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Image shows two adults who are senior citizens sitting on their couch and enjoying coffee. SmartAsset analyzed various data to conduct its latest study on where seniors are most and least financially secure.

A 2019 report from the Federal Reserve on the economic well-being of U.S. households says that only 37% of Americans think that their savings are on track for retirement. The rising costs of living, medical expenses and long-term care can make it difficult to save enough for annual retirement expenses. With this context in mind, SmartAsset compared data from 100 cities nationwide to identify and rank the places where seniors are the most and least financially secure.

We considered factors including average senior retirement income, percentage of seniors below the poverty line, percentage of seniors on SNAP, percentage of seniors who own their homes, percentage of seniors with private retirement income, percentage of seniors who are housing cost-burdened and housing costs as a percentage of senior retirement income. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s 2021 study on where seniors are most and least financially secure. Read the 2020 version here.

Key Findings

  • Top five keeps a secure hold year over year. Only one of the five cities where seniors are most financially secure does not have the same rank as last year. While Anchorage, Alaska jumps up from sixth place in 2020 to replace Sun City, Arizona in fourth place in 2021, the other top four cities repeat in the same positions in both years. These four cities all stand out for their relatively high percentages of seniors with private retirement income and low percentages of seniors who are housing cost-burdened.
  • Northeastern cities fare poorly. Out of the 100 cities we studied, no city in the Northeast ranks among the top 50 cities where seniors are more financially secure. What’s more, three cities in the region – New York, New York; Boston, Massachusetts; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – all rank in the 10 cities where seniors are least financially secure. These cities have relatively high percentages of seniors who are living below the poverty line and who are dependent on SNAP benefits.

Where Seniors Are Most Financially Secure

1. The Villages, FL

The Villages, an affluent retirement-focused community in central Florida, leads this list. This city ranks first or second in all of our metrics, including leading for the following:

  • Percentage of seniors on SNAP: 0.4%
  • Percentage of seniors who own their own home: 96.0%
  • Percentage of seniors who are cost-burdened by housing: 21.35%
  • Housing costs as a percentage of average senior retirement income: 13.95%

2. Surprise, AZ

Only 1.8% of seniors in Surprise, Arizona are on SNAP, the second-lowest percentage of the cities we studied. This city also has the third-highest number of seniors with private retirement income (63.4%). Surprise ranks fourth-lowest for the percentage of seniors living below the poverty line (5.1%) and percentage of seniors who are housing cost-burdened and also ranks fourth-highest for the percentage of seniors who own their own homes (87.0%).

3. Huntsville, AL

Only 22.61% of seniors in Huntsville, Alabama are burdened by housing costs, the second-lowest rate for this metric in the study. This city also ranks second-best for relatively low housing costs as a percentage of the city’s average senior retirement income (17.91%). Huntsville places fifth for the retirement income metric, as 60.9% of seniors have some sort of private retirement income flowing in.

4. Anchorage, AK

Anchorage, Alaska ranks fourth for average senior retirement income of $63,044. Anchorage also finishes in the top five when it comes to low poverty rates, with 5.5% of seniors living below the poverty line. And roughly 81.5% of seniors own their own homes, the sixth-best rate for this metric overall.

5. Lexington, KY

Only 26.15% of seniors in Lexington, Kentucky are burdened by housing costs, the third-lowest rate for this metric in the study. The city doesn’t perform as well when it comes to the average senior retirement income (ranking 48th out of 100 at $50,227). But, 56.3% of seniors do have at least some private retirement income, placing the city eighth for this metric in the study.

Where Seniors Are Least Financially Secure

1. Hialeah, FL

The average retirement income in Hialeah, Florida – a suburb of Miami – is just $27,886, the lowest of all the cities we analyzed. Hialeah also ranks last for its high percentage of seniors on SNAP (51.2%) and housing costs as a percentage of the average senior retirement income (52.67%).

2. Miami, FL

Miami, Florida, a neighbor of Hialeah, is second on this list. Around 31.6% of seniors in Miami are living below the poverty line, the biggest percentage out of the cities we analyzed. Only 17.1% of seniors in Miami have any private retirement income – the lowest percentage for this metric in the study. More than 53% of seniors are burdened by housing costs, putting Miami second-to-last for that metric.

3. New York, NY

The Big Apple isn’t the best place for financial security for seniors. Only 44.2% of seniors in the city own their homes, the second-lowest rate observed in this study. Nearly 50% of seniors are burdened by housing costs, putting the city 97th out of the 100 cities we studied. Furthermore, 25.8% of seniors are on SNAP, the seventh-highest percentage here.

4. Boston, MA

Nearly 21% of seniors in Boston, Massachusetts are living below the poverty line, the third-highest percentage for this metric in the study. Beantown ranks fourth from the bottom in two categories: the percentage of seniors on SNAP (27.2%) and the percentage of seniors who own their own homes (47.3%).

5. Baltimore, MD

Baltimore, Maryland’s average retirement income $41,724, the eighth-lowest out of all the cities we analyzed. Baltimore ranks ninth from the bottom in terms of seniors needing support to buy food, as 21.5% of seniors in the city are on SNAP. The Charm City performs somewhat better in terms of how many seniors have some sort of private retirement income, finishing right in the middle at 48.7%.

Data and Methodology

To find the cities where seniors are most and least financially secure, we looked at data for the 100 cities with the largest 65-and-older populations, across the following seven metrics:

  • Average senior retirement income. This is private retirement income from savings, IRA, 401(k) or pensions, along with Social Security income, for households in which the head of household is 65 or older.
  • Percentage of seniors below the poverty line. This is the percentage of seniors who live below the federal poverty line.
  • Percentage of seniors who receive food stamps/SNAP benefits. This is the percentage of households that receive food stamps for households in which the head of household is 65 or older.
  • Percentage of seniors who own their homes. This is the percentage of households in which the head of household is 65 or older and the residents own their home.
  • Percentage of seniors with private retirement income. This is the percentage of households in which the head of household is 65 or older which have retirement income from private means. This includes money from income streams such as annuities, insurance, IRAs and retirement pensions.
  • Percentage of seniors who are housing cost-burdened. This is the percentage of households in which the head of household is 65 or older and spends 30% or more of income on housing costs. This includes both owners and renters.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of average senior retirement income. This is median annual housing costs divided by average senior retirement income, from both private means along with Social Security income.

Data for all metrics comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 5-year American Community Survey.

First, we ranked each city in each metric. Then we found each city’s average ranking, assigning each metric an equal weight. Using this average ranking, we created our final score. The city with the highest average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.

Tips for a Secure Retirement

  • No matter where you are in your retirement journey, get some expert advice today. If you want to secure your retirement, start planning now – even better late than never – preferably with the help of a professional financial advisor. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Reassess your budget if possible. One of the best ways to save more is through budgeting. Our budget calculator can help with this. Beyond letting you see how much you spend each month, you can see how cutting back on discretionary expenses can increase your savings rate.
  • Think about an estate plan. If you want to set your family up for success after you’re gone, consider preparing an estate plan. From deciding whether you need one to understanding inheritance taxes where you are, our comprehensive estate planning guide offers a great first step. 

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/PIKSEL

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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