When inflation surges and cash loses its purchasing power, retirees’ hard-earned savings suddenly don’t go as far as they expected. Inflation may also lead to widespread salary increases, but retirees typically don’t benefit from wage growth because they’ve already left the workforce and many retirees rely on Social Security.

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However, the Social Security Administration adjusts benefits in an attempt to keep pace with the rising price of goods and services. As inflation spiked in recent years, these annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs) pushed Social Security benefits 1.3% and 5.9% higher in 2020 and 2021, respectively. With this in mind, SmartAsset set out to uncover where seniors rely the most on social security by analyzing income data for seniors in 100 U.S. cities.

This is SmartAsset’s sixth edition of our study on the cities where retirees rely most on Social Security. You can read the 2022 study here.

Key Findings

Social Security comprises over 40% of a retiree’s income, on average. The average retiree in the U.S. received 41.6% of their total income ($50,780) from Social Security in 2021, slightly up from 41.50% in our 2022 study. The percentage is even higher for retirees in some cities, where Social Security can reach up to 50% of overall retirement income.

The 65+ population in Nashville, Lincoln and Charlotte is rising fast. The senior population in these cities have grown 15.12%, 14.20% and 12.89%, respectively between 2017 and 2021. Meanwhile, the retired population became more reliant on Social Security compared to last year’s rankings: Nashville and Lincoln each jumped three spots, while Charlotte’s senior population shot up from 45th to 10th.

Midwestern cities are more reliant on Social Security, while California seniors have other sources of income. Cities in Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio frequent the top 10 cities where seniors are most reliant on Social Security, while California cities dominate the 10 least dependent.

Where Retirees Rely on Social Security Most

1. Fort Wayne, IN
For the fifth year in a row, Fort Wayne claims the top spot in our study. Retirees here get more than half (50.04%) of their overall retirement income from Social Security – less than last year when it made up more than 52% of retiree income. This suggests other income sources for retirees in Fort Wayne kept up better than Social Security. Meanwhile, the population for those 65 and older has grown 8.87% between 2017 and 2021.

2. Wichita, KS
Retirees in Wichita have an average annual income of $45,220, of which just under half (49.81%) comes from Social Security. Once revered as the largest aircraft manufacturing hub in the world, Wichita is now home to over 62,500 residents who are 65 and older and can enjoy many cultural activities at the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, the Wichita Art Museum and the Orpheum Theatre.

3. Nashville, TN
Retirees in Nashville can take advantage of legendary live music venues like the Grand Ole Opry and Bluebird Cafe. More than 89,000 seniors 65 and older call this city home. Social Security makes up 48.15% of their total retirement income ($46,133), which is up from 45.80% in the 2022 study.

4. Lincoln, NE
Retirees living in Nebraska’s capital rely on Social Security for 47.10% of their total income ($49,979), up from 45.56% a year ago. Almost 43,000 seniors 65 and older live in Lincoln and this population grew 14.20% between 2017 and 2021.

5. Surprise, AZ
Located about 30 miles northwest of Phoenix, Surprise’s senior population declined by 2.51% between 2017 and 2021. The city has the second-highest average Social Security benefit across our study at $24,890, which accounts for 46.78% of the total retirement income. Surprise is home to a number of golf courses, and retirees can also catch a glimpse of two Major League Baseball teams, the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals, at their spring training facilities.