Social Security 2023: Here’s Where Retirees Rely on Social Security the Most Across the United States

View of Downtown Nashville during a beautiful early morning.
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Social Security benefits are not designed to be the only or even main source of retirement income for Americans because the monthly payments simply don’t go far enough. Even so, a large percentage of seniors rely heavily on Social Security in retirement. That’s a difficult scenario, given the financial reality of retirement living in the United States.

Just consider this: The average Social Security payment for retired workers is $1,837 a month as of June 2023, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). But as of 2021 — before soaring inflation kicked in — Americans 65 and older had average expenditures of $52,141 a year or $4,385 a month, according to a RetireGuide blog that cited U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Given the math, it’s easy to see why you should not rely on Social Security alone in retirement. The best way to avoid doing so is by building up retirement savings through 401(k)s, IRAs and similar accounts.

Americans in some parts of the country are better at doing this than others. A recent analysis from SmartAsset found that the average retiree in the U.S. received 41.5% of their total income from Social Security in 2022. The percentage is even higher for retirees in some cities, where Social Security can reach up to half of overall retirement income.

As a general rule, retirees in Midwestern cities rely most heavily on Social Security, while seniors in California tend to be much less reliant on it. This makes sense, considering that the cost of living in California is so much higher than most of the rest of the country.

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Here are the five cities that rely most on Social Security, according to SmartAsset:

1. Fort Wayne, Indiana: Retirees here get more than half (50.04%) of their overall retirement income from Social Security.

2. Wichita, Kansas: 49.81% of retirement income from Social Security.

3. Nashville, Tennessee: 48.15% of retirement income from Social Security.

4. Lincoln, Nebraska: 47.1% of retirement income from Social Security.

5. Surprise, Arizona: 46.78% of retirement income from Social Security.

On the other end of the spectrum, retirees who rely the least on Social Security are largely concentrated in California, with one exception: Washington, D.C. Retirees in the nation’s capital rely the least on Social Security, at only 30.22% of total retirement income.

Washington is followed by these four California cities: Chula Vista (31.63% of income), Riverside (33.53%), Sacramento (33.56%) and Glendale (33.88%).

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