How Americans Earn and Spend Their Money, by Level of Education

Is a million dollars enough for a retirement in the United States?

The average American needs their retirement savings to last 14 to 17 years. In this spirit, is $1 million enough savings for the average retiree?

Ultimately, it depends on where you live, since the average cost of living varies across the country. This graph, using data compiled by GOBankingRates.com shows how many years $1 million in retirement savings lasts in the 50 most populous US cities.

Editor’s note: As one user rightly pointed out, this analysis does not take into account the interest earned on the million dollars. Given this, the calculations above could be considered very conservative figures.

How long would $1 million last in 50 cities

To compile this data, GOBankingRates calculated the average spending of people aged 65 or older in each city, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and cost of living indices from Sperling’s Best Places.

This figure was then reduced to account for the average Social Security income. Then GOBankingRates divided the million by each city’s final figure to calculate how many years $1 million would last in each location.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, San Francisco, California came in as the most expensive city on the list. $1 million in retirement savings lasts about eight years in San Francisco, about half the time the typical American needs for their retirement funds to last.

City How long $1 would last (years) Cost of living index Annual expenses
(after using annual social security)
Memphis, TN 45.3 76 $22,043
El Paso, TX 40.3 81.4 $24,789
Wichita, KS 39.7 82.1 $25,145
Tulsa, okay 38.8 83.2 $25,705
Indianapolis, Indiana 38.6 83.5 $25,857
Milwaukee, Wis. 37.6 84.9 $26,569
Oklahoma City, OK 37.3 85.4 $26,824
Columbus, Ohio 37.2 85.5 $26,875
Kansas City, Missouri 36.7 86.2 $27,231
Detroit, Michigan 35.8 87.6 $27,943
Baltimore, MD 35.3 88.2 $28,248
Louisville, Kentucky 35.3 88.4 $28,349
San Antonio, TX 34.4 89.7 $29,011
Omaha, NE 34.3 89.8 $29,062
Albuquerque, New Mexico 33.6 91.1 $29,723
Tucson, AZ 33.3 91.6 $29,977
Jacksonville, Florida 32.3 93.5 $30,943
New Orleans, LA 30.8 96.3 $32,367
Houston, TX 30.8 96.5 $32,469
Charlotte, North Carolina 29.6 98.9 $33,690
Fort Worth, TX 29.3 99.8 $34,148
Arlington, TX 28.8 100.6 $34,554
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 28.6 101.2 $34,860
Nashville, TN 28.5 101.4 $34,961
Dallas, TX 28.4 101.6 $35,063
Raleigh, North Carolina 28.2 102.3 $35,419
Fresno, California 28.1 102.6 $35,572
Phoenix, AZ 27.6 103.7 $36,131
Mesa, AZ 27.4 104.2 $36,385
Colorado Springs, CO 27.3 104.5 $36,538
Virginia Beach, Virginia 26.9 105.6 $37,097
Minneapolis, Minnesota 26.6 106.5 $37,555
Chicago, IL 26.4 106.9 $37,759
Atlanta, Georgia 26.3 107.5 $38,064
Las Vegas, Nevada 24.8 111.6 $40,149
Sacramento, California 22.9 118.2 $43,506
Austin, TX 22.7 119.3 $44,065
Miami, Florida 21.7 123.1 $45,998
Denver, CO 20.4 128.7 $48,846
Portland, OR 20.0 130.8 $49,914
washington d.c. 16.4 152.1 $60,747
San Diego, California 15.4 160.1 $64,816
Long Beach, California 15.3 160.4 $64,969
Boston, MA 15.1 162.4 $65,986
Seattle. Washington 14.0 172.3 $71,021
Los Angeles, CA 13.9 173.3 $71,530
Oakland, California 13.8 174.4 $72,089
New York, NY 12.7 187.2 $78,599
San Jose, California 10.8 214.5 $92,484
San Francisco, California 8.3 269.3 $120,355

A major factor in San Francisco’s high cost of living is its cost of housing. According to Sperlings Best Places, accommodation in San Francisco is almost 6x more expensive than the national average and 3.6 times more expensive than the state of California as a whole.

Four of the five most expensive cities on the list are in California, with New York City being the only outlier. NYC is the third most expensive city in the ranking, with $1 million expected to last around a retiree 12.7 years old.

At the other end of the spectrum, a $1 million retirement would last 45.3 years in Memphis, TN. That’s about 37 years older than San Francisco. In Memphis, the cost of housing is approximately 2.7x below the national average, with other spending like groceries, health care and utilities well below the national average as well.

Retirement, who?

No matter where you live, it helps to start planning for your retirement as early as possible. But according to a recent surveyalone 41% women and 58% of men are actively saving for their retirement.

However, for some, COVID-19 was the financial wake-up call they needed to start planning for the future. In fact, in the same survey, 70% of respondents said the pandemic had “made them pay more attention to their long-term finances.”

That’s good news, given that people are living longer than they used to, which means their funds have to last longer in general (or people have to retire later in life). Although, as the data in this graph suggests, where you live will greatly influence how much you actually need.