
To determine which Florida towns allow a comfortable living on Social Security alone, GOBankingRates conducted an analysis. The average monthly Social Security benefit for retired workers was identified from the Social Security Administration records, and this was compared to the mean 2022 rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Florida.
Next, the research team from GOBankingRates referred to Sperling’s Best to obtain the cost-of-living index for each city in question, focusing on grocery and healthcare index scores. Additional data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 Consumer Expenditure Survey was used to calculate the annual expenditure on grocery and healthcare for couples aged 65 and above, combining these expenses.
Top 10 Picks For 2023
- 2022 average monthly rent: $1,721
- Total monthly expenses: $2,992.14
Titusville, situated on Florida’s Space Coast, offers a balance of affordability and lifestyle to retirees. With a 2022 average monthly rent of $1,721 and total monthly expenses coming in at $2,992.14, a retired couple receiving the average Social Security benefit would have over $550 remaining after covering major costs each month. These expenses include healthcare, which averages $585.25 monthly, and groceries, amounting to $369.50. The city’s proximity to the Kennedy Space Center and Canaveral National Seashore provides abundant recreational opportunities, adding to its attractiveness.
- 2022 average monthly rent: $1,693
- Total monthly expenses: $3,008.76
Bartow, the county seat of Polk County, provides a comfortable lifestyle with a remarkable livability score of 79. The average monthly rent in 2022 was $1,693, and the total monthly expenses added up to $3,008.76. Despite this, the city’s cost of living is relatively affordable when compared to the national average. The monthly healthcare expenditure and grocery costs in Bartow are $591.11 and $382.99, respectively.
3. Lake Wales
- 2022 average monthly rent: $1,493
- Total monthly expenses: $2,813.94
Lake Wales is an appealing choice for retirees seeking to maximize their Social Security income. With a 2022 average monthly rent of $1,493 and total monthly expenses of $2,813.94, a couple’s average monthly Social Security benefits would exceed their total monthly outgoings by $742. Utilities cost an average of $347.66 per month, while healthcare expenses and grocery costs tally up to $591.11 and $382.25 respectively.
- 2022 average monthly rent: $1,785
- Total monthly expenses: $3,127.99
Despite having higher overall monthly expenses, Largo stands out with its high livability score of 85. The 2022 average monthly rent was $1,785, and the total monthly expenses amounted to $3,127.99. The slightly elevated grocery costs, 4.4% above the national average, and healthcare expenses, 3.7% more than average, are balanced by the superior quality of life in this town, with numerous amenities and recreational opportunities.
5. Winter Haven
- 2022 average monthly rent: $1,651
- Total monthly expenses: $2,960.37
Winter Haven, known for its chain of lakes, offers retirees relatively manageable expenses. The 2022 average monthly rent was $1,651, with total monthly expenses at $2,960.37. Monthly healthcare costs, identical to those in three other cities on this list, were $591.11, and groceries amounted to $384.49.
- 2022 average monthly rent: $1,707
- Total monthly expenses: $3,002.79
Lakeland, another city in Polk County, is appealing with its high livability score of 80. The average monthly rent in 2022 was $1,707, with total monthly expenses at $3,002.79. Notably, utility costs in Lakeland are 2% below the national average. Healthcare costs match those of Winter Haven, and grocery expenses come to a reasonable $384.87 per month.
- 2022 average monthly rent: $1,360
- Total monthly expenses: $2,664.99
Offers the second-lowest rent on this list, at $1,360 monthly. The overall monthly expenditure is also the second-lowest, making this city a haven for retirees seeking to cut living costs. Healthcare expenses are $582.90 per month, and grocery expenses are $384.49.
8. Altamonte Springs
- 2022 average monthly rent: $1,691
- Total monthly expenses: $3,011.28
Altamonte Springs, located in the northern suburbs of Orlando, may not offer the lowest overall monthly expenditure, but it shines with an impressive livability score of 85. The 2022 average monthly rent was $1,691, and the total monthly expenses were $3,011.28. Grocery costs here are lower than the national average, while monthly healthcare costs are slightly higher, at $610.44.
9. South Daytona
- 2022 average monthly rent: $1,563
- Total monthly expenses: $2,851.71
Monthly expenses leave about a $700 surplus for the average retired couple. The 2022 average monthly rent was $1,563, and the total monthly expenses were $2,851.71. Grocery and utility costs are both below the national average, and monthly healthcare costs are just 2.7% above the national average. The city also scores high on livability with a score of 83.
Keep in mind that South Daytona is mentioned in our list of the most unsecure and dangerous cities in Florida07
10. Crystal River
- 2022 average monthly rent: $1,183
- Total monthly expenses: $2,491.78
Topping the list is Crystal River, offering the lowest overall expenses, the lowest monthly rent at $1,183, and a respectable livability score of 81. Healthcare costs here are 2% above the national average, but the city’s affordability and access to nature, including manatee sightings and fishing opportunities, make it an attractive option for retirees.
Methodology For Research
GOBankingRates established the most suitable Florida cities for couples to sustain solely on a Social Security check by taking into account the average monthly benefit for retired employees, which amounts to $1,775.81 ($3,551.62 for a couple), as provided by the Social Security Administration.
Initially, GOBankingRates singled out all Florida cities with an average monthly rent below $1,750 for the year 2022. Subsequently, the cost of living index for each city was obtained from Sperling’s Best, particularly focusing on grocery and healthcare indices.
Following this, GOBankingRates consulted the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey to ascertain the annual expenditure for both grocery (“food at home”) and healthcare costs for individuals aged 65 and above.
This data was used to calculate how much a couple of the same age group would spend on groceries and healthcare monthly in each city. The monthly costs for housing, groceries, and healthcare were added together to identify locations where a couple aged 65 or above could subsist on their Social Security benefits or less.
For a city to qualify for the study, it had to have a livability score over 65, as sourced from AreaVibes. GOBankingRates then combined and scored both livability and monthly necessities expenditure, with the lowest score being the best, to determine the final rankings. All data was gathered and is current as of January 30, 2023.
Can You Truly Live Comfortably on Social Security Alone?
The answer to this question is contingent upon several factors, including one’s lifestyle, financial obligations, and geographical location. Nationwide, the average monthly Social Security benefit hovers around $1,775.81 (as of December 2022), which may not be adequate to cover basic living expenses in some areas, especially in cities with high costs of living.
However, the research conducted by GOBankingRates suggests that in specific regions such as Florida, it is indeed possible for retirees to live a comfortable life relying solely on Social Security income. In the cities listed in this study, the cost of living, including housing, groceries, and healthcare costs, are significantly lower than the national average. This allows couples receiving an average Social Security benefit to not only meet their necessary monthly expenses but also have a surplus.
Still, it is essential to consider that living comfortably involves more than merely meeting basic needs. Factors such as access to quality healthcare, proximity to family and friends, availability of recreational activities, and overall quality of life should also be taken into account when determining if one can live comfortably on Social Security alone.
If you’re enjoying our exploration of Florida’s best cities for living on social security, you’ll love our deep dive into our article talking about where u can live under 3k a month.
Why is Florida considered a viable option for retirees living on Social Security benefits?
Florida is a popular choice for retirees due to its favorable tax policies, including no state income tax, which means Social Security retirement benefits, pension income, and income from an IRA or a 401(k) are all untaxed. Moreover, Florida’s cost of living in certain cities is quite reasonable, with affordable housing options, making it easier for retirees to stretch their Social Security checks. Additionally, Florida’s mild climate and numerous recreational options provide a desirable quality of life.
How was the average monthly Social Security benefit determined?
The average monthly Social Security benefit was sourced from the Social Security Administration’s records. The administration regularly publishes data regarding the average benefits that retirees receive. As of December 2022, the average monthly benefit for retired workers was $1,775.81.
What factors are considered in the cost of living index?
The cost of living index is a theoretical measurement that reflects the relative cost of living over time or regions. It includes prices for a defined basket of goods and services including groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous goods and services. Sperling’s Best provides comprehensive cost of living indices for different cities and regions.
How were healthcare costs calculated?
The healthcare costs were calculated using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey. This survey provides detailed information on the annual expenditure for healthcare costs for individuals aged 65 and above. These values were then broken down into monthly costs and applied to each city based on its healthcare index score.
What is a livability score and why is it important?
A livability score is a measure of the overall quality of life in a given area, rated on a scale from 0 to 100. It takes into account factors like local amenities, cost of living, crime rates, education, employment, housing, and weather. This score is crucial for retirees as it provides an indication of the comfort and satisfaction they might experience living in that location.
How are grocery costs factored into the calculations?
Similar to healthcare costs, grocery costs were determined using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey, which provides details on annual expenditure for groceries for individuals aged 65 and above. These values were then divided by 12 to get monthly costs and applied to each city based on its grocery index score.
What makes a city qualify for this study?
For a city to qualify for this study, it had to meet certain criteria. Firstly, the average monthly rent in the city had to be under $1,750 for the year 2022. Secondly, the city had to have a livability score above 65 as sourced from AreaVibes. Lastly, the city had to be a place where a couple aged 65 or above could survive on their Social Security benefits or less after accounting for housing, groceries, and healthcare costs.
In conclusion, the research conducted by GOBankingRates presents a compelling case for Florida as an appealing retirement destination for couples reliant on Social Security benefits. The selected cities not only offer reasonable cost of living but also exhibit commendable livability scores, which balance affordability with a good quality of life.
This study demonstrates how strategic geographical choices can significantly impact the financial feasibility of living solely on Social Security income in retirement. Factors such as Florida’s tax policies, affordable healthcare, reasonable grocery costs, and lower rents in certain cities, make it a viable option for retirees seeking to maximize their Social Security benefits.