Make Social Security last.
The average Social Security check is projected to be $1,461 per month in 2019. That’s enough money for a married couple both receiving this amount to cover five basic expenses including housing, food, transportation, health care and utilities in some parts of the country but not others, according to a U.S. News analysis of Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. However, even in places where Social Security income might be enough to pay for basic necessities, it usually barely covers these costs and leaves little left over for other bills. Retirees would be significantly more comfortable with another source of retirement income. Consider these places where two Social Security checks are likely to cover your basic retirement costs.
Affordable housing prices in Augusta help your Social Security payments to stretch further. Retirees pay a median of $1,038 per month for housing if they still have a mortgage, and that drops significantly to just $355 per month among seniors who are mortgage-free, according to Census Bureau data. The median rent in Augusta among people age 65 and older is $677 per month. A haven for golfers, Augusta hosts the annual Masters Tournament. Augusta is also a college town, and Georgia residents age 62 and older are eligible to attend courses tuition-free at Augusta University.
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida
Many retirees are able to purchase waterfront property in the metro area that includes Cape Coral and Fort Myers, thanks to its location along the Caloosahatchee River, Gulf of Mexico and the extensive canal system. Affordable housing is a significant contributor to the overall low cost of living. Residents age 65 and older pay a median of $1,313 in housing costs if they have a mortgage, which drops to $583 among those who are mortgage-free. The median rent is $1,169 per month among retirees.
Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
This metro area has the amenities of a large city at affordable prices. The median monthly housing cost for retirees is $1,414 for homeowners with a mortgage, $554 among those who own their home debt-free and $990 for renters. Health care is available at the UT Southwestern Medical Center and Baylor University Medical Center. One of the perks of living in Dallas is the many professional sports teams, including the Cowboys, Mavericks, Rangers and Stars.
Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina
This metro area has three major research universities: Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. These universities provide many benefits to the entire community, such as the ability to attend events on campus or audit courses as well as health care at Duke University Hospital and the University of North Carolina Hospitals. Renting an apartment in the metro area that includes Durham and Chapel Hill costs those age 65 and older a median of $838 per month. Owning a home costs retirees a median of $457 per month, or $1,334 among those still making mortgage payments in retirement.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
This city on the Grand River near Lake Michigan has many art museums, including the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. President Gerald Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, and the city is now the home of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. Retirees can rent an apartment in Grand Rapids for a median of $792 per month. Homeowners age 65 and older pay a median of $1,113 per month with a mortgage and $454 without one.
Wisconsin’s state capital city is the home of the University of Wisconsin. The state government and the university are the city’s largest employers, and the many scenic lakes and parks provide ample opportunities for recreation. A home in Madison costs retirees age 65 and older a median of $1,466 per month, but that drops to $662 among those with a paid-off house. The median rent is $898 per month.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
The metro area that includes Minneapolis and St. Paul provides a high quality of life at an affordable price. Retirees age 65 and older can rent an apartment for a median of $975 per month. Older homeowners pay a median of $546 per month without a mortgage, or $1,443 monthly if they are still making mortgage payments. The area is home to the University of Minnesota, where Minnesota residents age 62 or older can audit classes for free or pay just $10 per credit. The college also provides many opportunities for residents to attend presentations, concerts and sporting events. The Mayo Clinic in nearby Rochester, Minnesota, is ranked No. 1 in the nation on the U.S. News Best Hospitals Honor Roll.
The low housing costs make it easier for retirees on a fixed income to live in Pittsburgh. Seniors age 65 and older with a paid-off home pay just $474 per month in other housing costs. Homeowners with a mortgage have a median of $1,097 in monthly housing costs. The median rent is $670 per month among those age 65 and older. In addition, residents age 65 and older are eligible for free public transportation on the Pittsburgh bus and rail systems, which makes it easy and affordable to get around without a car. The UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside hospital is rated 15th in the nation on the U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings.
It isn’t always affordable to retire near the ocean, but it can be in Portland. Retirees in Portland pay a median of $1,345 in monthly housing costs with a mortgage and $579 if they have a paid-off home. Renters age 65 and older pay a median of $770 per month. Portland residents enjoy a four-season climate with warm summers and cold, snowy winters. It can be pricey to enjoy Portland’s many innovative restaurants, but watching the Atlantic Ocean waves crash into the rocky coastline comes free of charge.
Rochester, New York
You will need to love winter to enjoy retirement on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, because Rochester receives a prolific amount of lake-effect snow. However, once the snow melts, the flowers begin to bloom and the city celebrates with an annual Lilac Festival. The low cost of living and the highly rated Strong Memorial Hospital keep many retirees in town. The median cost for homeowners is $1,130 per month with a mortgage, which declines to $543 among retirees who own their home mortgage-free. The median rent for people age 65 and older is $803 per month.
Social Security probably won’t provide enough to cover your basic expenses if you live in an expensive city with high housing costs or an overall high cost of living. Two average Social Security checks didn’t cover basic costs is many pricey California metro areas, including San Jose, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, San Diego and Los Angeles. Other cities with high housing costs that make it difficult to live on Social Security alone include Honolulu, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Bridgeport, Connecticut, New York, and Portland, Oregon.
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