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22 Worst Big Cities To Live on Just a Social Security Check

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heyengel / Getty Images

Retirement can be a big change. Not only is it a big change in terms of lifestyle, but it can also be a big change in income. For instance, the average Social Security payment for retired workers was $1,665 in March 2022.

Find: 20 Best Places To Live on Only a Social Security Check
Advice: 25 Things To Sell When You’re Ready To Retire

Some Americans rely on Social Security as their sole source of income. In other words, someone who receives to average payment could be living on less than $20,000 in annual income.

For those retired workers, absorbing high costs of living is likely not an option, especially if they have little to no retirement savings. Hence, cities with a high cost of living (CoL) should be avoided.

Here, we’ll take a look at the worst cities for living on just a Social Security check, highlighting data such as rent for a one-bedroom apartment and the overall CoL.

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22. Plano, Texas

  • Cost of Living Index: 109.3     
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,483
  • Livability Score: 88

Plano has a dense suburban feel and plenty of restaurants, coffee shops and parks. It also has an excellent livability score of 88.

Despite its perks, though, its CoL is rated at 109.3 against the U.S. average of 100, according to Best Places. Rent for a one-bedroom is $1,483 in Plano — that alone consumes most of the typical Social Security check.

POLL: Do You Think States Should Suspend Their Gas Taxes?

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21. Tampa, Florida

  • Cost of Living Index: 100.1
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,472
  • Livability Score: 74

With its laid-back feel and beach lifestyle, Tampa could be attractive to those looking for a comfortable place to retire. However, the city isn’t quite as livable, with a score of 74. Plus, rent for a one-bedroom is about the same as the cost in Plano.

The one benefit of Tampa, at least given its place on this list, is that the overall cost of living there is almost precisely in line with the national average.

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20. Austin, Texas

  • Cost of Living Index: 119.3
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,519
  • Livability Score: 72

People have been flocking to cities like Austin in recent years in search of high-paying jobs. Austin, in particular, offers high-paying tech jobs in a city that is more affordable than San Francisco.

However, all of those high earners moving to Austin have driven up the cost; one-bedroom rent is $1,519, and its overall cost of living is rated 119.3. Plus, the city isn’t particularly livable, rated at 72.

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19. Orlando, Florida

  • Cost of Living Index: 104.1
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,492
  • Livability Score: 69

Home to “The Happiest Place on Earth” — also known as Disney World — Orlando is a big draw for a lot of people. Of course, the city has hundreds of resort hotels overall, and people love going there for its warm weather and sunny days.

However, its livability leaves something to be desired with a score of 69. Plus, rent is nearly $1,500, and its CoL is above average at 104.1.

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18. Miami, Florida

  • Cost of Living Index: 123.1
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,639
  • Livability Score: 65

With beaches, parks and tropical weather, there are a lot of reasons Miami might seem like a great place to move. And while the pros are definitely there, one can’t deny the downsides to the famous beach town, especially if you are living on Social Security.

For starters, one-bedroom rent is $1,639, which is almost the same amount as the typical Social Security check. The overall cost of living is above average at 123, and the city isn’t very livable, rated 65.

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17. Denver, Colorado

  • Cost of Living Index: 128.7
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,483
  • Livability Score: 63

Denver is a vibrant city with rich arts and culture and an excellent night life. Plus, the city can be seen as a cheaper alternative to the expensive West Coast.

But the cost of living index for Denver is 128.7, so it isn’t as affordable as one might like. Plus, the livability score is a paltry 63. Rent is lower than most of the cities before it, though.

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16. San Diego, California

  • Cost of Living Index: 160.1
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,901 
  • Livability Score: 71

San Diego is a beautiful city. Not only is the weather gorgeous, but it features stunning Spanish and Victorian architecture.

However, the city’s perks come at a cost. Rent is just over $1,900, and the cost of living is rated at 160.1, putting it out of reach for most Social Security recipients. Its livability score isn’t the best, either; it’s rated 71 in that category.

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15. Chula Vista, California

  • Cost of Living Index: 147.1
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,693
  • Livability Score: 67

Chula Vista is a part of the San Diego metropolitan area, located just to the south and sitting right on the San Diego Bay. The city boasts more than 52 square miles of coastal landscape, canyons, rolling hills, mountains, quality parks and miles of trails

While Chula Vista is more affordable than San Diego, costs are still high; one-bedroom rent is $1,693. It also isn’t very livable, receiving a 67 livability score.

On the Flipside: 12 Best Big Cities To Live on Just a Social Security Check

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14. Jersey City, New Jersey

  • Cost of Living Index: 146.8
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,932
  • Livability Score: 69

Located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, Jersey City is one possible alternative for those who can’t afford Manhattan rent. However, rent in Jersey City is still high at over $1,900, and the overall CoL isn’t much better. Plus, the livability score is just 69.

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13. Seattle, Washington

  • Cost of Living Index: 172.3
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,681
  • Livability Score: 65

Home to companies like Starbucks and Amazon, Seattle is a big draw for those in search of high-paying jobs. However, if you’re living on Social Security, Seattle is one city you may want to avoid.

While rent isn’t the highest on this list, it still consumes all of the average Social Security check. The city is expensive overall, and the livability score is only 65.

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12. Irvine, California

  • Cost of Living Index: 187.1    
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $2,846
  • Livability Score: 80

Irvine is located in Orange County, about an hour southeast of downtown Los Angeles. Despite being reasonably far from the big city, Irvine is quite livable with plenty of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and parks.

However, the cost of living is very high at 187.1. The one-bedroom rent is over $2,800, which is easily the highest rent on this list.

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11. Anaheim, California

  • Cost of Living Index: 152.2
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,794
  • Livability Score: 62

Another town located southeast of Los Angeles, Anaheim is part of the Greater Los Angeles metro area. The city is best known for being home to Disneyland, but there are plenty of bars and restaurants in town, too.

Unfortunately, its livability score is not the best, and both rent and the overall cost of living are high.

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10. Riverside, California

  • Cost of Living Index: 133.1
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,720
  • Livability Score: 59

Riverside, too, isn’t far from Los Angeles, although it’s much closer to San Bernardino. It offers most of the typical suburban fare, such as coffee shops and parks. Rent isn’t terrible with an average of $1,720; the same can be said for the cost of living at 133.1.

However, we are getting into territory with very low livability scores here — it has just a 59 in that category.

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9. Long Beach, California

  • Cost of Living Index: 160.4
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,593
  • Livability Score: 59

Long Beach is also near Los Angeles. In fact, you can be in L.A. in under 40 minutes by taking I-710 (traffic permitting). As its name suggests, the city is located right on the water with, well, a long beach.

While rent is much more affordable than it is in L.A., it is nevertheless nearly $1,600 for a one-bedroom. The overall CoL is high at 160.4, and the city is not very livable with a score of 59.

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8. New York City, New York

  • Cost of Living Index: 187.2
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $2,068
  • Livability Score: 67

Known as “The City that Never Sleeps,” there is always something to do in New York. Perhaps more importantly, there is something for everyone, as the city is extremely diverse and vibrant.

However, the one-bedroom rent is over $2,000, making it unaffordable for those on Social Security. The overall cost of living is 187.2, and the livability score is just 67.

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7. San Jose, California

  • Cost of Living Index: 214.5
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $2,004
  • Livability Score: 67

Located in the Bay Area, San Jose is another place that might offer a slight reprieve from the expensive real estate in San Francisco.

While the city is undoubtedly nice, rent is still over $2,000 in San Jose. The overall cost of living is nearly 215 as well. Livability matches that of New York, rated 67.

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6. Washington, D.C.

  • Cost of Living Index: 152.1
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,786
  • Livability Score: 56

With its status as the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. is a popular place for visitors and residents alike. Whether it’s touring the White House or hanging out on the National Mall, D.C. has plenty to offer.

However, once the novelty wears off, you have a livability score of just 56. Rent isn’t very affordable at over $1,750, and the CoL is rated 152.1.

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5. Boston, Massachusetts

  • Cost of Living Index: 162.4
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $2,016
  • Livability Score: 59

Boston has some of the richest history of any city in America — not to mention having prestigious universities such as Harvard and Boston University.

The city is not rated particularly livable, though, scoring just 59. Plus, one-bedroom rent is over $2,000 per month, and the overall cost of living is rated 162.4.

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4. Santa Ana, California

  • Cost of Living Index: 146.3
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,795
  • Livability Score: 54

Also located in Orange County, Santa Ana is just south of Anaheim. The city does offer easy access to pristine beaches, and costs are lower than they are in the surrounding area.

Still, rent is nearly $1,800 per month for a one-bedroom, and the overall cost of living is 146.3. Worst of all, the livability score is 54, which leaves a lot to be desired.

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3. Oakland, California

  • Cost of Living Index: 174.4
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,653
  • Livability Score: 53

Located just across the bay from San Francisco, Oakland offers another cheaper alternative to the high rents in S.F. There are plenty of shops and restaurants, and Oakland is served by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.

Still, its livability score is 53, which is dead last, at least among cities on this list. The overall cost of living is still high, too, at 174.4.

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2. Los Angeles, California

  • Cost of Living Index: 173.3
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $1,756
  • Livability Score: 54

We’ve taken a look at many of the cities in the L.A. area, and now we have the big city itself at #2. Needless to say, the city has endless things to do; it’s highly unlikely you would ever be bored.

However, public transportation is lacking, and traffic is atrocious. That could explain its paltry livability score of 54. While rent is high for someone on Social Security, it’s not as high as others on this list. Still, the overall CoL is high at 173.3.

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1. San Francisco, California

  • Cost of Living Index: 269.3
  • 2022 Average 1 Bdr Rent: $2,360
  • Livability Score: 67

We have also looked at areas in the San Francisco area, and now we have San Fran itself, rated the worst city for those receiving only a Social Security check. San Francisco is undoubtedly beautiful, but it’s also one of the most expensive places to live in the country.

It has by far the highest rating on the cost of living index on this list, rated 269.3. Keep in mind that San Jose, which is in the Bay Area, is #2 for CoL. Rent is nearly $2,400 for a one-bedroom, and the livability score isn’t great, coming in at 67.

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