Retire Here, Not There: Tennessee

Tennessee is unlikely to be at the top of boomers’ lists of prime retirement locations, but with its scenic, rolling hills and low cost of living, perhaps it should be.

Market Watch Article - Chattanooga

Low taxes and natural beauty are boosting the state’s image among retirees

The neighboring Carolinas tend to grab lots of attention, thanks to their better-known scenic areas and trendy enclaves such as Asheville, Chapel Hill and Hilton Head. But Tennessee offers a similarly temperate climate and natural beauty, with the Appalachian Mountains in the east and the Mississippi River in the west. While some spots may seem a bit “country” for more cosmopolitan retirees, its four main cities—Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga—and many smaller towns have undergone revitalization efforts and offer a wide range of arts and cultural amenities.

Indeed, Tennessee recently earned the number-one spot among top retirement states in a study, which ranked states by such data as climate, tax rates, cost of living and access to health care. The state overall has a cost of living that is 9.6% below the national average—and is also lower than that of both North and South Carolina, according to Sperling’s Best Places. Additionally, Tennessee’s state and local tax burden is the third-lowest in the nation, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. Residents pay no income tax except on interest and dividends. State sales tax can hit the pocketbook at 7% (6% on food) and some cities and counties add a penny or two more, but it does not include prescription medicines.

Like any location, Tennessee does have some drawbacks. For one, the overall rates of violent crime and property crime are significantly higher here than the national average, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports; Memphis, for example, has the nation’s second-highest violent-crime rate. Also, according to an analysis by Sperling’s Best Places of data from the Environmental Protection Administration, air quality in Tennessee is worse than the national average, due in part to the state’s many power plants and industrial facilities. (Water quality, on the other hand, is better than average.)

Retirement experts and residents say Tennessee’s charms make up for any shortcomings—especially for those who do their research and find safer neighborhoods. “People are really friendly in Tennessee; it’s the friendliest place I have ever been,” says Henry Fetzik, who moved to Springfield, Tenn., from Hacienda Heights, a suburb of Los Angeles. “Compared to California, people come up and hug you.”

Music-lovers are likely to appreciate Tennessee’s legacy as the birthplace of a variety of genres of American music, as well as the many opportunities to catch live performances by both classic and up-and -oming performers. Nashville is home to the Grand Ole Opry and global headquarters to all things country and western, including the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Memphis boasts close ties to the roots of both blues and rock ’n’ roll. Visionary DJ and record producer Sam Phillips founded Sun Records there and discovered such now-legendary performers as Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Graceland, the mansion that was home to “The King,” is a major Memphis tourist attraction, attracting over 600,000 visitors annually, especially during Tribute Week around August 16, the anniversary of Presley’s death.

The pros recommend these four places as being some of the best retirement locations in Tennessee.

Click to view the entire article ( – Click to view