States – Tennessee


Tennessee is becoming a popular destination for many retirees. listed it in 2013 as the number one state to retire in. And it’s not just popular among retirees. Nashville for example has become a mecca of sorts for companies and job-seekers in various professions. From 2011 to 2012 it experienced job growth of 3.9 percent, more than any other city with a population of over one million.

Tennessee has what many retirees are looking for. Its cost of living is the second lowest in the country, according to Bankrate, and its overall tax structure is the third-lowest (there’s no state income tax, but there is a tax on interest and dividends, a 7% sales tax, and inheritance tax). Health care is also a concern for many retirees, and Tennessee residents spend about $6,000 per year on health care, below the national average of $7,000.

The weather is also quite comfortable; cities in the Volunteer State average over 200 days of sunshine per year. It also has moderate temperatures throughout the year. This provides plenty of opportunity to enjoy the natural scenery and hills.

There’s also the music. Tennessee gave rise to several types of American music, and continues to be one of the country’s leading musical venues. The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home, attracts over 600,000 visitors each year. Memphis is known for its connection to blues and rock & roll and is where many artists rose to fame, such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash.

One big disadvantage is the crime rate. The overall rates of both violent crime and property crime are higher than than the national average, and it ranks number 47 in the country for overall crime rate per capita. Some cities have the highest crime rates in the nation, but the crime rates tend to be lower outside of the major cities.

Here are a few places to consider as retirement destinations.


This historic city is known for its low cost of living and friendliness of its residents. It also has a thriving arts community and well known museums. There have been many new galleries opened, and the city has many outdoor public artworks.The Chattanooga State Community College displays sculptures made by students, faculty, and visiting artists. The Hunter Museum of American Art and the Bessie Smith Cultural Center display American and African art.

The downtown area is very walkable and has many restaurants, bars, and shops. Commuting around the city is made easier with a city-wide bike rental program and a free electric shuttle that connects downtown to various other parts of the town.

Chattanooga also gives residents lots of chances to enjoy the great outdoors. Lookout Mountain, six miles from downtown, offers giant rock formations, an expansive view of seven states, over 400 different species of native plants, and Ruby Falls, a 145-foot waterfall.

The 1,200-acre Harrison Bay State Park, on the shores of Chickamauga Lake, is a favorite among campers, boaters, fishermen, and picnickers. The park has a marina and public boat ramp, a 4.5 mile bike trail, and a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.

Booker T. Washington State Park also has beautiful scenery, an Olympic-size swimming pool, and a six mile mountain bike trail that passes by lake shoreline and undeveloped terrain. Those interested in history can visit Point Park, location of a Civil War battle, and explore its beautiful grounds, views of the hills and valleys, and Civil War exhibits.


Knoxville was ranked by in 2014 as second on the list of best places to retire. The website cited Knoxville’s retiree-friendly amenities, reasonable cost of living, and businesses and services that cater to seniors. The University of Tennessee is located in Knoxville and has museums, and offers classes in wellness, history, arts, and technology, and the Smoky Mountain Field School sponsors hikes and workshops in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Forbes magazine included Knoxville on its list of the Top 25 Best Bang for the Buck Cities because of its cost of living, which is 11% below the national average. Turkey Creek offers world-class shopping at over 200 stores, and restaurants, hotels, and entertainment venues and brings shoppers from around the world.

There are three lakes around Knoxville that have fresh water boating, golf, and waterfront retirement communities. Knoxville has 84 parks and public golf courses. The Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum is a free public botanical garden.

The city sponsors annual festivals that bring hundreds of thousands of visitors. There are also a ballet and opera company, a symphony orchestra, and 15 live performance theaters. The Knoxville Museum of Art has rotating exhibits, live musical performances, and classes. There is a local art market with arts and crafts by over 60 artists.

Residents have access to top health care with five hospitals and medical centers. U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Tennessee Medical Center best in two specialties nationally and high-performing in 10 specialties.


Located just 15 miles from Knoxville, Maryville is home to the historic Maryville College, which occupies 400 acres in the center of town. The town combines the advantages of small-town living (population 23,000) with the amenities of the big city. The college has several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, has trails for walking and biking, and sponsors many cultural events. Its Clayton Center for the Arts holds regional art exhbits, dance performances, and other events.

The residents are also very active with 32 civic clubs and six professional societies. There are three retirement communities in the area. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is less than an hour’s drive and has 800 miles of trails and 700 miles of streams for fishing, camping, and nature-watching. The four-mile-long Greenway Trail goes through Maryville.


Many retired Baby Boomers are attracted to living in Paris because of the nearby Kentucky Lake, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. A small town (population 10,000), Paris offers a mild climate, affordable housing, and nearby outdoor recreation. The average temperature ranges from 20 degrees to 80 degrees. The median home price was around $100,000 in 2014 and there are several upscale condominium complexes.

Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley give opportunities for boating, fishing, and camping. The 170,000-acre Land Between The Lakes national recreation area has 200 miles of paved roads, 500 miles of trails, and 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline. The downside is that the town is fairly isolated in northwest Tennessee. The nearest cities are over 100 miles away, and shopping in town is limited. Around the town are woods, swamps, hills, and flatlands.


For more information about retirement in Tennessee:

State overview in facts and figures

State taxes

State services for senior residents

Profiles of major cities

Retirement communities

Best regions for retirement