What draws droves of retirees to Beaufort County?
It’s a combination of all those things and more, of course. But a recently published study suggests another factor could be involved: getting more bang for your Social Security buck.
Beaufort County leads South Carolina — and ranks third in the nation — in average annual Social Security benefit payments, according to SmartAsset, a company that analyzes personal finance data.
The SmartAsset study — which crunches numbers from a variety of sources including the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the MIT Living Wage Calculator — determined that locals who receive Social Security benefits get an average annual payout of $22,125.
The nationwide average for annual retirement benefits is less than $16,000, according to the most recent monthly statistical snapshot from the Social Security Administration.
And while the cost of living in Beaufort County is higher than the state average, it is lower than counties in other regions of the country, according to the study.
Also, Social Security benefits are not taxed in South Carolina as they are in many other states.
These factors combine to give Beaufort County high marks in SmartAsset’s Annual Social Security Index study, which takes into account factors such as benefit payments, taxes, and the cost of basic necessities.
“One of the biggest financial decisions one can make is deciding where to retire,” SmartAsset spokeswoman Asees Singh said. “So, the purpose of the study is to look at where Social Security (payments) go the furthest.”
Social Security payment amounts are determined based on a formula that takes into account an average of a retiree’s highest 35 years of earnings.
A high score in the SmartAsset annual index “reflects a better location for retirees living entirely — or mostly — off of Social Security,” Singh said.
With an index score of 92.77, Beaufort County comes in ninth in the national rankings of counties where retirees can get the most out of their benefits, according to the study.
McCormick County is the only other South Carolina county to crack the index’s top 100. Laurens, Georgetown, and Lancaster counties round out the state’s top five highest ranked counties, according to the study.
The SmartAsset Annual Social Security Index top 10:
▪ Antrim County, Mich.
▪ Irion County, Texas
▪ Sumter County, Fla.
▪ Loudon County, Tenn.
▪ Pike County, Ind.
▪ Box Butte County, Neb.
▪ Bannock County, Idaho
▪ Wayne County, Neb.
▪ Beaufort County, S.C.
▪ Calumet, Wis.