Living on $2,000 per month is doable, but you won’t be able to live just anywhere. This is important because at the time of writing the average Social Security benefit paid is $1,701 per month. With a small retirement portfolio, you can relatively easily add a few hundred dollars to that amount, bringing your household income to $2,000. There are some places where you can live comfortably on that, but it will take planning. You can check out some of the best options below or if you aren’t satisfied with that then you may want to talk to a financial advisor to see what you can do to get more retirement income.
1. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Advantages: Very inexpensive
Disadvantages: Far from home and structure
We will start big. If you’re looking to retire on a tight budget, one of the first questions to ask is how far you’re willing to move. Many retirees solve that problem by leaving the country entirely, moving to places where their dollars can stretch further. This has led to a quiet growth in elderly expats.
If you’re interested in this kind of life, it’s important to think through the details. This can be an incredible adventure but, as you age, you will eventually need a strong support system. Among other important issues, choose a destination that can offer healthcare, infrastructure stability and transportation at need. In general, popular tourist destinations are a good place to start looking because most countries work hard to make sure the tourists aren’t inconvenienced.
Popular expat retiree destinations include Costa Rica, Portugal and Panama. If you’re willing to go further, though, Chiang Mai is an excellent choice. It is a bustling, vibrant city with some of the best food in the world and an apartment will cost between $150 and $500 per month, depending on your needs. Thailand’s metropolitan hospitals are excellent and the city has an international airport if you really need to travel.
2. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Advantage: In the United States
Disadvantage: Infrastructure issues
Taking one step back from the full expat life, you can also consider moving to Puerto Rico. In the capital city of San Juan, you can find one-bedroom apartments for between $500 – $600 depending on where you look and the coastal towns can sometimes offer much less than that. Daily costs of living will range, but you can expect utilities for a single person of around $120 per month and food often well below the market price of most other major cities.
The other major advantage of Puerto Rico is that it splits the baby between moving abroad and staying local. As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico will keep you in the United States, with access to every service the U.S. government offers. However, there are some infrastructure issues here to navigate, most notably in the form of health services. Puerto Rico does not offer the best hospitals, so if you have reason to anticipate serious health issues then this may not work.
3. Claremont, New Hampshire
Advantage: Beautiful setting
Disadvantage: Relatively remote
Most retirees, however, are not interested in moving out of the mainland United States. In that case, the next step is to figure out where you can move that will give you the right intersection of affordability and lifestyle.
This will usually involve moving someplace remote. Unless you own your own home, rent will be the single most important part of this analysis. At $2,000 per month, you need someplace where you can find a comfortable apartment for no more than $700 per month and that will almost never be in a major city. Just as importantly, you need to live someplace where rent will not grow too much over your retirement.
The small city of Claremont is a good example of this. Tucked up on the Vermont/New Hampshire border, it offers a town with good services and a beautiful setting. Although fairly remote, it is still only an hour from Concord, so you can get to a larger city at need. It’s a good intersection of requirements and one where costs are unlikely to grow too much in the near future.
4. Decatur, Indiana
Advantages: Potentially low rent
Disadvantages: Driving community
The Midwest is an excellent choice for retiring on a budget. Ask five Midwesterners which states count as “the Midwest” and you’ll get seven different answers. Pretty much everyone agrees that the list includes Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, but what about Missouri? Or Nebraska? Or Kansas? Where do Midwestern states and Plains States begin?
For our purposes, we will look at the five core states, because they offer a mix that few other parts of the country can. These are big land states. They have lots and lots of room, which means relatively low costs of living because you can almost always find someplace in the Midwest where the rent is cheap. But the five core states of the Midwest are a bit smaller than the sprawling western territories. This means that you’ll be closer to amenities and services than if you lived someplace like North Dakota.
Decatur is an excellent example of this. A small city near Fort Wayne, Indiana, Decatur has good options for food and entertainment and offers a well-respected hospital. Like almost the entire Midwest you will need your car to get around, which may become a problem as you age, but look at this small town in Indiana as a blueprint for the kind of place you could live.
5. El Paso, Texas
Advantages: City living
Disadvantages: Potential costs of living increase
In the other direction of the country, there’s El Paso, Texas. As with the Midwest, Texas has room. That room means plenty of space to build and grow, which translates to low costs of living. With El Paso, you can find a relatively large city where the median rent is still comfortable for a budget. At the time of writing you could get a one-bedroom apartment for around $680 per month.
The downside here is change. Cities don’t just tend to have high prices, they also tend to have high price growth. If at all possible, try to buy a home in El Paso rather than renting. Your biggest risk here is that city price growth will see that affordable rent grows significantly over time, although with Texas you do have a good hedge. You will almost always be near another town with affordable rent if you do need to move.
Living on $2,000 per month in retirement requires careful planning. You want to look at the amenities, prices and future price growth of any place you choose, but the important thing to remember is this: It can be done. You just need to do some research and find the right place that is going to give you an enjoyable retirement with the specific desires and needs that you carry.
Tips For Retiring On A Budget
- The first and best step in living on a tight budget is to make that budget. So, here’s where to start when it comes to making a retirement budget.
- A financial advisor can help you build a comprehensive retirement plan. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Sergey Dolgikh, ©iStock.com/dmbaker, ©iStock.com/whitebalance.oatt