Finding space in your budget to save and invest isn’t easy for everyone. In fact, a recent GOBankingRates survey found that 40% of Americans have less than $300 in savings. As such, plenty of Americans are facing a retirement where their only source of funds is a monthly check from the Social Security Administration.
Still, living on a fixed income doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a satisfying retirement. In the right place, you might discover that you can stretch your budget further and spend your golden years enjoying yourself. To help you find such a place, a GOBankingRates study identified American cities where you can realistically retire on a budget of $1,500 a month.
The study took the cost-of-living index from Sperling’s Best Places and applied it to customer expenditure data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to find the average cost of living in the given city. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in each city was also sourced from ApartmentList. Locations that fell below a certain livability score on AreaVibes or had a below-average portion of the population above 65 were eliminated, and only the places offering the best combination of bills under $1,500 and strong livability for seniors were left.
- Total monthly expenditures: $1,485.48
- Livability score: 65
The average monthly rent in Lansing, Michigan’s state capital, is $701 — the highest of the cities on the list. However, the average monthly cost of groceries, $308.45, is the second-lowest of the cities included here.
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- Total monthly expenditures: $1,483.75
- Livability score: 66
In Lawton, retirees can expect to spend a bundle on healthcare. Average monthly costs of $660.52 are higher than rent, which comes in at an affordable $519. The city of about 93,000 people has the lowest grocery costs in the study at an average of $304.73 per month.
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Lake Charles, Louisiana
- Total monthly expenditures: $1,446.59
- Livability score: 69
Located along Interstate 10 between Houston and New Orleans, Lake Charles offers plenty of things for retirees to do, from enjoying museums to water activities to wildlife experiences. It is one of three cities on the list with an average monthly rent of less than $600 but healthcare costs higher than $500 a month.
St. Cloud, Minnesota
- Total monthly expenditures: $1,404.64
- Livability score: 68
St. Cloud, about an hour’s drive northwest of Minneapolis, has the lowest monthly healthcare costs on the list, an average of $444.71. The grocery costs are the highest, however, at $328.43.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
- Total monthly expenditures: $1,397.29
- Livability score: 80
Retirees who settle in Fort Wayne would find it affordable, as well as a great place to make friends. People ages 65 or older make up 14 % of the city’s population. Rent averages $634 per month but healthcare costs are $453.83 a month — the second-lowest rate in the study.
- Total monthly expenditures: $1,385.63
- Livability score: 67
Odessa, in western Texas, is known for its oil rigs, Friday night high school football and a working re-creation of William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. With the lowest average monthly rent on the list, $487, retirees should have a few dollars to spare for football or theater tickets.
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Jami Farkas contributed to the reporting for this article.
Methodology: For this study, GOBankingRates found the best cities to retire on a monthly budget of $1,500 or less. GOBankingRates used ApartmentList February 2021 data to find every city in the U.S. that has (1) an average 2021 monthly rent of $750 or less for a 1 bedroom apartment. GOBankingRates then used Sperling’s Best to find the cost of living index for every city on the list, looking at (2) grocery and (3) healthcare index scores. Next, GOBankingRates used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2019 Consumer Expenditure Survey to find the annual expenditure amount for both grocery (“food at home”) and healthcare costs for people aged 65 and older, then determined the expenses on a monthly basis. GOBankingRates added monthly housing, grocery and healthcare costs together to find where a person 65 and older could survive on $1,500 or less. In order for a city to be qualified for the study, it had to have a livabilty score of 65 or higher as sourced from AreaVibes and its population had to be 10% or more over the age of 65, according to the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. All data was collected on and up to date as of March 10, 2021.