Do You Know What Social Security Will (and Won’t) Pay For?

Reality check time: Can you retire on Social Security alone?

When retirement is lurking right around the corner, many seniors count on their Social Security benefits to help cushion the blow. Here’s the bad news: Depending on when you retire — and even where you live — that dollar amount could change, and that definitely affects your bottom line.

With the average monthly check totaling under $1,300, many Social Security-dependent seniors are looking at an annual income of $15,600 — which leaves some tough choices.

Read on to see what you can buy with the average social security check.

1. Mortgage

Average Monthly Cost: $758

If you’re at retirement age and still looking at a housing payment, this will be a major chunk out of your monthly income. If you’re facing a standard mortgage payment, expect for it to eat up around 60 percent of your monthly income. It could always be worse though — if you were paying rent, that would take 74 percent of your monthly income.

The best step to combat this is to strive for a paid-off living situation once you hit retirement age — so be sure to make those mortgage payments.

2. Car Payment

Average Monthly Cost: $509

Much like housing, driving around in a car that is still financed will take a serious bite out of your budget. Basing calculations off the average monthly car payment in America, if you’re stuck paying for a car payment on Social Security benefits alone, you’d be looking at 39 percent of your monthly household income going directly out the window.

If you’ve been keeping track, a mortgage and a car payment alone would eat up 99 percent of your monthly income. Your best bet? Trade in the flashy car for a reliable — and paid-off — set of wheels, or do away with the vehicle altogether.

3. Internet

Average Monthly Cost: $60

In many seniors’ lifetimes, internet went from a luxury to an absolute commodity. The cost for connectivity isn’t cheap — many are looking at upwards of $60 per month — but you can manage to make that money count by stretching your dollar further.

Social Security-dependent seniors should view this as an opportunity to follow the trend of “cutting the cord” — opting for streaming services and pocketing the difference. Worried about understanding the technology? It’s a perfect excuse to spend a day with your grandkids giving you a tech tutorial.

4. Groceries

Average Monthly Cost: $250 to $279

Everyone’s gotta eat — but that doesn’t mean busting your budget. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average monthly grocery tab for people ages 51-70 on a modest budget is $250.10 for women and $278.80 for men. The best way to make that fit into your money scheme is to cruise the coupons and base your weekly buys off of the sales.

5. Cable

Average Monthly Cost: $103

At $103 a month, cable is costing you more than you can afford if you’re Social Security-dependent. Once a staple of American households, traditional cable services are hiking prices — making it a prohibitive cost for many seniors. Like mentioned above, take it as a sign to say goodbye to the cord and transition to some more cost-efficient streaming services.

Up Next: Best Places to Live on Only a Social Security Check