Live well on a modest income.
The average monthly Social Security payment was $1,341 in January 2016. That’s enough income for a married couple each receiving this amount to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, transportation, health care and utilities in some parts of the country, according to a U.S. News analysis of Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The analysis also factored in crime rates, access to health care and recreation opportunities. Consider these places where two Social Security checks are likely to pay for basic retirement costs.
Idaho’s state capital has plenty of affordable housing, costing retirees with a paid-off home a median of just $351 per month. For that low housing cost, retirees have access to a variety of amenities and entertainment. Idaho residents age 60 or older can register for classes at Boise State University for the bargain rate of $5 per credit hour (plus a $20 registration fee per semester). Or you could relax and stroll through a museum or enjoy the outdoor scenery. Seniors also get discounts to the Boise Art Museum, Zoo Boise, Bogus Basin ski area and on many Boise State sporting events. Best of all, a stroll or bike ride on the 25-mile greenbelt along the Boise River, which runs through the center of the city, is free for everyone.
Homeowner costs with a mortgage: $1,016
Homeowner costs with a paid-off house: $351
Median rent: $781
Cape Coral, Florida
Waterfront property is a way of life in Cape Coral, which has over 400 miles of canals as well as access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caloosahatchee River. You could easily spend your days boating, fishing or walking along the beach. But a house on or near the water won’t cost you a fortune. Median homeownership costs for people age 65 and older are $1,251 with a mortgage and $558 without one. The median rent is $983 per month. Many snowbird retirees reside in Cape Coral seasonally due to the pleasant winter weather. An added bonus: There’s no state income tax in Florida.
Homeowner costs with a mortgage: $1,251
Homeowner costs with a paid-off house: $558
Median rent: $983
Colorado Springs, Colorado
The natural wonders will draw you into this Rocky Mountain city. Retirees can linger among the scenic beauty at Pikes Peak, Seven Falls and Garden of the Gods, or find a volunteer position or part-time job sharing these mountain views with tourists. Athletes from across the country come to Colorado Springs to train at the U.S. Olympic Complex, and seniors can visit the facility at a discounted rate. Retirees who have paid off their mortgages get to live in this high-elevation mountain town for the bargain price of $393 per month. Older homeowners with a mortgage ($1,221) and renters ($827) pay more.
Homeowner costs with a mortgage: $1,221
Homeowner costs with a paid-off house: $393
Median rent: $827
When selecting a retirement spot, it’s important to make sure that doctors and hospitals will be there if you need them. Dayton’s largest employers are health care providers, and the city has several hospitals U.S. News has rated as high performing for specific procedures and conditions, including Miami Valley Hospital, Kettering Medical Center and Good Samaritan Hospital and Health Center. But living near a variety of health care options doesn’t have to cost a lot, ranging from a median of $469 for retirees with a paid-off house to $659 for renters and $1,080 monthly for seniors with a mortgage. Aviation buffs and air force retirees will enjoy the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The famous Wright brothers were Dayton natives.
Homeowner costs with a mortgage: $1,080
Homeowner costs with a paid-off house: $469
Median rent: $659
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids is known for its impressive arts scene, which includes Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts. The hometown of President Gerald Ford also has many outdoor recreation opportunities, including the Grand River and nearby Lake Michigan. The area has a booming health care industry, and Spectrum Health is a major employer and service provider. Housing costs are relatively low, with older homeowners paying a median of $1,113 with a mortgage and $434 without one. Retiree renters pay a median of $726 per month to live in the Grand Rapids area.
Homeowner costs with a mortgage: $1,113
Homeowner costs with a paid-off house: $434
Median rent: $726
A sports fans paradise, locals can root for the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins. The area is home to several major colleges, including Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. UPMC Shadyside is ranked the 12th best hospital in the nation by U.S. News. But these big-city amenities are coupled with relatively low housing prices. Costs for older homeowners range from $1,069 with a mortgage to $468 without one. The median rent for retirees is $617 per month. Seniors age 65 or over can also ride the bus, T or Mon Incline for free.
Homeowner costs with a mortgage: $1,069
Homeowner costs with a paid-off house: $468
Median rent: $617
While northern Virginia has very high housing costs that aren’t likely to be covered by Social Security alone, costs drop significantly a little farther south in Richmond. The median retiree homeowner pays $1,282 per month with a mortgage, which drops to $465 among older residents who have paid off their homes. The median rent for senior citizens is $905 monthly. Virginia’s capital city is divided by the James River, which has whitewater rapids running through town. The area also has several well-regarded hospitals, including the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.
Homeowner costs with a mortgage: $1,282
Homeowner costs with a paid-off house: $465
Median rent: $905
Rochester, New York
While the winters on the southern shore of Lake Ontario can be cold and produce a prolific amount of lake-effect snow, the low housing costs might keep you in town. Older residents pay a median of $1,179 per month with a mortgage and $555 with a paid-off house. Seniors who rent are charged a median of $778 per month. Once the snow thaws, the flowers will bloom again and there is a large Lilac Festival to celebrate. The city boasts several major colleges, including the University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the highly rated Strong Memorial Hospital.
Homeowner costs with a mortgage: $1,179
Homeowner costs with a paid-off house: $555
Median rent: $778
History buffs will delight in this old city that was colonized by the Spanish in the early 1700s. The San Antonio Missions were designated a World Heritage site in 2015. San Antonio is located on the southern edge of the scenic terrain and vineyards of Texas hill country. Health care is provided by the high-performing University Hospital. But these amenities don’t cost a fortune in San Antonio. Renters pay a median of $816 per month, while homeowners face costs ranging from a median of $1,146 monthly with a mortgage to $430 per month without one. Also, keep in mind that Texas doesn’t have an income tax.
Homeowner costs with a mortgage: $1,146
Homeowner costs with a paid-off house: $430
Median rent: $816
Spokane might be best suited to active retirees who love the outdoors. The Spokane River runs through town, and those who walk and bike along it are treated to views of several waterfalls, especially in the spring. Dams along the river are used to generate hydroelectric power. Several nearby ski resorts provide opportunities for winter fun. High-performing hospitals include Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital and Deaconess Medical Center. Housing costs a median of $1,130 for retirees with a mortgage, but that drops to $425 per month among retirees who have paid off their home. Renters pay a median of $662 monthly.
Homeowner costs with a mortgage: $1,130
Homeowner costs with a paid-off house: $425
Median rent: $662