As of March, the average monthly Social Security benefit is $1,618.29 for an individual, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Doubling up for a couple, that’s $3,236.58.
Not a bad haul, if it’s supplementing other income or padding a nice, big nest egg. If Social Security is all you’re living on, however, you’re going to have to pick your retirement city very carefully to stretch those dollars to their absolute limit — particularly on the notoriously expensive West Coast, which, for the purposes of this study, includes Alaska.
To determine the best places for couples to live on the West Coast on only their combined Social Security checks, GOBankingRates used cost-of-living data from Sperling’s Best Places. The ranking also includes ApartmentList data on the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment, as well as each city’s livability score, sourced from AreaVibes.
Each city was then given a combined score — which represents a summation of all those factors — with lower scores being better. The list is ranked in order of the worst score to the best. Read on to learn about the West Coast spots that are most welcoming to retirees living on Social Security.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $1,607
Vallejo has a lousy livability score of 56 — livability scores are calculated by algorithms that factor in dozens of variables like proximity to amenities, crime and schools. The cost-of-living index is a high 131.3, with 100 representing the national average. The average one-bedroom apartment will run you $1,607 per month, the highest on this list.
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- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $1,508
At 133.1, Riverside’s cost-of-living index is even higher than even Vallejo’s — a full one-third more than the national average. The town’s livability score is an unimpressive 59, mostly because of its relatively high crime rate. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,508, one of the three highest on the list.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $1,596
Moving up the coast to Washington is Seattle, a pricey city where the average one-bedroom costs $1,596. That contributes to a bruising 172.3 cost-of-living index — the highest on this list, by far — which means that daily living in Seattle is 72.3% more expensive than the national average. All in all, its livability score is an underwhelming 65 thanks to high crime rates, high housing costs and, of course, a high cost of living.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $1,432
The capital city of California, Sacramento has a below-average livability score of 62, mostly because of its crime statistics and relatively high prices. The cost-of-living index there is 118.2, making the city nearly 20% costlier to live in than the national average. The typical renter will shell out $1,432 for a one-bedroom.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $1,176
In Anchorage, crime and real estate prices are high even by Alaska standards, both of which contribute to the city’s drab livability score of 60. Although the average one-bedroom there costs $1,176 per month, one of the least expensive on this list, Anchorage residents still struggle with a rough cost-of-living index of 123.5.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $1,522
Known for its legendary vineyards, daily life in Napa is nearly as pricey as its wine — the cost-of-living index is 162.1, second only to Seattle. With an average monthly rent of $1,522, it’s one of only four cities on this list where the typical one-bedroom costs more than $1,500. Overall, its livability score is a middling 70.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $1,344
The cost of living in Portland is 30.8% higher than the national average. Although its $1,344 average rent makes it one of just five cities on this list where a one-bedroom goes for less than $1,400, its very high crime rate contributes to a dreary livability score of 65.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $1,025
Just two cities on this list are less expensive than Fresno, which boasts a forgiving cost-of-living index of 102.6. With an average monthly rent of $1,025.00, a one-bedroom is cheaper in just thee other cities. Unfortunately, high crime contributes to a subpar livability score of 58.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $1,440
Bremerton comes up with an average livability score of 70. With a cost-of-living index of 108.9 and an average rent of $1,440 for a one-bedroom, it’s certainly one of the more affordable cities to make the cut.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $928
With a cost-of-living index of 105.3, Eugene is even more affordable than Bremerton. A lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s one of only three cities on the list with a three-figure monthly rent — $928 per month, to be exact, which makes it the cheapest on the entire list. Thanks to its high crime rate, however, Eugene earns a meh livability score of 65.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $1,436
The capital city of Washington has a cost-of-living index of 106.1, which puts it on the lower side of this list. Olympia’s livability score is 74 — the highest of any city profiled here — and a $1,436 average monthly rent.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $947
Just one city on this list is cheaper to live in than the national average — Spokane, whose cost-of-living index is an impressive 92.3. Although the city’s paltry livability score of 67 leaves plenty to be desired, its $947 monthly rent makes it the No. 2 least expensive place to rent an apartment.
- 2022 average 1-bedroom rent: $979
With a cost-of-living index of 101.8, Salem is less expensive to live in than any city on this list except for Spokane. One of just three cities with a sub-$1,000 average rent, a one-bedroom goes for just $979 per month. That’s all good news, despite Salem’s low livability score of 69.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the best places for a couple to live on the West Coast on only their combined Social Security checks based on the (1) average monthly benefit for retired workers, $1,618.29, sourced from the Social Security Administration, and doubled ($3,236.58); (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 22, 2022.