Some 21% of elderly couples and about 45% of seniors who are unmarried rely on their Social Security benefit checks for 90% or more of their income, says the Social Security Administration.
Retirees and pre-retirees who plan to live on such limited incomes could do worse than to relocate to one of the following 10 counties where Social Security checks stretch furthest, according to an analysis by the website SmartAsset.
SmartAsset calculated how far such an income would go in every county to cover basic necessities, subtracting the county-level cost of typical living expenses from net Social Security income. The results were then indexed to 100, with higher numbers representing where Social Security goes furthest.
Keep reading to see which counties top the SmartAsset list, starting with No. 10 and progressing to the most affordable county for Social Security beneficiaries.
10. Steele County, North Dakota
Index rating: 88.62 out of 100
Typical annual cost of living: $19,135
Average annual Social Security income: $23,679
For those seeking a rural lifestyle, North Dakota’s Steele County may be an ideal choice. About an hour northwest of Fargo, the county notes it is primarily an agricultural community but also promotes entrepreneurship, which may make it appealing to retirees hoping to start their own business.
Hunting and golfing are two popular activities in the county. Meanwhile, Golden Lake is home to a seasonal resort that is popular with RV campers.
9. Bremer County, Iowa
Index rating: 88.71 out of 100
Typical annual cost of living: $18,214
Average annual Social Security income: $22,560
Located in the northeast section of Iowa, Bremer County includes several small towns. Retirees will find the most activities in the county seat of Waverly.
The City of Waverly says it has been named one of the best places to live in Iowa, and its amenities include a community pool, civic center and golf course.
8. Stanton County, Kansas
Index rating: 89.53 out of 100
Typical annual cost of living: $19,357
Average annual Social Security income: $23,912
Stanton County can be found in the southwestern part of Kansas, right along the Colorado border. It was organized in 1887, and some of its early settlers were Civil War veterans.
Retirees moving here will find a wholesome lifestyle, rich cultural history and a commitment to environmental preservation, according to the county website. Stanton County is also home to a golf course, hospital, library and museum.
7. Rich County, Utah
Index rating: 90.05 out of 100
Typical annual cost of living: $19,801
Average annual Social Security income: $25,289
Retirees can get away from civilization in Rich County, Utah. The sparsely populated county has fewer than 2,500 residents, according to 2019 Census Bureau data.
Despite its small size, Rich County has a Senior Citizens Center in Randolph that features a library, quilting area, exercise equipment and free internet access. Meals for seniors are also provided on-site or via home delivery three days a week.
6. Wahkiakum County, Washington
Index rating: 90.90 out of 100
Typical annual cost of living: $18,200
Average annual Social Security income: $23,103
A common theme among the places where Social Security goes the furthest is that most cheap counties are rural ones. Wahkiakum County, in Washington state, is among them. It is the second-smallest county in the state, population-wise.
What it lacks in population, Wahkiakum County makes up for with beautiful settings, particularly in its communities along the Columbia River.
5. Custer County, Colorado
Index rating: 92.35
Typical annual cost of living: $19,137
Average annual Social Security income: $25,010
You’ll find beautiful scenery and few neighbors in Custer County, Colorado. The towns of Silver Cliff and Westcliffe, the county seat, are famous for their dark, starry night skies and mountain vistas.
This region of south-central Colorado is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
4. Custer County, Idaho
Index rating: 92.80 out of 100
Typical annual cost of living: $18,495
Average annual Social Security income: $23,879
Idaho’s Custer County proclaims, “We are what America used to be.” Founded in 1881, the county is both historic and scenic, featuring the remote Salmon-Challis National Forest, which includes part of the largest federally protected wilderness area south of Alaska.
Retirees seeking peace and quiet are likely to find it in Custer County. Only about 4,400 people live in this region of central Idaho, and its largest city — Challis — is home to only slightly more than 1,000 residents.
3. Sumter County, Florida
Index rating: 95.05
Typical annual cost of living: $19,862
Average annual Social Security income: $25,818
Florida’s only entry on this list, Sumter County, is about an hour’s drive west of Orlando.
It has numerous communities, including The Villages, a retirement complex famed as home to many active retirees.
2. Storey County, Nevada
Index rating: 98.09 out of 100
Typical annual cost of living: $19,731
Average annual Social Security income: $26,458
Storey County, in the high desert mountain ranges of western Nevada, offers a beautiful, inexpensive environment for retirement living. The area’s rich Old West history includes a gold and silver rush in Virginia City sparked by a record strike in 1859, though things have settled down a bit since then.
If you crave bright lights and a faster life, you need only visit nearby Reno, with its casinos and ski resorts.
1. Daggett County, Utah
Index rating: 100 out of 100
Typical annual cost of living: $18,210
Average annual Social Security income: $26,272
The most affordable county for Social Security beneficiaries can be found in a corner of Utah, along the borders of Colorado and Wyoming. It’s a rugged part of the country that will appeal to those who want to live somewhere scenic and off-the-beaten-path.
Manila and Dutch John are the two towns in Daggett County, and Manila maintains a Senior Citizens Center that offers regular meals and organizes a monthly senior trip.
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