It’s no wonder that the state of Illinois ranks highly on some “best retirement states” lists and low on others. There are strong pros and cons.
On the positive side, the Land of Lincoln offers large cities and small communities, cultural diversity, four-season living, plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities and retiree-friendly tax laws. On the not-so-positive side, Illinois has relatively high property and sales taxes, is prone to extreme weather and has a higher cost of living than many other states.
That said, it is possible to retire in Illinois on a tight budget, even if you’re a couple planning to live on just your Social Security benefits. To help you figure out which cities to target, GOBankingRates has compiled a list of your 10 best options.
Sometimes referred to as “The City of Homes,” Berwyn is a bedroom community just west of Chicago. Berwyn has about 57,000 residents, with about 13% over the age of 65. In addition to having easy access to Chicago, Berwyn is home to more than a dozen parks.
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Woodstock is tied for the lowest livability score on this list, but an average monthly rent of just over $1,200 may make it worth a look for cost-conscious retirees.
Its other attractions include a historic downtown and town square, the annual Woodstock Folk Festival and the McHenry County Fair. Woodstock is located about 50 miles northwest of Chicago and has about 26,000 residents.
The village of Oak Lawn is a popular spot for retirees, with 18% of its 58,000 residents aged 65 or older. Located just southwest of Chicago, Oak Lawn offers more than 20 parks, an 18-hole golf course and a senior center. Rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, spent some of his early years here, and NBA legend Dwayne Wade attended Oak Lawn’s Richards High School.
Another suburb located southwest of Chicago, Oak Forest is home to about 27,000 residents. The city’s motto is “All Good Things Close to Home.” Residents and visitors can visit any of its numerous parks or tell a ghost story at Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, a place well-known to local paranormal activity enthusiasts.
Gurnee’s average monthly cost of living for retirees — the highest in this top 10 — may stretch some Social Security-only budgets, but it should be possible for couples to make it work.
Located just north of Chicago, the village draws millions of visitors each year for its amusement parks — including Six Flags Great America and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Chicago — and the Gurnee Mills outlet mall. Gurnee is home to about 30,000 people.
Like Gurnee, Mundelein is a northern Chicago suburb with about 30,000 residents. Mundelein is the only city on this list with an average monthly rent of more than $2,000, but it still is within reach for many cost-conscious retirees. It features Diamond Lake and more than 700 acres of parks and recreational facilities.
Urbana and its twin city, Champaign, are home to the University of Illinois — so it may not be surprising that Urbana is tied for the lowest spot on this list for percentage of retirees — less than 12%. You’ll find Urbana in east-central Illinois, in between Chicago and St. Louis. Attractions include Market at the Square — a weekly farmers’ market — and more than 600 acres of parks.
The central Illinois town of Normal is tied with Urbana for the lowest concentration of seniors in this top 10. It does offer retirees affordability, with an average monthly cost of living just over $3,000. In addition, it boasts the second highest livability score on this list. Normal has a population of about 53,000 and is home to Illinois State University.
Average monthly rents below $1,000 can be tough to find these days, but Belleville offers them — along with the lowest average monthly cost of living on this list. Belleville is also tied with Woodstock for the lowest livability score, at 76.
Located in southwest Illinois near the Missouri border, Belleville is part of the Greater St. Louis area. It boasts the annual Art on the Square show, the Belleville Historic District and multiple parks and trails. About 42,000 people call Belleville home.
Edwardsville combines a strong livability score — a list-high 90 — with living costs within reach for many senior couples living on just Social Security.
Located about 15 miles northeast of downtown St. Louis, Edwardsville features a scenic downtown, including the historic Wildey Theatre, a cultural hotspot along Route 66. Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville is home to the 36-acre Gardens at SIUE. Roughly 27,000 people live in Edwardsville.
Methodology: In order to find the best places in Illinois for a couple to live on only a Social Security check, GOBankingRates started by finding the 100 most populated cities in Illinois, as sourced from the U.S. Census American Community Survey. For each city on the list, a number of factors was found, including;  Grocery cost of living index,  Healthcare cost of living index,  Utilities cost of living index,  Transportation cost of living index,  Miscellaneous cost of living index, all sourced from Sperlings BestPlaces,  Average expenditure costs for someone aged 65 or older, sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey,  average rental cost as sourced from Zillow Observed Rental Index,  Livability index sourced from AreaVibes,  average Social Security benefits for retired individuals sourced from the Social Security Administration,  total population and  population of citizens aged 65 or over, sourced from U.S. Census American Community Survey. The cost of living indexes were multiplied by the average expenditure costs to find the average cost of living for each city. Adding the average rental cost to the average monthly expenditure cost gives an average monthly total cost for each city. All cities with a higher cost than double the Social Security benefits were removed. GOBankingRates assumes both individuals in a couple are eligible for Social Security benefits, doubling the individual Social Security benefits amount. The livability index was sourced from AreaVibes, and all cities with a low livability index of 75 or less were removed. Using the population of 65 years or older and the total population, the population 65 and over percentage was calculated. The population 65 and over percentage was scored, the monthly expenditure cost was scored, the average mortgage cost was scored, and the livability index was scored. All the scores were summed and sorted to show the places that are the best in Illinois for a couple to live on only a Social Security check. All data was collected and is up to date as of Jan. 3, 2024.
Photo Disclaimer: Please note photos are for representational purposes only. As a result, some of the photos might not reflect the locations listed in this article.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 10 Best Places in Illinois for a Couple To Live on Only a Social Security Check