One of the nation’s biggest financial crises centers on retiring: people just can’t afford to do it. According to 2021 data from the Natixis Global Retirement Index, 36% of Americans said they will never have enough money to be able to afford to retire. Another survey, by MagnifyMoney, found that 46% of all Americans anticipate that they will retire in debt.
The prospect of retiring may look especially dismal in famously desirable states like California, where the median home price is up to $884,890. But even “The Golden State” has its relatively affordable nooks and not-so-badly-priced crannies.
GOBankingRates compiled a list of the four best cities where a couple can live in California — solely on a Social Security budget for two. That means no assets, no savings — just that good old monthly income of $3,239.34 (the average monthly Social Security benefit of $1,619.67 doubled). Let’s have a look at where you can get the biggest bang for your limited buck if you and your partner want to retire in Cali.
- Percentage of Population 65 and Older: 14.8%
- Grocery Cost of Living Index: 100.4
- Healthcare Cost of Living Index: 87.8
- Livability Score: 59
- Average Rent: $1,569.20
- Monthly Grocery Cost Per Couple: $826.96
- Monthly Healthcare Cost Per Couple: $757.57
- Total Monthly Expenditures: $3,153.73
Riverside has a robust citrus industry, hiking trails (you can even find volcanoes there) and a solid state university, along with the advantage of being relatively close to the bustling hub of Los Angeles — which is about 60 miles away. This makes it a nice choice for those who are bidding adieu to L.A. in search of more reasonable rents. Alas, the city has a high unemployment rate and a relatively high crime rate, which is what contributes to its subpar livability score of 59.
- Percentage of Population 65 and Older: 11.5%
- Grocery Cost of Living Index: 100.5
- Healthcare Cost of Living Score: 89.4
- Livability Score: 53
- Average Rent: $1,511.40
- Monthly Grocery Cost Per Couple: $827.79
- Monthly Healthcare Cost Per Couple: $771.37
- Total Monthly Expenditures: $3,110.56
Just 30 miles from Los Angeles, Pomona is another California city that gets a lot of Angelenos coming over for a more affordable life. It’s a highly diverse city, which also makes it attractive, but its barely middling livability score is an obvious problem. The biggest issue Pomona faces is its high crime rate.
- Percentage of Population 65 and Older: 13.3%
- Grocery Cost of Living Index: 104.8
- Healthcare Cost of Living Score: 96.7
- Livability Score: 62
- Average Rent: $1,281.00
- Monthly Grocery Cost Per Couple: $863.20
- Monthly Healthcare Cost Per Couple: $834.36
- Total Monthly Expenditures: $2,978.56
The capital of California is also known as the City of Trees, which gives you some idea of the lush, verdant scenery that can be found there. Sacramento sports a booming arts scene and a trendy “Farm to Fork” movement, with its 1.5 million acres of farmland churning out roughly 165 varieties of produce. It has the highest livability score on this list, but, at 62, that’s still not very high. This is likely because the city, picturesque as it can be, has a high crime rate too.
- Percentage of Population 65 and Older: 11.6%
- Grocery Cost of Living Index: 99.2
- Healthcare Cost of Living Score: 90.6
- Livability Score: 57
- Average Rent: $1,050.00
- Monthly Grocery Cost Per Couple: $817.08
- Monthly Healthcare Cost Per Couple: $781.73
- Total Monthly Expenditures: $2,648.80
Fresno is located right in the heart of the Golden State in San Joaquin Valley. The city has a highly diverse population and that’s reflected in its sundry cuisine options. While you really can’t beat an average rent of $1,050 in California, Fresno has some work to do in order to become a more desirable locale. Donning a less than impressive livability rate of 57, Fresno is blighted with bad air and a poor economy.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the best places in California for a couple to live on only Social Security checks based on (1) the average monthly benefit for retired workers ($1,619.67), sourced from the Social Security Administration, and doubled; and (2) the average 2022 rent for a one-bedroom apartment, as sourced from ApartmentList. GOBankingRates then used Sperling’s Best to find the cost of living index for each listed city, looking at (3) grocery and (4) healthcare index scores. Next, GOBankingRates 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 population had to be 10% or more over the age of 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. All data was collected on and up to date as of June 3, 2022.