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SmartAsset 2022 Edition: Where Retirees Rely Most on Social Security

Retirement can often be daunting because it means a shift from traditional income to a reliance on savings, investments and government programs such as Social Security. However, for most Americans, the government safety net is not enough to live on. While the Social Security program in 2022 has seen the largest cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase in four decades (5.9%), many retirees are still looking for ways to supplement their income.

To determine where Social Security makes up the largest and smallest percentage of total retirement income, we analyzed data on total retirement income and Social Security income for the 100 U.S. cities with the largest 65-and-older populations. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, read the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s fifth edition of our study on the cities where retirees rely most on Social Security. You can read the 2021 edition here.

Key Findings

  • Total retirement income is low in many cities where retirees rely most on Social Security. Across the 100 cities in our study, total retirement income averages $48,066. However, across the five cities where retirees rely most on Social Security, average total retirement income is $38,104. In Hialeah, Florida, Social Security benefits make up the second-highest percentage of the total retirement income (49.23%) while total retirement income is lowest, at $27,149.
  • In all cities analyzed, Social Security accounts for more than a quarter of total retirement income. Even in the city least reliant on Social Security – Miami, Florida – income from the federal program accounts for 26.90% of total retirement income.
  • Like last year, California cities dominate the cities where retirees rely least on Social Security. These cities include Fresno, San Diego, Riverside, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chula Vista, Oakland, Huntington Beach, Sacramento, Long Beach and Glendale. In these Golden State cities, Social Security makes up between 30.1% and 36.6% of overall retirement income.

Cities Where Retirees Rely Most on Social Security

1. Fort Wayne, IN

In just one city - Fort Wayne, Indiana - Social Security makes up more than half of a retiree’s income. The average combined retirement income is $37,542, and Social Security accounts for 52.38% of that (averaging $19,666).

2. Hialeah, FL

Florida’s sixth-largest city is home to roughly 48,400 residents ages 65 and older. In Hialeah, the average total combined retirement income is $27,149 (which is the lowest of the 100 cities analyzed in this study). Nearly half (49.23%) is made up of Social Security income, which averages $13,365. Hialeah also ranked second in the 2021 edition of this study.

3. Wichita, KS

Wichita, Kansas remains No. 3 for another year. The 65-and-older population in Wichita makes up about 15% of the total population. On average, this retiree population has a combined retirement income of $41,305, and Social Security accounts for 48.77% of that (averaging $20,144).

4. Indianapolis, IN

The second Indiana city in the top five cities where retirees rely most on Social Security is Indianapolis, which moved from No. 5 last year to No. 4 this year. In Indianapolis, Social Security income ($19,617) makes up 47.53% of the average combined retirement income ($41,270).

5. Tulsa, OK

The average combined retirement income in Tulsa, Oklahoma is about $43,300. Average Social Security income for this city is $20,273 (or 46.87% of total combined retirement income).

Cities Where Retirees Rely Least on Social Security

1. Miami, FL

Residents in the Magic City rely the least on Social Security relative to the other cities in our study. The overall retirement income is $52,213 and Social Security accounts for just 26.90% of that total ($14,043).

2. Washington, DC

The nation’s capital is home to roughly 85,900 people ages 65 and older. For this retiree population, the average combined retirement income is $60,254, which is the fourth-highest of the cities in this study. Of that income, Social Security makes up 28.50% (or $17,174 in gross figures).

3. Baton Rouge, LA

The second-most populous city in Louisiana takes a spot in the bottom five cities of this study. Social Security income in Baton Rouge, Louisiana makes up just 29.87% of overall retirement income in the city. Residents ages 65 and older in Baton Rouge make up roughly 15% of the total population.

4. Glendale, CA

Glendale, California is home to about 35,700 people ages 65 and older, which equates to almost 18% of its total population. Census Bureau data shows that the average combined retirement income is $59,763 and Social Security accounts for $18,013 of that overall figure. That comes out to a Social Security contribution of 30.14% in a typical Glendale retiree’s income.

5. Anchorage, AK

Anchorage, Alaska ranks as the fifth city where retirees rely least on Social Security. Of the average overall retirement income ($56,255) in Anchorage, Social Security accounts for 31.54% of it (roughly $17,745).

Data and Methodology

To find the places where retirees rely most on Social Security, we examined data for the 100 cities with the largest population of residents ages 65 and older. Specifically, we looked at the following two metrics:

  • Average retirement income for senior households. This is all income which comes from pension plans, periodic income from annuities or insurance and income from IRA plans. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 5-year American Community Survey.
  • Average Social Security income for senior households. This includes Social Security pensions and survivors benefits and permanent disability insurance payments made by the Social Security Administration. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 5-year American Community Survey.

We combined the two income metrics to create one overall retirement income metric. We divided average Social Security income by overall retirement income, showing what percentage of total retirement income was coming from Social Security. We then ranked the cities from highest to lowest.

Tips for Maximizing Your Retirement Income

  • Contribute to a 401(k) or IRA. If you are looking to get a better sense of how your savings stack up, our 401(k) calculator can help you determine what you saved for retirement so far and how much more you may need. If your employer does not offer a 401(k) plan, an IRA is another great option.
  • Understand your Social Security benefits. The annual payment you receive from Social Security is based on your income, birth year, and the age at which you elect to begin receiving benefits. If you’re wondering how much you’ll get from Social Security, check out our Social Security calculator.
  • Hire an expert. Jake Hill, CEO of DebtHammer Debt Consolidation, says that "it might be a good idea to meet with a financial advisor who can help [you] adjust [your] spending habits…as well as figure out a way to maximize [your] Social Security benefits.” SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com

Photo credit: ©iStock/Bill Oxford

Anja Solum Anja Solum is a data journalist at SmartAsset covering a variety of personal finance topics, including retirement and debt management. Before joining SmartAsset, she worked on both agency and in-house content marketing teams where she developed her love for data analysis and visualization. In her free time, she nurtures a passion for gaming, a recent addiction to anime & KDramas, and a mischievous labrador retriever. A bit of a nomad, she’s lived in Norway, Jamaica, and Denmark in addition to the U.S. but now resides in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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