Where social security benefits are highest and lowest relative to local housing costs – 2022 survey
Where social security benefits are highest and lowest relative to local housing costs – 2022 survey

Where social security benefits are highest and lowest relative to local housing costs – 2022 survey

A married couple embracing while discussing their retirement plan. SmartAsset compared 100 cities with the largest population aged 65 and over to determine where social security benefits are highest and lowest compared to local housing costs.

Social Security benefits and housing Expenditure is two of the most important elements of a successful financial plan retirement. While social security is the primary source of income for many retirees, housing can be their biggest monthly expense.

According to Census Bureau data, the average Social Security beneficiary collects $ 19,792 a year. That’s 1.5 times the average annual housing cost of $ 13,188. However, that ratio is even greater in some cities, while in other places with higher cost of livingincluding many cities in California, often have conditions well below the national average.

In this study, we examine the average social security income for 100 cities to determine where the benefits are highest and lowest relative to local housing costs. We compare cities across the following measurements: average annual social security income, median monthly housing costs, and median annual housing costs. For details on our data sources and how we ranked areas, read our section on data and methodology below.

Key findings

  • Social benefits are three times higher than housing expenses in a retirement community in Florida. Retirees at The Villages, a Census Designated Place (CDP) in central Florida, benefit from what is by far the largest gap between social security benefits and housing costs. While the average national annual social security benefit is $ 19,792, the average recipient in this vast retirement community collects more than $ 27,000 a year in social security. Meanwhile, housing costs in The Villages are 36% less than the national average.

  • California Dreams… of Lower Housing Expenses. The median monthly housing expenditure is higher than the average social security income in 17 out of the 100 total cities that we analyzed. Of these 17 cities, 11 are located in California. Two cities in the Golden State with notoriously expensive real estate – San Jose and San Francisco – rank as the two best cities where social security benefits are lowest relative to housing costs.

Where social security benefits are highest in relation to local housing costs

1. The Villages, FL

The Villages, Florida has the highest average social security income relative to housing costs, as the average annual benefit is 3.23 times more than the average housing cost. As a retirement destination, nearly 82% of The Villages’ population is over 65 years old. Meanwhile, The Villages has the highest average social security income ($ 27,209) and the lowest median housing cost ($ 8,436) of all 100 cities we surveyed.

2. Fort Wayne, IN

The average annual social security income in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is 2.16 times greater than the average housing cost, which is the second highest ratio of the 100 cities we surveyed. This city with over 265,000 inhabitants has the 19th highest average annual social security income ($ 20,047) and the sixth lowest average annual housing expenditure ($ 9,300).

3. Huntsville, AL

Huntsville, Alabama has the third highest social security income compared to local housing expenses in the 100 cities in our study. While 16% of the population of this northern Alabama city is over the age of 65, Social Security beneficiaries there have the 13th highest average annual payment ($ 20,243). Median housing costs are also relatively low, at only $ 10,404 per year (15th-lowest). As a result, Huntsville has the third-highest ratio of average social security income to median housing costs (1.95) across our survey.

4. Toledo, OH

Toledo, Ohio ranks near the bottom of the average annual social security income ($ 17,008), but retirees in this city of over 276,000 residents benefit from relatively low housing costs. The average housing cost in Toledo is only $ 8,868 per year, the fourth-lowest in our study. As a result, the average social security benefits in Toledo are 1.92 times greater than the average annual housing costs.

5. Wichita, KS

Wichita, Kansas ranks 24th for average social security income ($ 19,748), while its average annual housing expenditure ($ 10,320) is 12th-lowest among all 100 cities we surveyed. This means that the city’s average social security benefits are 1.91 times greater than its average housing costs, the fifth highest in our entire survey.

The image is a table from SmartAsset with the title

The picture is a table by SmartAsset entitled “Where social security benefits are highest in relation to housing costs.”

Where social security benefits are lowest in relation to local housing costs

1. San Jose, CA.

In this tech hub in the San Francisco Bay Area, the average Social Security recipient raises $ 19,642 annually, but has to contend with the average housing cost reaching $ 27,336 a year, the highest of the 100 cities we’ve surveyed. This means that the ratio between the average social security income and the average annual housing expenditure is only 0.72, the lowest in our study.

2. San Francisco, CA.

At $ 24,972 a year, the average annual housing cost in San Francisco is second highest in our survey, while the average social security income there ($ 18,350) is in the lower half of cities. As a result, the ratio of average social security payments to median housing costs is 0.73, the second lowest across all 100 cities we surveyed.

3. Chula Vista, CA.

Chula Vista, California has some of the highest median housing costs and lowest average social security income in our study. The ratio of the two measurements is only 0.74, the third lowest of all 100 cities we surveyed. Social security recipients in Chula Vista collect an average of just $ 16,697 a year, the 88th-lowest out of every 100 cities. Meanwhile, the city’s average housing cost is the fourth highest at $ 22,656 a year.

4. Boston, MA

The ratio between the average annual social benefits and the average annual housing costs in Boston is 0.78, the fourth-lowest in our study. The average social security beneficiary collects only $ 16,254 a year in Beantown (92nd), while the city’s average housing cost is $ 20,868 a year, the seventh highest.

5. Washington, DC

With the 10th highest housing cost ($ 20,484) and average social security benefits ranking 83rd overall ($ 16,766), Washington DC has the fifth lowest ratio of social security to housing costs. The average annual income from Social Security in Washington DC covers only 82% of the average annual housing expenses there.

The image is a table from SmartAsset with the title

The picture is a table by SmartAsset entitled “Where social security benefits are lowest in relation to housing costs.”

Data and method

To find the cities where social security benefits are highest and lowest in relation to local housing costs, we looked at data for the 100 cities with the largest population of residents aged 65 years and older. We compared them across the following three metrics:

  • Average social security income. This is the average amount of social security benefits collected in a year. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 5-year American Community Survey from 2019.

  • Median annual housing costs. These are the average annual housing costs for both homeowners and renters. We calculated this figure using the average monthly housing costs from the Census Bureau’s 5-Year American Community Survey from 2019.

To compile our rankings, we divided the average annual social benefits by the average annual housing costs for each city. The resulting number is the ratio on which the rankings are based.

Tips to maximize social security

  • Work with a professional. A financial advisor can work with you to determine the optimal time for you to start requiring social security. It does not have to be difficult to find a qualified financial advisor. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors in your area, and you can interview your adviser matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you are ready to find an advisor who can help you reach your financial goals, get started now.

  • The longer you wait, the more you get. Using SmartAssets Social Security Calculator, you will see that your benefits will increase the longer you wait before you start claiming them. If you delay Social Security beyond your full retirement ageyour benefits will increase by 0.66% every month (for those born after 1943) until you turn 70 years old.

Questions about our survey? Contact us on [email protected]

Photo Credit: © iStock.com / Katleho Seisa

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