Where Retirees Rely Most on Social Security - 2020 Edition

According to Social Security Administration (SSA) data from 2019, about 64 million Americans receive more than $1 trillion in Social Security benefits. More specifically, almost 90% of individuals age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits, with benefits representing about 33% of income for the elderly. Social Security payments alone are generally not enough to live on, which is why it might be useful to seek professional advice to help you get your overall financial picture in order. But some populations of older citizens do indeed depend on Social Security benefits more than others. That’s why SmartAsset crunched the numbers to find out where they are.

To find the cities in America where retirees rely most on Social Security, we looked at data for the 100 cities with the largest 65-and-older populations and examined two metrics: Social Security income and Social Security income as a percentage of total 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 third annual study on places where retirees rely on Social Security the most. Check out the 2019 rankings here.

Key Findings 

  • Repeats in the top five. The five cities where retirees rely most on Social Security this year are exactly the same as last year: Fort Wayne, Indiana; Hialeah, Florida; Wichita, Kansas; Sun City, Arizona and Indianapolis, Indiana. Social Security income comprises at least 46% of total retirement income in each of these cities.
  • Average retirement income is $45,442. The average retirement income for residents 65 and older across all 100 cities we analyzed is $45,442. On average, Social Security makes up 40.42% of this amount. There are 54 cities that fall above that average, and the average percentage for this metric in the top 10 is approximately 47%.

1. Fort Wayne, IN

Fort Wayne, Indiana is the city in America where retirees most rely on Social Security. The population of residents in Fort Wayne who are 65 and older totals more than 36,000. Of the $38,552 in average combined retirement income (which includes retirement income and Social Security income), Social Security income in the city comprises more than half, 51.30%, or an average of $19,776.

2. Hialeah, FL

The population of residents in Hialeah, Florida who are 65 and older totals 46,834. The average Social Security income in the city is $12,857, and the average combined retirement income is $25,841, meaning Social Security represents 49.75% of total retirement income. Given that Florida is home to a number of places where residents earn the most from their investments, retirees in Hialeah who need more income sources might wish to consult a financial advisor to understand how to improve their portfolio. 

3. Wichita, KS

Wichita, Kansas, with a 65-and-older population of 52,911, has an average Social Security income of $19,615. This amounts to 49.16% of the total combined retirement income of $39,900.

4. Sun City, AZ

Social Security makes up 47.87% of overall retirement income in Sun City, Arizona, the city on this list with the smallest 65-and-older population, at less than 30,000. The average Social Security income in the city is $21,722, and average combined retirement income is $45,378.

5. Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis, Indiana is the only city on this list with a senior population of more than 100,000. It also has an average Social Security income of $18,664 and an average total combined retirement income of $39,912, meaning 46.76% of total retirement income is Social Security income.

6. Tulsa, OK

Tulsa, Oklahoma’s average combined retirement income is $41,405. Around 46.26% of that amount, $19,156, is Social Security income. 

7. Port St. Lucie, FL

Port St. Lucie, Florida has 36,559 residents 65 and older. The average combined retirement income in the city is $44,578, of which 46.04%, or $20,523, is Social Security. 

8. Lincoln, NE

For those who retire in the Lincoln, Nebraska, home to a 65-and-older population of almost 36,000, the average combined retirement income is $45,303. Social Security makes up 45.28% of that amount, or $20,514.

9. Mesa, AZ

Mesa, Arizona has the 27th-largest 65-and-older population in the country and a total combined retirement income of $46,238. The average Social Security income in the city is $20,927, which comprises less than half of that total, at 45.26%.

10. Greensboro, NC

The average combined retirement income in Greensboro, North Carolina is $42,147, and Social Security represents 45.16% of that, or $19,034. In order to cover basic needs such as the cost of food and housing to wants like hobbies or travel, retirees there might wish to consult a professional financial advisor.

Data and Methodology

To find the cities where retirees rely most on Social Security, we analyzed data for the 100 cities in America with the largest 65-and-older populations. Specifically, we looked at the following two metrics: 

  • Average retirement income for senior households. This is all income that comes from pension plans, periodic income from annuities or insurance and income from IRA plans. Data is for households where the head of the household is 65 or older and comes from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2018 5-year American Community Survey.
  • Average Social Security income for senior households. This includes Social Security pensions and survivor benefits and permanent disability insurance payments that the Social Security Administration makes. Data is for households where the head of the household is 65 or older and comes from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2018 5-year American Community Survey.

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

Tips for Retirement Planning

  • It’s never too early - or too late - to review your retirement plan. Knowing what you’ll need for retirement early is important so that you can start investing and saving money to reach those goals. But it’s important to remember that it’s never too late to take a holistic look at your money matters.
  • Take advantage of workplace retirement plans like a 401(k). These are the best and easiest way to save for retirement - and are even better if your employer can match contributions. So if you have access to a 401(k) plan, make sure you use it.
  • Talk to an advisor. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com

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