The statistics on how unprepared Americans are for retirement can be terrifying. The median retirement account balance is $2,500 for all working-age households and $14,500 for near-retirement households, according to a 2015 study by the National Institute on Retirement Security.
Two-thirds of working families fall short of conservative retirement savings targets for their age and income based on working until age 67, the report finds.
With virtually no retirement savings for the average working household and 45% (nearly 40 million) of working households not having any retirement assets, their best hope for surviving after age 67 may be income from Social Security.
What Social Security Pays
The average monthly Social Security check as of June 2016 was $1,234, according to the Social Security Administration, or SSA. Where could you afford to live on such an income?
There are some good options, but before we get to those, let’s be a little more generous with the SSA income, based on the government’s statistics.
While the average monthly benefit was $1,234, 82% of beneficiaries receive a little more — $1,280 from “Old-Age and Survivors Insurance” SSA beneficiaries. The largest average monthly SSA benefit was $1,348 for retired workers, who made up 67% of the pool.
Assuming you’re a retired worker receiving the average $1,348 each month from SSA, that’s still a low amount of money to live on each month, considering that a retirement planning rule of thumb is to plan on having 70%–80% percent of your pre-retirement income replaced with SSA, a retirement account, or other form of income in your old age.
At 80%, that $1,348 would equate to a pre-retirement monthly income of $1,685, or $20,220 per year. If you were comfortable living on $20,220 per year before retirement, then living on 80% of it during retirement should be just as comfortable, the theory goes.
For a couple who are both retired, their SSA income would double to $40,440 per year. But for our purposes, let’s assume one retiree is living by themselves.
So, where to live on the average SSA check of $1,348 per month for retired workers? In no particular order, here are five cities where it’s affordable.
1. Buffalo, New York
Buffalo may come as a surprise for being a cheap place to live because it’s in New York state. But the median monthly rent in Buffalo is $512, making it the cheapest city in the U.S. to live in, according to a SmartAsset analysis. Buffalo also has the lowest cost of living at 79.34, meaning that the U.S. average is 100 and that $100 in groceries, for example, would cost $79.34 in Buffalo.