Couples who hit retirement age at around the same time usually have decisions to make about where they want to spend their golden years. If you need to get by on a single Social Security check, your first priority will be finding something affordable.
The average Social Security retirement check is $1,790.56 a month as of July 2023, according to the Social Security Administration. Trying to pay the bills on that is a challenge no matter where you live, but it’s especially hard where the cost of living is high.
As the AARP reported earlier this year, U.S. Census Bureau data found that a rising number of retirees and retired couples are moving to other states to find cheaper housing. One of the most popular destinations is Michigan, which ranked among the top five states in the country in this regard.
If you and your spouse are thinking about moving to Michigan, here’s a look at the 12 best places to live if you have to get by on a single Social Security check.
- Average monthly rent: $1,182.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,116.69.
- Livability index: 81.
For couples who like to enjoy big-city amenities, Farmington Hills is an ideal location because of its proximity to Detroit and Ann Arbor. In Farmington Hills itself you’ll find no shortage of dining, entertainment, cultural and recreation options.
- Average monthly rent: $1,074.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,249.02.
- Livability index: 78.
Michigan’s capital city has a central location that makes it easy to get to other parts of the state, giving you access to the urban bustle of Detroit or the natural beauty of Lake Michigan or Lake Huron. If you and your spouse are college sports fans, Michigan State University is located nearby in East Lansing.
- Average monthly rent: $1,145.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,310.28.
- Livability index: 77.
Known as “Ypsi” to the locals, this city just east of Ann Arbor is best known as home to Eastern Michigan University. It has been described as a “progressive city with an independent vibe and eclectic art scene,” with two main districts (Downtown and Depot Town) that feature historic areas and plenty of local retail options.
- Average monthly rent: $1,155.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,309.41.
- Livability index: 75.
Westland is located about 25 miles west of Detroit and offers a small-town vibe with plenty of amenities. Retired couples might enjoy the Senior Friendship Center, a 17,000-square-foot facility that provides recreational and social activities as well as educational, fitness and social programs designed for residents 50 years and older.
- Average monthly rent: $1,511.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,669.40.
- Livability index: 82.
Located on the Grand River east of Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids was ranked by Places Rated Almanac as the No. 3 city in the nation for fun and recreation. It offers numerous cultural destinations along with plenty of outdoor recreation options for retired couples who like to stay on the go.
- Average monthly rent: $1,013.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,225.77
- Livability index: 73.
Jackson is a small city located within an hour’s drive of both Ann Arbor and Lansing, which makes it ideal for couples who like a small-town vibe as well as access to urban centers. Among the top attractions are the Ella Sharp Museum of Art and History and 28 different public parks.
- Average monthly rent: $1,538.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,672.11.
- Livability index: 81.
Located on the shore of Lake Macatawa, Holland is a good destination for couples who like to stroll around in a village setting. Holland’s downtown features heated streets and cobblestone sidewalks with more than 100 specialty shops, breweries and restaurants.
- Average monthly rent: $1,759.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,932.63.
- Livability index: 86.
Novi is a suburb to the northwest of Detroit, meaning you have easy access to Motor City. It’s also a good spot for recreation enthusiasts, with a variety of lakes, golf and hiking trails — as well as the 1,000-acre Maybury State Park.
- Average monthly rent: $1,579.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,791.69.
- Livability index: 83.
Midland has been described as an “artsy city dotted by mid-century modern architecture.” It features America’s longest canopy walk and is also home to a nature center, a 30-mile rail trail and the Midland Center for the Arts.
- Average monthly rent: $1,395.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,539.88.
- Livability index: 78.
Located in Wayne County, Dearborn Heights is a Detroit suburb with a diverse population. It’s a good place for history lovers because of the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, where you can step inside the bus where Rosa Parks took a stand against Jim Crow laws. You might also choose to explore Buckminster Fuller’s circular Dymaxion House.
- Average monthly rent: $1,322.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,471.52.
- Livability index: 76.
Taylor is in the Downriver area of Metropolitan Detroit and is a good destination for recreation lovers. The city is home to the Lakes of Taylor and Taylor Meadows Golf Clubs, as well as the Taylor Recreation Center, where you can work out, play court games or take dance lessons.
- Average monthly rent: $1,097.
- Monthly total cost of living: $2,324.81.
- Livability index: 73.
As the headquarters of The Kellogg Company, Battle Creek naturally has an annual cereal festival where breakfast tables sprawl the downtown. The city is also home to Binder Park Zoo, which ranks as one of the top U.S. zoological parks, along with numerous biking, hiking and exploring options.
Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the best cities in Michigan for a couple to live on only a Social Security check based on the average monthly benefit for retired workers, $1,790.56 ($3,581.12 for a couple), sourced from Social Security Administration. GOBankingRates first isolated all cities in Michigan with a 2023 average monthly rent under $1,790 and a size rank below 1,000. GOBankingRates then used Sperling’s Best to find the cost of living index for each listed city, looking at grocery and healthcare index scores. Next, GOBankingRates used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 Consumer Expenditure Survey to find the annual expenditure amount for both grocery (“food at home”) and healthcare costs for people aged 65 and older in order to find how much a couple 65 and over would spend on groceries and healthcare in each city on a monthly basis. GOBankingRates then added monthly housing, grocery, and healthcare costs together to find where a couple 65 and older could survive on their Social Security or less. In order for a city to be qualified for the study the city had to have a livability score above 70 as sourced from AreaVibes. GOBankingRates scored and combined both livability and monthly necessities expenditure, with the lowest score being best, to determine final rankings. All data was collected and is up to date as of August 31, 2023.
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