U.S. Markets closed

States With the Best and Worst Average Social Security Checks

Doug Whiteman
States With the Best and Worst Average Social Security Checks

Retired Americans on Social Security will be sipping on a rather bitter COLA — as in cost-of-living adjustment. Seniors will receive a raise in 2020 of just 1.6%, down from the 2.8% increase they got for 2019.

The Social Security Administration has announced that the average monthly benefit will rise from $1,479 in 2019 to $1,503 next year. Or, from $17,748 annually to $18,036.

But the amounts vary by state.

Here's how all 50 states and the District of Columbia rank for Social Security benefits, going from the smallest average payments to the largest. The list is based on recently released numbers of retired workers on Social Security in each state and the total benefits they received in 2018.

51. Louisiana

Andy Dean Photography / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $16,350

According to the Social Security Administration's most current information, 540,818 Louisiana retirees collected benefits in 2018 averaging $1,362.52 per month.

That works out to $16,350.25 a year. It's not too far above what the federal government considers a poverty income for a single person: $12,490 per year.

50. Mississippi

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $16,431

In Mississippi, 416,530 retirees received benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,369.26 per month. Multiply by 12, and you get an average annual income of $16,431.15.

About 1 in 5 elderly married couples on Social Security and nearly half of unmarried seniors rely on their benefits for at least 90% of their income, the Social Security Administration says.

49. Maine

DisobeyArt / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $16,453

Social Security says 234,929 retired workers in Maine were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,371.12 a month — or $16,453.40 per year.

Around 90% of Americans 65 or older receive Social Security benefits. Some choose to wait until they turn 70, the age at which you receive your maximum possible benefit.

48. New Mexico

Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $16,538

In New Mexico, 297,313 retirees collected benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,378.17 per month, or $16,538.05 a year.

New Mexico is one of 13 states that tax Social Security benefits, according to AARP.

47. Montana

perdar / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $16,640

Officials say 171,787 Montana retirees were receiving Social Security payments in 2018 that averaged $1,386.69 per month or $16,640.33 a year.

Montana also is among the 13 states that tax Social Security benefits, says AARP.

46. Arkansas

Bonita R. Cheshier / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $16,642

In Arkansas, 439,558 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,386.84 a month or $16,642.09 per year.

The benefits program got its start in 1935, when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

45. Kentucky

Darcy Jardine / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $16,720

In Kentucky, 599,606 retirees were taking benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,393.31 per month — or $16,719.70 per year.

On January 31, 1940, the first monthly Social Security check was issued to Ida May Fuller, a retired legal secretary in Ludlow, Vermont. She received $22.54, which is equivalent to $413.77 in today's dollars.

44. South Dakota

JJM Photography / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $16,754

The Social Security Administration says 133,040 retired workers in South Dakota were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,396.20 per month, or $16,754.36 a year.

During her lifetime, Ida May Fuller — the first Social Security recipient — collected benefits totaling about $22,889.

43. Alaska

B. Franklin / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $16,808

Officials say 72,029 Alaska retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,400.70 per month, or $16,808.40 a year.

Like every other resident of Alaska, a retiree also receives an annual payment from the state's oil wealth fund. The amount in 2019 is $1,606.

42. North Dakota

Halfpoint / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $16,849

In North Dakota, 96,657 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,404.05 per month, or $16,848.57 a year.

North Dakota is another of the 13 states that collect taxes on Social Security benefits, AARP says.

41. District of Columbia

Syda Productions / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $16,959

In the District of Columbia, 57,338 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,413.25 per month or $16,959.01 a year.

A person can claim Social Security as early as age 62, but if you don't wait your monthly payment will be permanently reduced by up to 30%.

40. Oklahoma

Bonsales / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,098

In Oklahoma, 522,769 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,424.85 per month.

The math on that works out to an average $17,098.17 a year. Paltry Social Security benefits are a reason working Americans need to save more — such as through 401(k) plans offered by employers.

39. Nevada

Joshua Resnick / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,153

In Nevada, 396,557 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,429.46 per month or $17,153.48 a year.

Social Security typically represents about a third of an older American's income, officials with the program say.

38. Idaho

Denise Lett / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,158

In Idaho 247,610 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,429.82 per month.

Multiply by 12 and you get an average annual income of $17,157.85. Some seniors are lucky enough to have employer-based pensions that provide additional retirement income, though those have become rare.

37. Texas

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,178

In Texas, 2,832,567 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,431.47 per month,

That makes for an income of $17,177.59 a year. Money from an IRA, or individual retirement account, can help you make ends meet in retirement — but you need to start saving as early as you can.

36. California

sirtravelalot / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,190

In America's most populous state, 4,310,091 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,432.46 per month or $17,189.56 a year.

The number of older people on Social Security in California is greater than the entire populations of almost half the states.

35. Alabama

Darryl Vest / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,222

In Alabama, 709,443 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,435.18 per month or $17,222.17 a year.

Half of elderly retired couples and 70% of single retirees derive 50% or more of their income from Social Security, officials with the program say.

34. Georgia

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,241

In Georgia, 1,242,203 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,436.74 per month.

The math on that works out to an average annual income of $17,240.90.

33. West Virginia

Steve Heap / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,243

In West Virginia, 285,909 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,436.95 per month, or $17,243.44 a year.

West Virginia is among the 13 states that collect taxes on Social Security benefits, AARP says.

32. Ohio

Sever180 / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,266

In Ohio, 1,581,420 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,438.86 per month — or $17,266.31 a year.

During June 2019, some 44.5 retired workers across the U.S. were receiving Social Security payments, officials say.

31. Missouri

LanaG / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,267

In Missouri, 873,524 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,438.96 per month, or $17,267.46 a year.

Missouri also is among the 13 states that tax the Social Security benefits of at least some retirees, according to AARP.

30. Tennessee

LanaG / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,401

In Tennessee, 964,035 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,450.11 per month.

Multiply by 12 and you get an annual amount of $17,401.37. Investment income, maybe through an automated investing service, can help retirees stretch their money.

29. Hawaii

CREATISTA / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,420

In Hawaii — one of the best states for retirement — 211,813 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,451.67 per month.

That works out to an average $17,420.01 a year.

28. Florida

Brocreative / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,420

In Florida — often considered America's retirement capital — 3,389,540 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,451.70 per month.

That's equal to $17,420.43 a year.

27. North Carolina

Cvandyke / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,550

In North Carolina, 1,476,848 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,462.49 per month, or $17,549.91 a year.

Americans are living longer and must rely on Social Security for longer periods. In 1940, a 65-year-old was expected to live almost 14 years, the Social Security Administration says. Today, that life expectancy is more than 20 years.

26. Oregon

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,576

In Oregon, 640,652 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,464.65 per month.

That works out to $17,575.78 per year.

25. Iowa

goodluz / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,614

In Iowa, 470,664 retirees were collecting Social Security benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,467.82 per month.

Multiply by 12 and you get an average annual benefit of $17,613.79.

24. Nebraska

marekuliasz / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,620

In Nebraska, 250,014 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,468.36 per month or $17,620.34 a year.

Nebraska is another of the 13 states that tax the Social Security benefits of at least some retirees, AARP says.

23. Colorado

iofoto / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,657

In Colorado 639,282 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,471.42 per month or $17,657.03 a year.

Colorado is yet another of the 13 states that collect taxes on Social Security benefits, AARP says.

22. South Carolina

Diego Cervo / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,712

In South Carolina, 796,032 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,475.98 per month.

That's equivalent to $17,711.73 a year.

21. Vermont

Christine Glade / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,779

In Vermont, 106,070 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,481.62 per month, or $17,779.39 a year.

Vermont also is among the 13 states that collect taxes on Social Security benefits, AARP says.

20. Wyoming

Diane Isabel / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,822

In this sparsely populated state, 82,101 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,485.18 per month.

That works out to an average $17,822.19 a year for each Wyoming retiree on Social Security.

19. Illinois

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,896

In Illinois, 1,590,343 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,491.30 per month.

That's the same as $17,895.63 per year.

18. Arizona

Andy Dean Photography / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,897

In Arizona — another state that draws large numbers of retirees — 992,575 retired workers were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,491.45 per month.

Multiply by 12 and you get an average annual income of $17,897.44.

17. Rhode Island

Kate Elliott / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $17,920

In Rhode Island, 156,598 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,493.31 per month, or $17,919.77 a year.

Rhode Island is another of the 13 states that tax Social Security benefits, according to AARP.

16. Utah

melissamn / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,009

In Utah 284,754 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,500.79 per month or $18,009.44 a year.

Utah is yet another of the 13 states that levy state taxes on Social Security benefits, AARP says.

15. Wisconsin

Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,024

In Wisconsin, 896,146 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,502.04 per month.

That's the same as an income of $18,024.45 a year.

14. Virginia

Steve Heap / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,084

In Virginia, 1,078,144 retired workers were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,507.01 per month.

That works out to $18,084.17 per year.

13. Massachusetts

2p2play / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,104

In Massachusetts, 878,840 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,508.65 per month.

That's equivalent to $18,103.76 a year.

12. Kansas

PointImages / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,145

In Kansas 391,286 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,512.09 per month or $18,145.06 a year.

Kansas also is among the 13 states that collect taxes on some Social Security benefits, according to AARP.

11. New York

William Perugini / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,174

In New York 2,548,783 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,514.50 per month, or $18,174.04 a year.

The first official Social Security number was 055-09-0001 — issued in 1936 to 23-year-old John Sweeney Jr. of New Rochelle, New York.

10. Pennsylvania

Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,185

In Pennsylvania 1,966,422 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,515.44 per month.

Multiply by 12 and you get $18,185.31 a year.

9. Minnesota

Edgar Lee Espe / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,257

In Minnesota 761,515 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,521.45 per month or $18,257.40 a year.

Minnesota is another of the 13 states that collect state income tax on Social Security benefits, according to AARP.

8. Indiana

Kzenon / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,266

In Indiana, 921,226 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,522.20 per month

That works out to an average annual income of $18,266.36. Could you live on that? It's vital to have savings to fall back on.

7. Washington

Julie DeGuia / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,432

In Washington, 970,010 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,535.96 per month

That calculates to an average annual income of $18,431.57.

6. Maryland

Steve Heap / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,586

In Maryland, 720,910 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,548.85 per month.

Multiply by 12 and you get an annual income averaging $18,586.14. Despite the relatively high benefits here, there are plenty of other reasons you probably wouldn't want to retire in Maryland.

5. Michigan

Lindsay Snow / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,614

In Michigan, 1,498,279 retired workers were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,551.19 per month.

The math works out to an average annual income of $18,614.28.

4. New Hampshire

Denise Lett / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $18,794

In New Hampshire 213,708 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,566.21 per month, or $18,794.49 per year.

The lowest Social Security number ever issued was given to Grace Owen of Concord, New Hampshire, in 1936. It was: 001-01-0001.

3. Delaware

CREATISTA / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $19,009

In Delaware, 156,16 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,584.12 per month.

That works out to Social Security payments averaging $19,009.38 a year.

2. Connecticut

Edward Fielding / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $19,343

In Connecticut, 501,724 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,611.88 per month, or $19,342.59 a year.

Connecticut is the last of the 13 states that collect taxes on Social Security benefits, AARP says.

1. New Jersey

wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

Average annual benefit: $19,402

The Garden State is where older people receive the largest average Social Security payments, according to the latest data from the program.

In New Jersey, 1,181,229 retirees were collecting benefits in 2018 that averaged $1,616.80 per month, or $19,401.58 a year.

Join the MoneyWise mailing list. You’ll get the latest financial tips and news, straight to your inbox.