3 Appealing Arizona Cities Where You Can Live Only on Social Security

Telephoto looking East up Congress to downtown.
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In most American cities, it can be hard to live off just a Social Security check. For 2022, the average monthly Social Security benefit for retirees is just $1,623.10. That doesn’t leave a lot of breathing room when the average monthly costs for groceries and healthcare in the U.S. clock in at $411.83 and $431.42 respectively. Although benefits will likely jump significantly in 2023, so too will costs, as inflation hasn’t showed signs of slowing down just yet.

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But if you’re looking to live only on Social Security to cover your basic needs, there are three cities in Arizona that have you covered. GOBankingRates used data from a number of government and industry sources — such as the Social Security Administration, Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Housing and Urban Development — to identify Arizona cities that had both a low overall cost of living and a good quality of life, according to livability scores provided by AreaVibes.

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Seniors have flocked to these destinations in the Valley of the Sun, as the 65-and-older population in each city is well above the national average of 16%. If you’re looking to live off just your Social Security check in Arizona, here are your best options.

Sierra Vista

  • Monthly expenditures: $1,525.95

Sierra Vista’s high livability score of 79 goes a long way toward putting the city on the “best for Social Security” list, but so too do its low costs. The average one-bedroom rent in the city for 2022 is just $690, and groceries cost about 4.6% less than the national average.

You’ll pay an extra $11.64 per month in healthcare costs on average, but that is more than offset by lower rent and grocery bills. All in all, the package Sierra Vista offers is enough that 22% of its population is 65 and older, well above the national average. Fans of the Old West enjoy its location about 25 minutes southwest of Tombstone, while those looking for big-city amenities will find Tucson just under 1½ hours to the northwest.

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  • Monthly expenditures: $1,513.19

Douglas is by far the smallest city on the list, with a 2022 population of just over 16,000. The agricultural city is located in a fairly remote area, right on the border with Mexico.

This type of small-town living appeals to many seniors, and 22% of the Douglas population is 65 and over. The town’s extremely low rents of $690 per month for an average one-bedroom apartment are very attractive, as are its grocery costs, at 7.7% below the national average. That comes to just $380.12 per month, saving seniors nearly $32 per month on average.

Total monthly expenditures for rent, healthcare and groceries combined add up to $1,513.19, well below the average Social Security retirement benefit of $1,623.10.


  • Monthly expenditures: $1,489.84

Tucson is probably the best-known Arizona city on the list, but perhaps surprisingly, it’s also the best Arizona city for both livability and affordability. A significant part of this ranking comes from the low healthcare costs in Tucson, which come in at a whopping 18.5% below the national average. That’s enough to save the average person more than $80 per month in expenses, or nearly $1,000 per year.

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Groceries are also remarkably cheap when compared with national norms, coming in at $377.24 per month vs. $411.83. For someone living on a limited income, these relatively small monthly amounts can add up significantly on an annual basis. With a livability score of 65 to boot, Tucson comes in as the #1 Arizona city where you can live only on Social Security.

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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined where in Arizona to live on only Social Security checks based on the (1) average monthly benefit for retired workers, sourced from the Social Security Administration; and (2) FY 2022 Arizona Fair Market Rent  for a one-bedroom apartment, as sourced from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. GOBankingRates then researched Sperling’s Best to find the cost-of-living index for each listed city, looking at (3) grocery and (4) healthcare index scores. GOBankingRates additionally used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 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 person 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. In order for a city to be qualified for the study, its (5) population had to be 10% or more over the age of 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau; and (6) have a livability score of 65 or above, sourced from AreaVibes. All data was collected on and up to date as of Aug. 8, 2022.

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About the Author

After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.
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