Trying to skate by on a single Social Security check is a challenge no matter where you live. The average retirement check as of July 2023 was $1,790.56 a month, according to the Social Security Administration. That won’t even cover the average rent in the United States, which was $2,038 a month in July, according to Rent.com.
Among the states, Georgia tends to have lower-than-average rents, but only by a little. In terms of affordability and cost of living, the Peach State ranks around the middle of the pack, US News reported. But if you live in the Atlanta metro area, you can expect much higher costs of living. That’s also the case in popular tourist destinations like Savannah and Tybee Island.
A list of the “worst” places to live in Georgia on a single Social Security check doesn’t mean they are bad places to live — most are great places to live. But when you have limited funds, they won’t last long in certain parts of the state. The following are the 12 places in Georgia you want to avoid if you must live on only a Social Security check.
- Average monthly rent: $2,593
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,983.39
- Livability index: 65
Located in North Fulton County, Johns Creek bills itself as “an affluent Atlanta suburb on the rise” — which is a red flag if your only retirement income is a single Social Security check. Rents and living costs tend to be high in John’s Creek, making it more suitable for young families and professionals.
- Average monthly rent: $2,401
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,760.02
- Livability index: 73
Cumminghas a lot to offer in terms of recreation and scenery because of its access to Lake Lanier, Sawnee Mountain and The Big Creek Greenway. There’s also plenty of retail and restaurants at the 135-acre Halcyon mixed-use development. But Cumming’s high cost of living is a deterrent to seniors on a limited budget.
- Average monthly rent: $2,288
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,649.52
- Livability index: 68
Buford has higher-than-average rents and costs of living, which is too bad if you are a retiree in search of small-town charm and a bustling arts scene. The town’s Main Street is home to the historic Tannery Row Artist Colony, along with upscale restaurants and decor shops. If you are living on a single Social Security check, “upscale” is not necessarily a positive.
- Average monthly rent: $2,146
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,524.15
- Livability index: 62
Canton is located between Atlanta and the Blue Ridge Mountains, which means you’ll find scenic views of foothills and the Etowah River. There are plenty of shopping, dining, cultural and recreation choices in Canton, but it’s livability score isn’t great and its cost of living is on the high side.
- Average monthly rent: $2,065
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,439.06
- Livability score: 59
Located about 30 miles south of Atlanta, McDonough is not as expensive as some of the other places on this list. But it’s still pricey for someone living on only a Social Security check, and it has a comparatively low livability score. On the plus side, it’s a good place if you like playing golf and picking farm-fresh produce.
- Average monthly rent: $2,287
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,676.07
- Livability index: 75
Alpharetta is part of the Atlanta metro area and bills itself as “one of the hottest markets in both commercial and residential real estate” — which means real estate is very expensive there. It’s an ideal place for younger families and professionals in search of job opportunities, shopping, cultural events and green space. But it’s not a great choice if you are a senior on a tight budget.
- Average monthly rent: $2,227
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,598.81
- Livability index: 72
Loganville is located within Walton and Gwinnett Counties and is about halfway between Atlanta and Athens, home to the University of Georgia. It has a decent livability score, but retirees with limited resources will find it difficult to live comfortably in Loganville because of its higher-than-average rents and living costs.
- Average monthly rent: $2,086
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,446.06
- Livability index: 63
This is another town located between Atlanta and Athens. Snellville has been described as a “bustling suburb with small-town charm” that features a variety of shopping and dining choices as well as award-winning schools and access to Stone Mountain and other sites and parks. That sounds great for young families — but not seniors looking for an affordable place to live.
- Average monthly rent: $2,022
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,396.27
- Livability index: 61
Newnan is a small town located just 30 minutes south of Atlanta, meaning it’s just close enough that you’ll be paying higher prices than you would in other small towns. It’s part of the Newnan-Coweta region, which comprises seven communities and provides easy access to the Chattahoochee River. But Newnan is not necessarily cheap, and it has a so-so livability score.
- Average monthly rent: $2,123
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,486.84
- Livability index: 67
Dallas is the county seat of Paulding County and is located about 30 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta. One of Dallas’ main attractions is the Silver Comet Trail, a “rails-to-trail” paved path that takes cyclists all the way to the Alabama state line in one direction and to Atlanta in the other. That’s great for avid cyclists, but seniors on a tight budget won’t get much joy from Dallas’ cost of living.
- Average monthly rent: $2,099
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,494.15
- Livability score: 69
Acworth has many of the same characteristics as Dallas in terms of small-town charm and access to downtown Atlanta. There are plenty of outdoor options thanks to Lake Acworth and Lake Allatoona, and the city plays up its “chef-driven” restaurants and craft breweries. The problem with Acworth, like other places on this list, is that it’s simply not affordable for seniors trying to get by on one Social Security check.
- Average monthly rent: $2,113
- Monthly total cost of living: $3,484.32
- Livability index: 70
Fayetteville, located in Fayette County, is a suburb of Atlanta with a population of 18,633. Many young professionals live in Fayetteville and it has a high rate of homeownership, meaning that retirees looking for cheap rents and affordable living options will have a tough go of it.
Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the worst cities in Georgia 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 North Carolina with housing market size rank below 1,000 (meaning it is one of the 1,000 biggest markets in the US). 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 2022 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 not survive on their Social Security or less. GOBankingRates scored and combined both livability and monthly necessities expenditure, with the highest score being worst. In final calculations total monthly necessities expenditures were weighted 3x. All data was collected and is up to date as of September 11, 2023.
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