15 Best Places To Live on Only a Social Security Check

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Social Security is an essential benefit program for American retirees. For many, it provides the bulk of their retirement income. For others, it’s actually the only source of income, even though that was never the objective of the program.

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However, with an average monthly benefit of just $1,827 as of Jan. 2023, Social Security doesn’t provide nearly enough income for retirees to live in America’s most expensive cities. If you plan on relying on just your Social Security benefits to get by – and you still want to enjoy your golden years – you’ll have to find cities that remain relatively affordable while still scoring highly in terms of livability. 

This is the reason why GOBankingRates compiled a list of the 15 best cities to live on only a Social Security check. The study factored in the median one-bedroom rent, livability score and overall cost of living of the largest cities in the U.S. to determine which ones were the most affordable for those living solely on a Social Security benefit. Here are the results of the study, with cities listed in reverse order. 

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15. Shreveport, Louisianna

  • Cost of Living Score: 76.6
  • Livability Score: 65
  • Average Rent: $802.90

Shreveport has one of the lowest costs of living of any city in the top 15. However, it’s held back from ranking higher due to relatively high one-bedroom rents and a middling livability score. Shreveport is the first of two Louisiana cities on the list.

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14. Lubbock, Texas

  • Cost of Living Score: 80.7
  • Livability Score: 68
  • Average Rent: $816.40

Lubbock is the first of six Texas cities in the list of best cities to live on only a Social Security check, which is by far the most represented state. Overall costs in Lubbock run nearly 20% below the national average, although the city’s livability score isn’t among the top.

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13. Killeen, Texas

  • Cost of Living Score: 80.4
  • Livability Score: 67
  • Average Rent: $793.00

Killeen has overall scores quite similar to its fellow Texan city Lubbock, with rents and overall costs running just slightly lower. The city’s livability score is just one tick worse than in Lubbock. 

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12. Davenport, Iowa

  • Cost of Living Score: 78.5
  • Livability Score: 69
  • Average Rent: $816.40

Davenport is one of two Iowan cities ranking in the top 15, making it the only state outside of Texas and Louisiana that is represented by more than one city. One-bedroom rents are relatively high, but the city’s overall cost of living remains 21.5% below the national average.

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11. Midland, Texas

  • Cost of Living Score: 91.7
  • Livability Score: 72
  • Average Rent: $743.10

Midland actually has a relatively high overall cost-of-living compared with the other cities on this list. In fact, of the top 15 cities to live on just a Social Security check, Midland ranks as the most expensive, with costs only 8.3% below the national average. But one-bedroom rents are actually quite low, making it a very affordable city for those who can control their other costs.

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10. Lincoln, Nebraska

  • Cost of Living Score: 91.5
  • Livability Score: 78
  • Average Rent: $845.20

Lincoln has one of the highest livability scores of the top 15 cities, but its ranking is held back by its relatively higher costs. Rents are relatively high on a comparative basis, and the city’s cost of living is just 8.5% below national norms.

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9. Fargo, North Dakota

  • Cost of Living Score: 89.5
  • Livability Score: 76
  • Average Rent: $814.50

Fargo has relatively high one-bedroom rents, and its cost of living is just 10.5% below the national average. However, a very high livability score helps push the city into the top 10 nationally. 

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8. Cleveland, Ohio

  • Cost of Living Score: 72.3
  • Livability Score: 59
  • Average Rent: $641.70

Rock-bottom rents help push Cleveland into the top 15 when it comes to affordability for seniors. In fact, on an overall basis, Cleveland has the lowest cost-of-living of any of the top cities in America, ranking a whopping 27.7% below the national average. A low livability score, however, prevents the city from climbing any higher up the list.

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7. Norman, Oklahoma

  • Cost of Living Score: 87
  • Livability Score: 76
  • Average Rent: $825.40

Being the home of the Oklahoma Sooners makes Norman a great place to live for many Americans. However, even those who aren’t football fans will enjoy the very high livability score in the city and a cost of living that’s 13% below the national average.

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6. Jeffersonville, Indiana

  • Cost of Living Score: 85
  • Livability Score: 75
  • Average Rent: $815.80

Jeffersonville ranks very highly on the back of a great livability score and a cost of living that runs 15% below the national average. Only relatively high one-bedroom rents prevent the city from cracking the top 5 on the list.

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5. College Station, Texas

  • Cost of Living Score: 88.5
  • Livability Score: 79
  • Average Rent: $846.60

College Station is not only a great place to stretch your Social Security check, but it also offers the best quality of life of any city on the list, with a chart-topping livability score of 79. A relatively high average one-bedroom rent contributes to keeping College Station out of the top spot.


4. Lake Charles, Louisiana

  • Cost of Living Score: 83.1
  • Livability Score: 70
  • Average Rent: $693.50

A very low average one-bedroom rent pushes Lake Charles into the #4 slot on the list. Other costs rank a bit higher, pushing the cost-of-living index to 83.1. This is the only thing preventing the city from scoring better. 

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3. San Angelo, Texas

  • Cost of Living Score: 80.4
  • Livability Score: 78
  • Average Rent: $848.60

San Angelo actually has the highest one-bedroom rent of any city on the list, at $848.60. However, the city scores highly because its overall cost of living still remains nearly 20% below the national average. San Angelo also boasts the second-highest livability score of the top 15 cities.

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2. Des Moines, Iowa

  • Cost of Living Score: 78.7
  • Livability Score: 75
  • Average Rent: $776.40

Des Moines missed out on the top spot in the list by just fractions of a point, as its numbers rank just a hair below the winner. The city’s livability score is high, and its overall cost of living is low, with its average one-bedroom rent just $12.60 above the top city’s.

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1. Abilene, Texas

  • Cost of Living Score: 79.3
  • Livability Score: 75
  • Average Rent: $763.80

Topping out the list of best cities to live on only a Social Security check is Abilene, Texas. The combination of a high livability score, low cost-of-living index and very affordable rent make Abilene the top dog when it comes to making a Social Security check last.

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Jordan Rosenfeld and Joel Anderson contributed to the reporting for this article.

Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the best places to live on only a Social Security check based on the (1) average monthly benefit for retired workers, $1,628.17, sourced from 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 best. Factor (4) was weighted double in final calculations. All data was collected and is up to date as of November 16, 2022.