Social Security was never intended to be the complete source of income for retirees, but unfortunately, in many cases it is. For seniors that can’t generate any additional sources of income, moving to a low-cost state can be a big help, particularly if they’re leaving high-cost areas like Southern California or New York City. States in the South and Midwest in particular can really help retirees stretch their Social Security checks.
To find out which are the 10 best states to live on a Social Security check, GOBankingRates analyzed data on rental rates for a one-bedroom apartment and the overall cost of living from a variety of sources, including the 2020 American Community Survey and the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.
The most affordable states, as determined from the data, are listed here in reverse order. All states have rents well below the national average of $1,067.80. Perhaps not surprisingly, the bulk of the states on the list are in the South or the Midwest.
10. South Dakota
- 2022 Average Rent: $751
- Overall Cost-of-Living Index: 93.8
South Dakota is a state to consider for retirees because the cost of living is below the national average and rents are quite reasonable, running over $300 below the national average for a one-bedroom apartment.
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- 2022 Average Rent: $797
- Overall Cost-of-Living Index: 88.6
Missouri’s average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is just under $800 per month, making it a very affordable option for retirees. Other expenses run more than 11% below national norms.
- 2022 Average Rent: $809
- Overall Cost-of-Living Index: 87.5
Alabama is part of the solid block of Southern states that offer an affordable place to live for those on limited incomes, such as seniors only drawing a Social Security check. You can expect to pay about 12.5% less than your fellow Americans when living in Alabama.
- 2022 Average Rent: $827
- Overall Cost-of-Living Index: 85.7
Oklahoma is one of the most affordable states in the country, with a cost of living more than 14% below the national average. Rent is a bit high for a “low-cost” state, but if you can find a deal on rent, live with a roommate or otherwise contain your housing expenses, you’ll find your Social Security check can go a long way there.
- 2022 Average Rent: $814
- Overall Cost-of-Living Index: 86.4
Kansas is one of the cheapest states in the Union, with a cost of living nearly 14% below the national average. Rents run a bit high compared to some other states on the list, but still far below what others across the country are paying.
- 2022 Average Rent: $751
- Overall Cost-of-Living Index: 91.8
If you want to remain in the West and still live off Social Security, Wyoming is your best bet. You’ll pay about 8.2% less on average for all your expenses, including well below-average rent on a one-bedroom apartment.
4. North Dakota
- 2022 Average Rent: $675
- Overall Cost-of-Living Index: 96.7
Those looking to save money on rent might do well by moving to North Dakota. With average one-bedroom rents running below $700, you’ll pay more than 30% below the national average.
- 2022 Average Rent: $799
- Overall Cost-of-Living Index: 84.9
Mississippi has the lowest cost-of-living index of any state on the list, making it an excellent choice for those looking to stretch their Social Security checks.
- 2022 Average Rent: $724
- Overall Cost-of-Living Index: 89.9
Arkansas has a combination of relatively low one-bedroom rents and a low overall cost of living, good enough to make it the second-best state for retirees looking to stretch their Social Security income.
- 2022 Average Rent: $712
- Overall Cost-of-Living Index: 89
Iowa tops the list for best states to live on just a Social Security check thanks to a number of factors. Overall, the cost of living is about 11% below the national average, while one-bedroom rents are about one-third less than national norms.
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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the best states 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 the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center’s 2022 Quarter 2 Cost-of-Living data series; and (3) the average 2022 rent for a one-bedroom apartment as sourced from ApartmentList’s September 2022 data. Factors (2) and (3) were scored and combined with the lowest score being the best. All data was collected and is up to date as of Oct. 25, 2022.