Rolling hills, mountains, large cities and quaint boroughs steeped in history and Eastern Seaboard charm.
For retirees, Pennsylvania has a lot to offer. It is also one of the most tax-friendly states to retire in, enough to be included in Kiplinger’s top 10 list earlier this year. The Keystone State doesn’t tax retirement benefits and has a relatively reasonable flat tax rate of 3.07 percent.
You may not need to burn through your money quickly in Pennsylvania. There are reasonably priced, livable options — even for couples living on just Social Security. (Those couples receive an average benefit of about $3,580 a month these days, according to the Social Security Administration.)
GOBankingRates has compiled a top 10 list of Pennsylvania cities that combine this level of affordability with strong livability scores. To do this, we’ve analyzed data from the U.S. Census American Consumer Survey, Sperling’s Best Places, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Zillow Observed Rent Index, the Social Security Administration, and AreaVibes.
After weighting various statistics and calculating overall scores, we’ve produced the countdown below, with our winner in the No. 1 spot. Spoiler alert: Several of the entries in our top 10 are small boroughs near Pittsburgh.
- Average rent: $1,237.72
- Average total monthly cost of living: $3,040.34
- Livability score: 84
The birthplace of President Joe Biden, Scranton is located in northeast Pennsylvania, about 120 miles north of Philadelphia. Attractions like the Scranton Iron Furnaces and the Steamtown National Historic Site celebrate the city’s blue-collar history. Its population has declined since its industrial peak in the 1940s but still stands at around 76,000. For retirees relying on Social Security, Scranton offers a reasonable cost of living and a respectable livability score.
- Average rent: $848.61
- Average total monthly cost of living: $2,558.84
- Livability score: 78
The small borough of Grove City, located about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, is home to about 7,500 residents. With an average monthly rent under $850 and a total monthly cost of living under $2,600, it’s within reach of many budget-conscious retirees. Grove City’s industries over the years have included locomotive engine manufacturing.
- Average rent: $835.00
- Average total monthly cost of living: $2,707.05
- Livability score: 80
Another small borough near Pittsburgh, New Brighton offers attractions such as Big Rock Park and the New Brighton Fishing Park. It bills itself as a lower-cost, river town alternative to nearby communities. Its average monthly rent of just $835 is one of the lowest on our list.
- Average rent: $900.00
- Average total monthly cost of living: $2,618.66
- Livability score: 79
Hollidaysburg is a borough with about 5,600 residents, located just south of Altoona in central Pennsylvania. It boasts a large historic district. For retirees counting on Social Security alone, it offers sub-$1,000 monthly rents. A month’s worth of groceries will run a couple about $410 here.
- Average rent: $1,108.33
- Average total monthly cost of living: $2,946.49
- Livability score: 84
Millvale is just outside of Pittsburgh, and it offers retirees and others a reasonably priced alternative. Home to about 3,400 people, Millvale has attractions such as Millvale Riverfront Park, the Mr. Smalls live music venue, and multiple craft breweries. Groceries here will cost a couple about $400 a month.
- Average rent: $1,127.64
- Average total monthly cost of living: $2,995.07
- Livability score: 85
You’ll find the borough of Beaver along the Ohio River, about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Most of Beaver is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and the borough has landed on a couple of top 10 neighborhood lists in recent years. Nevertheless, an average monthly cost of living below $3,000 makes it an option for those living off Social Security alone.
- Average rent: $1,499.78
- Average total monthly cost of living: $3,411.76
- Livability score: 91
Camp Hill’s average monthly cost of living is the highest on our list, but so is its livability score — a shiny 91. Camp Hill is a suburb of Harrisburg, located in the southeast part of the state. Attractions include creekside Willow Park and Market Street’s Pennsylvania Bakery. As for the cost of living, Camp Hill has the highest prices on our list for groceries ($416 a month) and healthcare (just shy of $700).
- Average rent: $710.00
- Average total monthly cost of living: $2,366.48
- Livability score: 78
There’s a lot for budget-conscious retirees to like about New Castle, a city of about 22,000 people located northwest of Pittsburgh near the Ohio border. It’s tough to do better than $710 for average monthly rent in a lot of states. New Castle’s monthly average for the total cost of living is also the lowest in our top 10.
- Average rent: $1,039.39
- Average total monthly cost of living: $2,746.61
- Livability score: 83
The largest city in our top 10, Erie had about 95,000 residents as of the 2020 census. You’ll find it in Pennsylvania’s northwest corner on the shores of Lake Erie. Its offerings include minor league and small-college sports, fall foliage, Victorian mansions and Great Lakes access. Cost-conscious retired couples can buy a month’s worth of groceries for about $375 on average.
- Average rent: $850.24
- Average total monthly cost of living: $2,613.43
- Livability score: 82
The city of Washington is located about 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. Home to around 13,000 residents, it features historic buildings such as the Bradford House and the LeMoyne House, and it’s also the national headquarters for PONY League baseball and softball. Average monthly rent here is only $850, and a month’s worth of groceries for two will run you about $400.
To find the best places in Pennsylvania for a couple to live on only Social Security benefits, GOBankingRates gathered populations for cities in Pennsylvania through the US Census American Consumer Survey. For each city, GOBankingRates checked cost-of-living indexes from Sperling’s Best Places across multiple expenditure categories including groceries, healthcare, utilities, transportation and miscellaneous. Each cost-of-living index was multiplied by each expenditure category’s national average cost as sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2022 consumer expenditure survey to find the expenditure costs in each city. The average rent for each city was sourced from the Zillow Observed Rental Index. Adding those figures to monthly expenditure costs provides the total monthly cost for living in each city. The average Social Security benefits per month were sourced from the Social Security Administration Monthly Statistical Snapshot and doubled to find a couple’s average social security benefits. Every city’s total monthly cost above the monthly Social Security benefits for a couple was removed. The livability index was sourced from AreaVibes, and all locations with a score less than 70 were removed from consideration. The livability index was scored and weighted at 1.50, and the total monthly cost was scored and weighted at 1.20. Those scores were combined and sorted to find the best places in Pennsylvania for a couple to live on Social Security benefits alone. All data was collected and is up to date as of October 6, 2023.
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