Life below the Mason-Dixon line is known for warm weather and low costs — and that second part is especially important for anyone planning to retire on Social Security alone. The average monthly benefit for an individual is $1,618.29 — $3,236.58 for a couple.
That’s not a lot to work with — even in the South — but if a check from the SSA is all you have, you do have options.
To find the best places in the South for retirees who rely on Social Security alone, GOBankingRates used cost-of-living data from Sperling’s Best Places, average rent prices for a one-bedroom apartment from ApartmentList and livability scores from AreaVibes — livability scores are calculated using factors like crime, schools and local amenities.
More than half the list — five cities out of nine — are in Texas, and Louisiana has multiple showings as well, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the others.
Although Hattiesburg’s 82.7 cost-of-living index isn’t the worst of the lot, its livability score of 62 certainly is compared to the other eight cities on the list. The $802 monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Hattiesburg also comes in dead last — the next highest is $766.
The $766 monthly rent that comes in second to Hattiesburg is found in Beaumont. While the cost of housing is comparably high, its 78.3 cost-of-living index is the second-best on the list. However, its livability score is the opposite. At 63, it’s tied for second-to-last.
On the other side of Texas across from Beaumont is Midland, where the cost of living is closer to the national average than any other standout city in the South — 98.6 compared to the average of 100, to be exact. The city’s $708 rent puts it on the more favorable half of the list, as does its livability score of 71.
Fayetteville’s 92.9 cost-of-living index is the No. 2 highest on the list behind only Midland. Its $764 monthly rent puts the city on the pricier half of the list, as well. Fayetteville’s saving grace is its livability score of 72, which is second only to the city that took the No. 1 spot in the rankings.
Shreveport’s $761 monthly rent places the city on the pricier half of the list as far as housing costs are concerned, and its livability score of 65 is unimpressive. Shreveport’s 77.5 cost-of-living index, however, makes it the cheapest place to make the purchases of day-to-day life out of any city on the list.
Only one city in the rankings can claim a sub-$500 average rent — Odessa, where a one-bedroom apartment goes for just $487 per month. The tradeoff for ultra-low rent, however, is an unfortunate livability score of 63, which is tied for second-lowest. With a cost-of-living index of 88, only two cities on the list are more expensive.
In Lubbock, rent for the typical one-bedroom apartment is $736 per month, which puts it squarely in the middle of the pack. With a cost-of-living score of 79.9, it’s one of only four cities that ranks under 80, but its lukewarm 68 livability score falls in the less-desirable half of the list.
Lake Charles, Louisiana
One of only two cities with sub-$600 rents — the other is Odessa — Lake Charles offers inexpensive housing. At 83.4, however, its cost-of-living index is on the wrong side of the list. It makes it into the top four in terms of livability, however, thanks to a score of 70.
Taking the No. 1 spot is McAllen, Texas, which has a place among the three lowest average rents — $613 per month — and a place among the three cities with the lowest living costs. At 81, it has the best livability score of the bunch and the only one over 80.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the best places in the South to live on only a Social Security check based on (1) the average monthly benefit for retired workers, $1,618.29, sourced from the Social Security Administration; (2) the overall cost of living in each city, sourced from Sperling’s Best Places; (3) average 2022 rent for a one-bedroom apartment as sourced from ApartmentList; and (4) livability scores sourced from Areavibes. Factors (2) through (4) were scored and combined, with the lowest score being the best. Factor (4) was weighted double in final calculations. All data was collected and is up to date as of April 26, 2022.