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12 Best Places in North Carolina for a Couple To Live on Only a Social Security Check

MargaretW /
MargaretW /

Reaching retirement together as a couple is a great way to embark on the next adventure, whether it involves seeing the world or simply settling down in a cozy, comfortable place that won’t break your budget. If you need to get by on a single Social Security check, your first priority will be on finding something affordable.

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The average Social Security retirement check is $1,790.56 a month as of July 2023, according to the Social Security Administration. That won’t go very far in most places, let alone somewhere with a high cost of living.

As the AARP reported earlier this year, U.S. Census Bureau data found that a rising number of retirees and retired couples are moving to other states to find cheaper housing. One of the most popular destinations is North Carolina, which ranked second behind only Florida in the Census Bureau analysis.

If you and your spouse are thinking about moving to the Tar Heel State, here’s a look at the 12 best places to live if you have to get by on a single Social Security check.

AndreyKrav /
AndreyKrav /


  • Average monthly rent: $889.61.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $2,529.08.

  • Livability index: 75.

Located in the picturesque North Carolina foothills, Shelby offers easy access to the Blue Ridge mountains in one direction and the urban bustle of Charlotte in the other. Monthly rents are cheap compared to other North Carolina cities, making it a good destination for senior couples on a budget.

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Paul Bradbury /
Paul Bradbury /

Rocky Mount

  • Average monthly rent: $924.95.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $2,539.94.

  • Livability index: 70.

Despite its name, there’s not much especially rocky or mountainous about this eastern North Carolina city. However, it does offer an affordable lifestyle, a thriving downtown scene, and plenty of recreational and cultural options for couples.

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Kevin Ruck /
Kevin Ruck /


  • Average monthly rent: $1,486.68.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $ 3,035.98.

  • Livability index: 82.

Greensboro, located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, is the biggest city in the three-city Triad region that also includes Winston-Salem and High Point. You’ll find plenty of arts, entertainment, recreation, shopping and restaurants choices, along with a large hospital and numerous public parks and gardens.

J. Michael Jones /
J. Michael Jones /


  • Average monthly rent: $1,256.16.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $ 2,837.59.

  • Livability index: 70.

Burlington take up prime real estate in central North Carolina, with easy interstate access to urban centers like Raleigh and Charlotte as well as the Blue Ridge mountains to the west. The city itself is a former railroad and textile hub that offers plenty of recreation, entertainment and cultural choices.

RgStudio /
RgStudio /


  • Average monthly rent: $1,432.33.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $3,031.39

  • Livability index: 65.

Located in Johnston County just south of Raleigh, Benson is heavy on the small-town warmth and charm. Attractions include the Benson Museum of Local History, the Singing Grove Park and a thriving downtown merchant community.

See: 10 Best European Cities To Retire on a Budget of $2,500 a Month

SochAnam /
SochAnam /


  • Average monthly rent: $1,852.39.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $ 3,448.41.

  • Livability index: 81.

Clemmons offers plenty of southern charm in a small-town village setting, but it also has a thriving business community. If your idea of the perfect retirement includes spending plenty of time on the golf course with your spouse, you’ll find more than 540 holes of golf within a 20-mile radius of Clemmons.

rodclementphotography /
rodclementphotography /

Black Mountain

  • Average monthly rent: $1,873.33.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $3,660.97.

  • Livability index: 84.

Black Mountain, located 15 miles from Asheville in the Blue Ridge mountains, is well known to the arts crowd. The town was once home to Black Mountain College, one of the most innovative experimental art colleges in the United States. Today it remains a popular destination for artists and art lovers while also offering scenic views and small-town charm.

Kruck20 /
Kruck20 /


  • Average monthly rent: $1,883.96.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $3,515.23.

  • Livability index: 90.

This suburban bedroom community near Raleigh is the perfect destination for retired couples who like to stay busy. Cary ranks as one of the fastest-growing cities in the South and offers a thriving restaurant, shopping, entertainment, recreation and arts scene. Money magazine ranked Cary as one of the country’s “Best Places to Live.”

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Wirestock /
Wirestock /

High Point

  • Average monthly rent: $1,762.81.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $3,315.03.

  • Livability index: 76.

Plenty of people outside of North Carolina know High Point as a major furniture center — so much so that it bills itself the “Home Furnishings Capital of the World.” Located in the Triad region, High Point offers a wide and diverse lineup of dining, recreation and arts choices.

FatCamera / Getty Images
FatCamera / Getty Images


  • Average monthly rent: $1,229.54.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $2,814.92.

  • Livability index: 64.

If you and your spouse want a small-town vibe near big-city amenities, then Salisbury fits the bill. It’s located just a short hop from Charlotte and offers a rich history, stately homes and buildings, and a variety of museums, art venues and local art galleries.

Wirestock /
Wirestock /


  • Average monthly rent: $1,300.93.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $ 2,901.69.

  • Livability index: 67.

Graham is part of the Burlington metro area, so it offers the same convenience to big cities and scenic mountains. Senior couples will enjoy the relaxed vibe and natural surroundings in Graham as well as the revitalized downtown.

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Darwin Brandis /
Darwin Brandis /


  • Average monthly rent: $1,477.94.

  • Monthly total cost of living: $ 3,082.18.

  • Livability index: 73.

This is the place to go if you and your spouse are barbecue lovers. Lexington is famous for its own take on barbecue in a state that has a heated rivalry between eastern and western N.C. styles. Lexington is also located near a half-dozen wineries as well as art galleries and multiple hiking and canoe options.

Methodology: To find the best places to live in North Carolina, GOBankingRates analyzed all the cities in North Carolina across a variety of factors; [1] Grocery Cost of Living, [2] Health Cost of Living, [3] Utilities Cost of Living, [4] Transportation Cost of Living, [5] Miscellaneous Cost of Living all sourced from Sperling’s Best Places, [6] Population of the city, [7] Population aged 65 and over both sourced from the US Census American Consumer Survey, [8] Zillow Observed Rental Index sourced from Zillow housing data, [9] Livability Index sourced from AreaVibes, [10] Average Social Security Benefits sourced from the social security administration, [11] Average expenditure costs for ages 65 and over sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The cost of living factors [1] through [5] were calculated with the average expenditure cost from factor [11] to find the average monthly cost for expenditures in each city. The monthly expenditures was added to the July 2023 rent to find the total monthly cost of living in each city. Only cities where the total monthly cost was less than the social security benefits of a couple were kept. For each of those cities, the livability index and the percent population 65 and over were also calculated. The total monthly cost, livability index, percent population 65 and over, rent, and monthly cost of living were all scored and added together with the higher number being better. The livability index was weighted at 1.5 and the percent population 65 and over was weighted at 1.25 with the other factors being weighted at 1.0. The score was sorted to show the best places in North Carolina for a couple to live on just social security benefits. All data was collected and is up-to-date as-of August 31st, 2023.

This article originally appeared on 12 Best Places in North Carolina for a Couple To Live on Only a Social Security Check