10 Places Where Social Security Offers the Best Standard of Living

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Happy retirees living off Social Security
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Some 21% of couples collecting Social Security benefits and about 45% of those who are unmarried rely on their Social Security 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 these 10 counties where Social Security checks stretch furthest.

The website SmartAsset analyzed the average Social Security income for each county, and how much a typical retiree would pay in taxes on that income based on the Social Security tax rules in a given state. SmartAsset then subtracted the taxes to arrive at Social Security net income.

SmartAsset calculated how far such an income would go in every county to cover basic necessities, subtracting county-level cost of typical living expenses from net Social Security income. The results were then indexed to 100, with that number representing where Social Security goes furthest.

San Francisco came in dead last — likely to no one’s surprise. Don’t move there if your income will be tight beyond your Social Security check.

Three of the most-affordable counties are in Texas. Most are in the middle of the country, far from the more-expensive coasts, although Florida is represented.

All are very affordable. We’ve ranked these counties starting with No. 10 and progressing to the most affordable county for Social Security beneficiaries.

10. Antrim County, Michigan

Torch Lake in Michigan
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Annual cost of living: $18,523
Average annual Social Security income: $21,875
Index rating: 89.85

Antrim County, Michigan, is home to forests, rivers and lakes. The county’s abundance of parks and recreation sites range from Lake Michigan beaches to trails deep in the woods.

It’s a destination for outdoor recreation throughout the year, according to the county’s website.

9. Hartley County, Texas

Texas road sign
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Annual cost of living: $20,126
Average annual Social Security income: $23,804
Index rating: 91.18

Hartley County, Texas, in the far northwest corner of the Texas Panhandle, had about 5,500 people in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

If you’re looking to get away from crowds, this might be the right retirement location for you.

8. Armstrong County, Texas

Armstrong County, Texas
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Annual cost of living: $18,811
Average annual Social Security income: $22,612
Index rating: 91.68

Armstrong County, in the Texas Panhandle south of Amarillo, was long the home to American Indian tribes, including Apaches and then Comanches, according to the Texas State Historical Association.

When the natives lost the fight for the territory, Anglo-American ranchers and settlers moved in. The unincorporated county — which includes a state park and the large Palo Duro Canyon — is still sparsely populated, the society says.

7. Thomas County, Kansas

Thomas County courthouse in Kansas
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Annual cost of living: $18,754
Average annual Social Security income: $22,616
Index rating: 91.93

Thomas County, Kansas, in the northwestern corner of the state, is in a region that previously was a hunting grounds for migratory tribes, according to the county’s website. As of the 2010 Census, there were fewer than 8,000 residents.

The railroads played a powerful role in bringing settlers to the region. “The Union Pacific arrived in 1887, and by 1888, three different lines of the Union Pacific and the Rock Island were operating,” the county site says.

6. Coleman County, Texas

Coleman, Texas
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Annual cost of living: $19,001
Average annual Social Security income: $23,653
Index rating: 95.15

Coleman County is home to a little more than 8,000 people, according to the Texas Historical Society’s Texas Almanac.

Coleman — “deep in the heart of Texas,” as an old song once said — is an agricultural county. Fishing and hunting are among the recreational activities.

5. Custer County, Colorado

Westcliffe, Colorado
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Annual cost of living: $19,252
Average annual Social Security income: $24,583
Index rating: 95.55

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. Box Butte County, Nebraska

Alliance, Nebraska
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Cost of living: $18,332
Average annual Social Security income: $23,845
Index rating: 95.84

Head to this county in the Nebraska Panhandle to find a fine place to stretch your Social Security dollars. Box Butte County, established in 1886, earned its distinctive name from a nearby box-shaped butte, a flat-topped hill.

Rural living on the Great Plains isn’t for everyone: The winters can be harsh. But if you’re looking for small towns, quiet neighborhoods and a slower pace of living, one of Box Butte’s communities may be right for you.

3. Sumter County, Florida

The Villages, Florida
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Cost of living: $20,099
Average annual Social Security income: $25,334
Index rating: 97.53

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. Wahkiakum County, Washington

Wahkiakum County, Washington
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Cost of living: $18,222
Average annual Social Security income: $23,644
Index rating: 98.29

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.

1. Storey County, Nevada

Virginia City, Nevada
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Cost of living: $19,963
Average annual Social Security income: $25,804
Index rating: 100

Storey County, in the high desert mountain ranges of western Nevada, offers a beautiful, inexpensive environment for retirement living.

If you crave bright lights and a faster life, you need only visit nearby Reno, with its casinos and ski resorts.

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