SIDNEY — When it comes to average annual Social Security benefit payouts, Shelby County ranks among the top counties in Ohio.
Consider how far that money goes, however, and Shelby falls nearer to the middle of the pack. So states a report released this week by Smart Asset, an online financial technology company in New York City.
“We help people figure out, ‘How much house can I afford? How much do I need to retire?’” Managing Editor A.J. Smith told the Sidney Daily News. So compiling data to show how well people can live on only Social Security benefits was “right up our alley,” she added. “We use this data all the time. We wanted to bring this data to light to get people to budget better for retirement.”
The firm looked at what the average annual Social Security payout was in 2014 in each county of every state in the country.
The highest was $22,099 in Sumter County, Florida.
Shelby County’s average payout was $17,649 which resulted in an index score of 79.86. That ranks the county at No. 10 of 88 counties in Ohio and No. 709 of the 3,143 counties in the whole country. In Ohio, the county with the highest average annual payout is Geauga ($19,590), which ranks 50th on the national scale. Auglaize County comes in at No. 12 with a average payout of $17,626. Nationally, it’s in the 724th spot. Darke County ranks 45th in Ohio and 1,371st in the country. It’s average payout is $16,810.
The lowest payout, $13,308, in Ohio goes to folks in Athens County, but that’s almost half again as much as the average payout in the lowest-ranked county in the country. That dubious honor goes to Kennedy County, Texas, where the average amount is only $9,113.
The Smart Asset staff went a step farther and calculated the average cost of living in county. They used statistics from the U.S. census and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living wage calculator. The amounts they compiled include the bare minimums of what people in each county must pay for food, housing, transportation, health insurance and childcare.
According to those calculations, the average annual cost of living in Shelby County is $16,790. That ranks Shelby as having the 64th lowest cost of living in the state. In the country, the ranking is 1,534, very close to the middle point. Auglaize County’s cost of living is $15,833, the 26th lowest in the state and the 637th lowest in the country. Darke County wins the prize for western Ohio in this category though. It ranks second among the 88 counties, with an average annual cost of living of $15,008. That gives it a national ranking of 150. It costs less to live only in Belmont County ($14,811), which has a national rank of 91. The lowest cost of living in the country can be found in Bon Homme County, South Dakota.
It’s by subtracting the cost of living from the Social Security payment that Smart Asset analysts arrived at their reports of where those payments go furthest. “Higher scores reflect a better environment for living primarily or exclusively off of Social Security benefits,” they wrote on their website, www.smartasset.com, where the full report can be found.
In Ohio, those payments go furthest in Henry County, whose national ranking is 67. The high payouts helped to put Sumter County, Florida, at the top of the list nationally. If someone’s going to live solely on Social Security benefits, those benefits will go furthest there.
“The highest got a Social Security index score of 100,” Smith said. “Then, we graded on a curve down.” So the index numbers indicate a county’s position relative to the highest in country. Shelby County’s index number is 79.86.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.