Retirement in the Mid-South Comparison: Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama

Category: Best Retirement Towns and States

Editor’s note: This article is the latest in our series on various regional comparisons for retirement. See end of article for links to other regions in this series. We welcome ideas for future comparisons.

December 10, 2014 — The area that we will call the mid-south is an under-estimated and often misunderstood place for baby boomer retirement. All of these states are relatively favorable for taxes, cost of living, and climate compared to many others. Yet so far they definitely take a back seat in terms of popularity compared to the Carolinas, Florida, and Arizona. In this comparison we will evaluate various factors for these states that affect retirement, letting our readers draw their own conclusions from the facts. As always, please remember that areas and neighborhoods within a state, even a Metro, can be very different – so generalizations are tricky. Reader input is extremely important too. We encourage you to use the Comments section below to tell your stories and express your preferences with your fellow members.

Population and area (Data from American Fact Finder-U.S. Census Bureau).
These states do not have big demographic differences among them, except for Georgia, which has twice as many people as AL and KY. All of the states are about the same size geographically, ranging from 39,000 sq.miles (KY) to 57,500 (GA).

State
Alabama
Georgia
Kentucky
Tennessee
Population (Millions)
4.8
10.0
4.4
6.5
Pop. 65+ (US=14.1%)
14.9
12.0
14.4
14.7


Economics and Home Prices
One reason why theses states make good places to retire is their lower cost of living. The cost of living in Tennessee is the 2nd lowest in the country (after Miss.) and all of the other states are low as well. (Source: Missouri Bureau Economic Research Center). Real estate tends to be inexpensive as well; all have significantly lower home prices than the U.S. median value of $176,000 (Source = USA Quick Facts 2009-2013).

State
Alabama
Georgia
Kentucky
Tennessee
Cost of Living Rank
6
18
8
2
$ Med. Home Val
122,500
151,300
120,400
139,200
% Below Poverty
18.6
18.2
18.8
17.6

Climate and Geography
As you move south the states get warmer, so Kentucky has the coldest winters and Alabama and Georgia the warmest. Mountain locations within the same state at elevation will be cooler. Clingsman Dome in TN’s Great Smoky Mountains is the highest point in the region at 6,643′, while Black Mountain in KY stands at 4,784′. Alabama’s Chea Mountain has an elevation of 2,407′. Alabama enjoys a coastline on the Gulf of Mexico while Georgia has some islands and beaches on the Atlantic. All of the states have some mountainous areas, forests, and many lakes that make for great places to retire. Here are the average Jan. and Jul. temperatures for these states (Source: NOAA).

State
Alabama
Georgia
Kentucky
Tennessee
Avg Jan low
44
46
33
36
Avg Jul high
80
80
76
77

Political and Social
All of these states are considered “Red” (Republican and conservative), with Alabama being the “Reddest”. Larger cities and college towns are generally more likely to be “Blue” (Democratic) than rural areas and small towns. Boomers who are from the South will probably find it easier to fit in the social scene in these states than someone who is from the Northeast. As many Topretirements members have noted, if you are from the North and want to fit in here it is best to not try to impose your values and attitudes on your new neighbors. Just as if someone from here moved to New England, it works best to realize you are in a new environment and need to be open to new ways and ideas without being judgmental.

Tax Environment
Tax Burden and Property Tax
According to the Tax FoundationTennessee is the state in this group with the lowest 2011 tax burden – it ranked 45th out of the 50 states. Alabama’s was next at 41st, Georgia was 35th, and Kentucky had the highest at 23rd.

Modern building in Chattanooga

A major reason why baby boomers choose these states for retirement is their often ultra-low property taxes. Alabama has the 2nd lowest median property taxes in the nation. It should be noted that part of the reason for this region’s low property taxes is that real estate is less expensive here. The most expensive state in the region for property tax is Georgia, which has the 33rd lowest rate in the country. (Source: Tax-Rates.org)

State
Alabama
Georgia
Kentucky
Tennessee
Tax Burden Rank
41
35
23
45
$ Med. Prop. Tax
398
1346
843
933

Some states offer various property tax exemptions to people over 65, those with low incomes, veterans, or disabilities. Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky have Homestead Programs to help with these taxes. Check our State Guides for more on this.

Income Taxes
These states generally all have fairly low income tax rates. Tennessee has no income tax, although it does tax interest and dividends at 6% (low income folks are exempt from those). AL and GA taxes start at a very low marginal rate but the highest rates kick in at very low income levels – $3,000 and $7,000. Source for these rates is Federation of Tax Administrators.

State
Alabama
Georgia
Kentucky
Tennessee
Low Inc.Tax %
2
2
2
NA
High Marg. Tax %
5
6
6
NA

Social Security and Income Tax Exemptions for Seniors
All of these states are generous when it comes to giving seniors tax breaks. None tax Social Security payments. Tennessee doesn’t because it has no income tax. Alabama exempts most retirement income including defined benefit pensions. Kentucky exempts retirement income up to $41,110. Georgia has generous adjustments to retirement income of all types – in 2012 it was up to $65,000 for couples aged 65 or more ($35,000 for those 62-64).

Sales Taxes
The sales tax in KY is 6%. AL and GA each have 4% sales tax rates. The TN sales tax is 7%. Most of these states permit localities to add on to that tax.

Estate and Inheritance Taxes
Kentucky has an inheritance tax, but spouses, parents, children, grandchildren and siblings are all exempt. KY uses the federal exclusion for estate taxes. There are no estate or inheritance taxes in Alabama. Georgia has a very limited estate tax which is basically a credit against the federal tax. Tennessee has an inheritance tax.

Note: Taxes are complicated and the laws change quickly. Consult state Department of Revenue Guides and/or your tax professional before making important decisions.

Places to Live and Retirement Popularity
All 4 states have cities and interesting towns that make for great places to retire, although not as many as states like Florida and the Carolinas. The 4 states all have college towns, such as Bowling Green in Kentucky, which is also the place sacred to Corvette sports car fans. There are many mid-sized cities and a few large ones, such as sprawling Atlanta. In the Topretirements database we have reviewed 11 towns in AL, 37 in GA, 11 in KY, and and 25 in Tennessee. Eleven towns in these 4 states made the Topretirements’ list of 100 Best Retirement Towns: Tennessee had 5, Georgia had 4, and Alabama and Kentucky each had one: (Fairhope (AL) and Murray (KY).)

The most popular town in these states is Paris (TN) – #12, a rural area which is set near the very popular Land Between the Lakes recreational area. Knoxville (TN) was #17, Maryville (TN) was #20, and Savannah (GA) hit the #26 spot. But beyond the very popular towns that everyone is familiar with there are many others that should not be overlooked as great places to retire. Those include bustling Huntsville in northern Alabama, and the old gold mining town of Dahlonega in Georgia.

Historic building in Dahlonega


Here is the full list of our most popular 100 best retirement towns.

Choice of Active Communities
Georgia in particular is loaded with active adult communities – at Topretirements we count over 90 communities in our Georgia Directory of Active Communities. In the Tennessee Directory of Active Communities you can choose from 47 different active or retirement communities, 12 of which made our 2014 list of the most popular active communities. There are over 20 active adult communities in Alabama, while there only 10 to choose from in Kentucky.

Western Shores, a lakeside community in Murray, KY

The bottom line
The 4 states examined here share numerous similarities in addition to a similar climate and topography (except that Georgia and Alabama have coastlines). The price of housing is under the national median in all.

Looking for differences, it is pretty clear from our web analytics at Topretirements that Tennessee and Georgia are more popular places to retire than Alabama and Kentucky, and they also have more towns and active communities to choose from. Tennessee wins for lowest tax burden and cost of living, while Alabama wins the lowest property tax sweepstakes.

So which state is the best place to retire? If you are attracted to this region and its warm weather and low costs, we recommend that you visit cities and towns in all of these states and see if you can’t find the place of your dreams. Fortunately, the states are contiguous- in a few trips you should be able to get a good idea of the places that could offer you a happy retirement experience.

For your reference:
Alabama State Guide
Georgia State Guide
Kentucky State Guide
Tennessee State Guide

Arizona vs. Florida Retirement
Dueling Retirement States: NJ vs. DE vs. MD vs. VA
Dueling Carolinas: NC vs. SC for Retirement
How North Carolina Climbed over Florida as #1 Retirement State
Best States for Retirement
State Retirement Guides
California Retirement 101
Florida Retirement 101
Comparison: Retirement in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah

What state do you prefer? Let us know in the Comments section below about the places you have lived in or visited in these states, along with your impressions about what it is like to retire there.

Posted by Admin on December 9th, 2014

63 Comments »

  1. Interesting article. It would have been great if Virginia had been included; i am interested in extreme SW section of the state. Also, i think (someone correct me if i’m wrong), that the tax exemption for seniors in Georgia is $65,000 per person, twice that for a couple.

    by ella — December 10, 2014

  2. Best quote in your article “Taxes are complicated and the laws change quickly.”
    I appreciated the article as I think these states will continue to move up in the retirement ranks. I am interested in GA (agree with ella’s comment on taxes) and hope to hear what others think of as positives and negatives. I am considering the area north of Atlanta

    But as always, you need to find a few places that you want to live and try to decide from there.

    PS. When I moved from NH to Birmingham, AL, my AL property taxes were approx 40% of my NH property. They were actually 20%, but the house was 50% less money.

    by Elaine — December 10, 2014

  3. another good blog for the “For Your Reference” section
    http://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/dueling-carolinas-north-carolina-vs-south-carolina-as-the-best-retirement-state.html/

    Editor’s note: Great idea Elaine, thanks. We added it to the list.

    by Elaine — December 10, 2014

  4. We landed in Crossville TN in the Fairfield Glade Resort development. We are not yet retired. Our Real Estate taxes are 1/12 what they were in Illinois for a similar home. Yes, what we pay for a year in TN is what we would have paid monthly in Illinois in real estate taxes for a similar home. That part is great. The shock was in paying 6% of our dividend and interest earnings – which we always leave in our investment portfolio and reinvest since we are not yet retired – when it came tax time. This is The Hall Tax. Tennessee levies a 6% tax on income derived from dividends and interest. There are currently several bills pending in the Tennessee legislature to phase out this tax. Please don’t be as surprised as we were in our first tax filing as residents. Keep your eye on The Hall Tax debate in Tennessee. We are crossing our fingers that it will be phased out in our lifetime – but of course the income derived will need to be replaced from some other tax.

    by Holly — December 10, 2014

  5. I live in Knoxville, TN and if I’m not mistaken the Hall tax that Holly refers to does not include the first $2,500 of interest and dividend income. Please correct me if I am wrong.

    Editor’s note: Will try to answer this question and the one in the first comment from Ella about the GA tax exemption.

    You are correct, in Tenn a couple gets an exemption on the first $2500 of interest and divs. Or $1250 single
    See http://www.state.tn.us/revenue/faqs/indincome.shtml

    As far as we can tell, the GA senior exemption is $65,000 per couple, not individual. If you look at the GA form that’s how it is set up. Doesnt tell you what the single is.
    See pg 14 on this document to see what we are saying. Perhaps a tax professional or the State of Georgia could weigh in a with a definitive answer – it is sure not easy to find on their website!
    https://etax.dor.ga.gov/inctax/2013_forms/TSD_Form_IT511_Instructions_2013.pdf

    Pet peeve and minor rant: Why don’t State Tax web sites bother to make it easy to find what the various taxes and exemptions are? It is like pulling teeth – and then when finally do, they change the link so the answer goes to an error page!

    by Tim — December 10, 2014

  6. As well as being a “Red” state, TN is quite conservative religiously. Guess the old adage about not discussing politics or religion has some basis ion fact. Stay away from those 2 topics and the people here are friendly, gracious, caring folk.

    by Sue — December 10, 2014

  7. Like Ella I am interested in the comparison of SW Virginia (Roanoke SW along I-81) to the other states listed in this article.

    Editor’s note: Although our article talked about Virginia in general, check out http://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/dueling-retirement-states-de-vs-va-vs-md-vs-nj.html/

    by bev — December 11, 2014

  8. Perhaps we’re being somewhat naive, however we have found most of the TN natives to be quite friendly towards us Midwestern Catholics. We have spent 10 vacations in eastern TN, and haven’t noticed anything prejudicial. We have been politely invited to a Baptist church, but just explained that we would be attending Mass instead. We are still friends with that family. They are wonderful folks.
    Funny story……one businessman called us “Yankees” during our first visit. It didn’t bother us though. However, during our second visit he decided he would call us “Midwesterners,” because we dared come back, I guess. We laugh about it, cuz stuff like that just doesn’t matter that much. Now, he is really nice to us. There are plenty of people with whom to befriend. Pass by the prejudicial ones.

    by Caps — December 11, 2014

  9. We moved to Crossville TN in 2009. Looked promising, but that was about it.The city and county are pretty much ruled by the “7 families”. Very little growth and offers very little. We have to go to Knoxville for just about everything except the basic necessities. We’ve not found the locals to be very friendly–they think the outsiders are trying to change “the way they live”. There’s a drug problem here too. Yes, it’s cheap to live here–but overall it’s not worth it.

    by Donna — December 11, 2014

  10. Donna–what do you mean by “The city (of Crossville, TN) and county are pretty much ruled by the ‘7 families'”? Would you kindly explain it a bit more?

    by buddy — December 12, 2014

  11. We have been looking throughout the southeast and thought that the area of Crossville, specifically Fairfield Glade, offered an incredible array of activities. There are 5 golf courses, numerous lakes and seems to offer many clubs and activities. As far as being ruled by “7 families”, we’re from New Jersey and the “real” families have always ruled here. As far as drugs are concerned where aren’t they prevalent in today’s society? Really interested in hearing more from Donna about the area.

    by john — December 12, 2014

  12. These articles indicate a higher state income tax deduction in Georgia. Good news on property tax as well.

    Residents of the Peach State who are 65 and older can exclude up to $65,000 of retirement income (or $130,000 per couple) from state income taxes.

    http://www.neamb.com/finance/10-most-tax-friendly-states-for-retirees.htm

    http://www.kiplinger.com/tool/retirement/T055-S001-state-by-state-guide-to-taxes-on-retirees/index.php#KUfDTy63fALWIzP3.99

    by ella — December 12, 2014

  13. In the past, we travelled to Fairfield Glade Tenn. from Florida for a month,
    in the summer.
    We live in a 55+ gated community. The Cumberland Plateau is cooler
    than other parts of Tenn. Fairfield Glade has very nice golf courses.
    It is a very green & attractive area. We feel that Fairfield Glade has deteriorated
    the time share hotel’s pool was closed. It was musty. A nice restaurant closed,
    after a tree fell on it. Buildings left empty & deteriorating. Mildew problems. The lake beach areas are rocky weedy
    & just not groomed, like a nice resort would be kept. Crossville has very limited
    chain restaurants & a nice movie theater. It has an enormous drug problem.
    As we came back into our gated community in Florida, we were struck by contrast.
    To visit rent a condo & enjoy but we decided never to move to this very rural area.
    Jeanne

    by Jeanne — December 12, 2014

  14. We are seriously considering the area around Tellico Village and have visited a few times. We found the people very friendly. Does anyone have any comments related to the area. We are from Maryland and want to get away from the tax burdens imposed on us.
    Thanks

    by Forrest — December 12, 2014

  15. Tellico Village is south of Knoxville, tn

    by Forrest — December 12, 2014

  16. Don’t know much about Tellico but I too am orig fm Md and got away long time ago = their tax crazy. Hope u escape soon.

    by Robert — December 13, 2014

  17. We have looked from Asheville to eastern Tennessee to Hernando FL, and best of all Savannah GA seems to meet our needs. We plan on retiring there in two years; last summer we spent 10 days there and really liked the size, convenience, and history of the city. Particularly, we are looking at the Southbridge community. Does anyone have experience with Southbridge – activities for both men and women, demographics, diversity, stability, or any organizational or infrastructure problems it might have? Pros and cons of Savannah and/or Southbridge? Thanks.

    by Jonathan — December 13, 2014

  18. Tennessee property taxes are very low compared to other states I have lived in (FL, WA, AZ, NE), especially if you live in the county vs a city (Tellico is in the county).

    Generally speaking, as there are always exceptions… You usually pay on average about 1/2% of the value of your home in city property taxes, 1/2% if you live in the county. Sales taxes are higher than most states, average around 9% to 10% state/county/city combined, up to a few thousand dollars, then around 7% (state only) after that threshold. Food bought from the grocery store generally taxed at a reduced rate (5%). No income tax at all from earned income (income tax on dividends and interest, Google Hall Income Tax Tennessee for explanation).

    If you are considering *building* a home in Tellico be aware that your monthly assessment fees ($112) start when you buy the property, not when you occupy it. Lots can be had for $500 to $5000, despite the asking prices you see on Zillow. People buy the lots for building later then change their mind, or investors will buy a place for resale, then they start paying the monthly fee and quickly realize they bought a money pit and will want to dump it fast and try to minimize losses. There are hundreds of properties that are behind on monthly assessments and county taxes… the county refuses to foreclose on those properties because they would become liable for the monthly assessment fees and the taxpayer would be on the hook.

    Remember also you will need to pay another approx $500 per year to use the recreation center, wellness center, dog park, etc., so you will be up around $160 per month. If you do not golf remember that it is a golf community so part of the monthly fee goes to supporting the golf courses. I don’t golf so I’d rather buy into a community where my money goes entirely to the recreation center/wellness center/trails/etc and not support somebody else’s fun.

    by Art — December 13, 2014

  19. Clarification on that city/county property tax. ALL property pays tax to the county. The city tax is added on top of the county, so the total is close to 1%,

    by Art — December 13, 2014

  20. Art, in which state do you now ? I now remember looking at tellico sometime ago and ruled it out. We are still considering TN but have some concerns about the weather and Crime (read it’s high ?). The older we become the more we lean towards FL although I personally would like to try another state (Wife – FL). Cant do anything until we sell our house in Pa. Buon Fortuna

    by Robert — December 14, 2014

  21. Art, in which state do you now live ? I now remember looking at tellico sometime ago and ruled it out. We are still considering TN but have some concerns about the weather and Crime (read it’s high ?). The older we become the more we lean towards FL although I personally would like to try another state (Wife – FL). Cant do anything until we sell our house in Pa. Buon Fortuna

    by Robert — December 14, 2014

  22. I live in Northeastern Tennessee right now, up in the Appalachian Mountains.

    When looking at a potential state to retire in I looked at a number of things, weather, taxes, outdoor opportunities. For weather, the Deep South was too hot and humid in summer, the northern tier states too cold in winter. CA has great weather (grew up there) but taxes will eat you alive. AZ was pretty darn good most of the year, but their drought has me worried for the long term. When looking for mild winters and summers, the best overall weather year round for me was Eastern Tennessee.

    For taxes I looked at the Tax Foundations reports at http://taxfoundation.org/tax-topics/state-taxes and http://taxfoundation.org/article/tax-freedom-day-2014-april-21-three-days-later-last-year and http://taxfoundation.org/blog/map-2014-state-business-tax-climate-index. There was several states that had a lower personal tax burden but the weather was not appealing. Can’t see spending a hot and humid summer in LA (done that when stationed at Ft Polk) or MS (#50 and 49), and winter in SD (#48) would be to cold for my old bones. Eastern TN has the 4 seasons… but even then I sometimes long for the ‘winters’ I used to spend in Scottsdale (Frank Lloyd Wright really knew where to spend winters… ).

    Now if I could just find a nice retirement community in Eastern Tennessee near a big city and has all the amenities I like without the expensive golf courses… For me Tellico Village would meet the bill except for the golf courses.

    by Art — December 14, 2014

  23. Art,
    May i ask what town you’ve chosen and why? I am interested in Eastern Tennessee, but not sure where to find what i’m looking for. I know the SE part of the state is subject to tornadoes, which is too bad as areas near Chatanooga look appealing. As for the NE areas, are you familiar with any areas that feel small town with towns that have charm? (For example, are pretty and interesting enough to visit during bad weather, etc.) Many thanks!

    by ella — December 15, 2014

  24. Hi Ella,

    I am in Bristol, but it may not be my final retirement destination. It depends on what you are looking for. I am looking for a more active lifestyle like those things you would find at The Villages in Florida. Tennis, pickle ball, trails, cards, etc.

    Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City is collectively known as the TriCities, approximate population in the general area (NE TN) is 500,000. Bristol has a population of 26k, major claim to fame is the NASCAR Bristol Motor Speedway. Elizabethton is a small and quaint town, around 16k population. Kingsport is more of an industrial town (Eastman Chemical is there), 48k pop. Johnson City, 68k pop, is a college town so is more liberal minded than most of the locals.

    Bristol has the Slater Senior Center where we can play pickle ball, basket ball and exercise in the wellness center. No organized tennis, no softball, no senior style recreation center stuff like swimming pools, pinochle or other things you would typically find at larger retirement centers.

    Because of it’s population Johnson City has more parks and things to do than the other cities. More parks, some biking trails. Greater variety of shopping due to the population. The Parks and Recreation folks there have a seniors program that seems to get closer to what I am looking for. http://www.johnsoncitytn.com/parksrec/

    I have not researched it much, but if you go further south Knoxville and it’s surrounding area has a much larger population, there you will find senior activities that approximate those of a larger retirement community. Will be doing a deeper dive into that area in the upcoming months.

    City-Data dot com is a good place to go to research any area. Got a lot of information from that site.

    As for weather in the TriCites we do get around 12 inches of snow. Not all at once, just a few inches now and then, melts off in a day or so. Knoxville comparatively has little to no snow and is usually 2 to 5 degrees warmer than the TriCities. As for tornadoes they do seem to be prevalent across the bible belt. According to Pat Robertson it’s because the victims of the tornadoes don’t pray enough. Have not seen a tornado up here in the TriCities so I guess we do just enough to avoid the really bad stuff.

    by Art — December 15, 2014

  25. Although I agree with the whole “praying ” idea. We have concluded that an area with lots of real old buildings still standing, seems to indicate an area where the weather isn’t too severe. We think that the mountain ranges seem to protect the lower laying valleys. We have tornados in the Midwest, but they seem to pass over the lake homes. I think a body of water dissipates their energy, although it’s merely an observation, I’m not a meteorologist.

    by Caps — December 15, 2014

  26. Source: http://www.wunderground.com/resources/severe/tornado_myths.asp among others I saw…

    “Tornadoes don’t happen in the mountains” MYTH
    Tornadoes are not diverted by any structure or terrain. Tornadoes have been documented in the mountains, including damage from an F-3 above 10,000 feet.

    “Tornadoes won’t cross over rivers or other bodies of water.” MYTH
    It doesn’t matter what’s in front of it – a tornado will pass over or through it. For example, the Natchez, Mississippi tornado of 1840 traveled directly down the Mississippi, killing hundreds of people.

    by Art — December 15, 2014

  27. Regarding tornadoes and lakes:
    http://www.crh.noaa.gov/mkx/?n=taw-part2-tornado_myths

    http://stormaware.mo.gov/tornado-myths/
    “Tornadoes cannot cross lakes, large rivers or wide bodies of water.”
    False! Tornadoes that form on land can cross bodies of water, including rivers and lakes. Tornadoes can also form on water. These tornadoes are called “waterspouts.” Never think that a body of water will protect you from a tornado.

    http://www.ustornadoes.com/2013/03/14/tornadoes-dont-happen-in-mountains-or-do-they-debunking-the-myth/
    “It is true that tornadoes are less common at higher elevations and mountainous terrain, but this does not mean that these landscapes are immune.”

    As the article points out, Bristol and our valley don’t see much in tornado activity, but once the storm gets over the crest of the Appalacians then they reform. Roanoke gets hit with both tornadoes and flat line wind frequently. Mother Nature protects you almost as well as supreme deities.

    by Art — December 15, 2014

  28. Caps said: “We have concluded that an area with lots of real old buildings still standing, seems to indicate an area where the weather isn’t too severe.”

    Aiolos said: “Dang, missed ’em again!”

    by Art — December 15, 2014

  29. We live about an hour north of Atlanta in a Mountain Resort Community called Lke Arrowhead in Waleska GA. Homes are very reasonably priced. Our home is 3br 2 ba 2230 heated sq ft, full basement. Cost 240k.Taxes are 2100 per year and when I turn 62 the school portion drops off reulting in an 800 dollar property tax bill.
    GA is also conducive to Federal and State retirees. I will pay no state income tax upon retirement.

    by Robert Makowski — December 26, 2014

  30. Robert M.
    So interesting to read about your home in Lake Arrowhead. I am very interested in Northern Georgia; seem to be more drawn to Northern Geogia than NC or East TN, and am not sure why.

    I’ve been planning to visit Big Canoe in Marble Hill/Jasper, and had not heard of Lake Arrowhead until your post. Big Canoe seems very expensive, so it’s nice to learn it’s not the only show in town. Have you been there? If so, what did you think about it and why did you choose Lake Arrowhead. Wow, over 8000 acres! Is that for real or does your community connect with those acres on the property next to it?

    How do you feel about Waleska? Being so close to Atlanta, does it get overrun with visitors, seeking cooler terrain, in the summer ? How hilly is it there? I guess you’re outside the Blue Ridge Mountain range.

    Did you consider any towns outside of a community? Blairsville looks appealing as it is not subject to tornadoes and has good medical facilities. I checked Big Canoe and a tornado did run thru in 2011. How is Waleska in that regard?

    Many questions, but i will appreciate each and every answer. Thanks so much!

    by ella — December 27, 2014

  31. Re: big canoe. I visited there just a couple months ago. It is gorgeous! However, monthly dues were around 200/mo. But everything else you wAnted to belong to was additional. I found their strategic plan on line and, in the future, they are considering hotel/resort. Wasn’t fond of paying all that extra money for a gated community then have a hotel in there.

    It is still a drive to shopping except for a grocery store outside the grounds.

    It is gated, but not 55+. We visited in winter and I was worried about it being a backyard playground for atlanta folks. New homes start over 300k. Resales, you’d be lucky to find one at 250 and at least 20 yrs old. Realtor was very irritating. Kept showing us homes over 300,000 when we specifically told him max was 250. They do not have the school tax credit that robert m. was talking about.

    I live in NW georgia now.

    by Janice — December 27, 2014

  32. Janice,
    Thank you SO MUCH for the info. on Big Canoe. May i ask what town you picked in NW Georgia, and how you feel about it. Pros and cons.
    With much appreciation,

    by ella — December 28, 2014

  33. We live in Cartersville, but we will not stay here. It’s a nice town, but not one where we choose to retire. It is a mixture of native southerners and many transplants, but not much to offer for retirees unless you want to join one of the local churches to network. It does have a senior aquatic center, a typical southern town which is struggling to become vibrant but charming none the less.

    We are pursuing, but haven’t 100% decided, Soelil at Laurel Canyon in north of Canton, GA. It is a 55+ and has many amenities, however, it is pushing the envelope for price, for us.. Prices start at 215K for 1450 sq. ft, nicely appointed and HOA’s are 274 but that includes expanded cable, lawn care and the very attractive amenities…indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, library, 8 station demo kitchen for classes, beautiful clubhouse and fitness center….. It is in Cherokee County, so the property tax benefit turning 62 is HUGE, savings easily cover the HOA fees. Lots are on the smaller side, but has the appealing gentle rolling hills that makes northern GA very appealing. They have a discovery package where you can stay in one of their homes for 3 days and 2 nights for free which we are going to do, they say it is $79 but you they will let you stay for free if you ask. You can partake in any of the activities including tennis or golf.

    They are in the process of opening a new phase which there is a waiting list for lots which we are on. It is far enough from Atlanta but close enough too if that makes any sense. Many transplants, (we are not native southerners so that is appealing). 24/7 security guard as well.

    We also looked at Cresswinds at Lake Lanier. It was appealing as well but Gainesville is much more congested. We lived there for a month and it was too congested for our taste.

    One place I will talk about even though we have decided not to pursue, I will give you the reasons for that, is a community in SC just over the GA border called Savannah Lakes Village on lake thurmond. It was originally built in the 80’s by the same guy that developed Tellico Lakes (I believed) but it stalled. There are tons of lots there and you can get a brand new home with Lot for 200K, a nice house by the way. Downside, facilities are dated, not 55+ but age demographics have to be over 60 (no jobs in the area). Major shopping would be in Augusta GA (30 miles away) We were tempted by the prices, but my husband has a freaky disease and need to be near particular hospitals.

    Okay…lots of info…Let me know if you have questions….

    by Janice (Vickie Morgan) — December 28, 2014

  34. Hi! Any opinions about retiring in Savannah GA ? Goal is to move to warmer climate than IL, more tax friendly than IL for seniors, less expensive all around and of course near the ocean! Do not wish to be in a climate that is sweltering all year round and a place that has character. Will be visiting there soon just wondering others opinions or insights. Thank you!

    by Debbie — December 29, 2014

  35. My husband and I are in our mid 60’s and are wanting to retire anywhere from north Georgia to the mountains of North Carolina. WWe love the mountains and enjoy visiting any time that we have the opportunity. We are interested in a small town. We would like an area where we can be active and enjoy the people in the community. We would not be purchasing property so would be looking to rent.
    I hope that I’ve included most of the information that is needed. Can anyone give us some pointers? I’m new at this so please bear with me on my novice state!

    by virginia — December 29, 2014

  36. I would be interested in any opinions about retiring to somewhere on the Cumberland Plateau in TN such as Crossville. I know it is kind of remote. Are there sufficient medical and professional services available? Does the elevation make a big difference in climate over the surrounding areas?

    by LS — December 30, 2014

  37. Any information about Athens Ga. and what areas to look for rentals that are not in the middle of students. Also how about some of the towns outside Athens like Monroe or Winder or Statham?

    by Jeffrey Gilfoy — December 30, 2014

  38. In response to Debbie’s question about Savannah,
    We too have looked all over, and are looking for a warmer (but not always hot) climate, small city with character and history, colleges nearby, smaller regional airport near town, good highway access, health care, retirement tax advantages, and of course the ocean. Savannah seemed to check those boxes, so we spent ten days there last summer to check it out and really liked it. We have about 95% decided that Savannah is where we will retire. There is a good selection of planned communities with a range of types of homes, some gated. We plan a follow up visit this summer with our adult sons from NH and IL to get their opinions, with an eye to buying within a year or so. It is definitely worth visiting!

    by Jonathan — December 30, 2014

  39. Thank you Jonathan! I appreciate your response. We will be visiting there this year sometime as well. Sounds like a beautiful city and I KNOW the weather is nicer than Northern IL.

    by Debbie — December 31, 2014

  40. Jonathan,
    Have you looked into the cost of homeowners insurance in the Savannah area while there? I’ve been told that it can be outrageous due to being on the coast and even sometimes inland in coastal cities. By outrageous I mean 17,000.00 a year. I don’t know how to find out this info. Thank you!

    by Debbie — December 31, 2014

  41. Like LS, i too have questions re: the Cumberland Plateau in TN. My friends, who live in Greeneville TN, tell me it gets ‘weather’ compared with their more NE location.

    by ella — December 31, 2014

  42. Debbie,
    No, I haven’t specifically compared the cost of homeowners insurance of the Savannah area and other areas of Georgia. If you check the web site homeownersinsurance.com it indicates that Georgia on average is about in the middle nationally, at about $3600/year. Of course, Savannah could be different. It would make sense, however, that if you had a large home east of the city in a community on the salt marshes, then the flood and storm insurance could be quite high. We specifically are looking at the Southbridge community, west of Savannah about 5 miles. Even further inland is Savannah Quarters community, which is just west of I-95. There are many low lying areas surrounding Savannah, and rates could conceivably be different whether or not your home sits on or above the “flood plain” which can wind in and out of individual communities. Perhaps a buyers agent could help you with some comparisons for different areas of the Savannah area. Even if homeowners insurance is high, other costs for retirees seem to be lower. Good luck in your search! Maybe well bump into you this summer! Jonathan

    by Jonathan — January 1, 2015

  43. Hi Jonathan!
    Thank you so much for your reply! Great information and suggestions. You never know! We just might! Happy New Year! Debbie

    by Debbie — January 1, 2015

  44. These helpful comments were posted recently in a different Blog and have been moved here to help keep comments on the Mid-South:

    LisaJ,
    We have enjoyed our time in TN and are considering relocating. Do you mind sharing your location and experiences?
    Carol
    by Carol — January 21, 2015 | Edit This

    To Lisa J. Where in Tn did you relocate to? We are considering NE TN. What do you like or dislike about where you are in TN? Would appreciate your thoughts. tks, Robert

    by Robert — January 22, 2015 | Edit This

    To Carol, LindaF and Robert- my husband and I relocated to Chattanooga. We live downtown (which is truly a walkable downtown). Publix, Walgreens, Hair Salon, our bank, Whole Foods are within 2 blocks, the movie theatre, YMCA about a mile as well as approximately 20 restaurants within walking distance. We are on the river with mountain views. TN is gorgeous! The beauty of walking over the bridge makes me think I’m dreaming. Their is no income tax and so much to do. Healthcare is outstanding and their is also a teaching hospital. Robert, I don’t know very much about NE TN however, Knoxville is very nice too. Also, we have UTC-university of TN-Chattanooga.
    by LisaJ — January 22, 2015 | Edit This

    by Admin — January 26, 2015

  45. Also like the 4 seasons. July and August are hot and humid (which I don’t care for) however, it is nothing like the oppressive heat/humidity in Florida. My only other dislike is the sales tax on food. 2 of our children live in Raleigh and we would like to live closer to them. Hubby and I go back and forth on being closer to the kids or staying in an area we love. Of course we might like Raleigh too BUT what if we don’t. Hope this helps and if you have anymore questions, please ask.

    by LisaJ — January 22, 2015 | Edit This

    to Lisa J. Stay in the area that you love and either have your kids visit you or you visit them. We just made that mistake moving to Pa TO BE NEAR THE KIDS and it is costing me quite a bit of money in RE taxes, school taxes etc. It was a terrible mistake and probably one of the dumbest financial moves I ever made. Did not do my home work well enough. Now I am stuck trying to sell our house and move back South or where ever.

    Since you state that you live in the city would you mind sharing what your RE taxes are. Usually city dwelling cost more in ones yearly taxe bill. Don’t want to be too nosey but what size house do you own? We as Seniors are really downsizing and a 2 br/2ba would be more than sufficient. I will check ur area out. Do you know a GOOD RE agent. tks, Robert

    by Robert — January 23, 2015 | Edit This

    Robert-you are correct regarding living in the city. Our taxes are $2800(we pay city and county taxes) however, if you live outside the city your taxes would be approximately 40-50% less for the same priced property. We always wanted to try urban living after spending 45 years in central Michigan, where you had to drive everywhere. If you don’t want to live in the city, I would highly recommend Hixson which is 5 miles out. They have shopping, restaurants, a hospital, movie theaters, golf, etc. We have a 2 bedroom/2 bath condo which we love. Upkeep is easy and our utility bill runs between $40-$75 a month.

    by LisaJ — January 23, 2015 | Edit This

    tks LisaJ. Buon fortuna to you and yours. $2800.00 a year in RE taxes is unacceptable for us but outside of city limits seem to be the thing to look out for if one is concerned about their yearly budget. There are so many places and factors to consider that I personally would like to purchase a RV and travel around to different places before settleing into a “final” place to live. I would love the adventure – wife doesn’t like the idea too much and usually when one sells a RV they really take a beating. Again Good Luck and tks for the reply.

    by Robert — January 24, 2015 | Edit This

    Lisa J,
    I’m so glad you’re enjoying your retirement! As i’m hoping to be in a more rural location, i was thinking Coker Creek or Tellico Plains which are near Chattanooga. Have you been to either? We (my husband and i) don’t just want rural, we’d like our nearest town to have some charm and culture; and have no idea of the nature of either of these small towns.
    Additionally, i read on homefacts.com that the Chattanooga area is highly prone to tornadoes. I am counting on their use of data being accurate, but look at it and don’t know if it is. Did you look into this before moving?
    Many thanks

    by ella — January 24, 2015 | Edit This

    by Admin — January 26, 2015

  46. My wife and I currently live in SW Florida and are looking to finally retire and move to a more affordable community plus one near a military installation as I am a 20+ year Navy Vet. My wife’s mother is in a nursing home in Buckhead Ga and we visited Athens Ga and loved it and are looking at Athens and some of the surrounding towns. Looking to rent for a year or two and then but using my VA benefits. Where can we get the most “bang for our buck” but still be close enough to enjoy what an major university can offer. My wife is a runner and looking for safe areas and a running club and like minded people.

    by Jeffrey Gilfoy — January 27, 2015

  47. Re: Savannah

    Beautiful city with a very high crime rate that they like to keep a secret. If you want to move to this area, consider moving to Effingham County, cities like Rincon, Springfield or Guyton. Lower taxes and within 30 miles of historic Savannah or if you go the other direction, 30 miles from Statesboro.

    by Deb M — February 28, 2015

  48. To those who wish to explore an area, why not rent a cabin for a few weeks, then look around?
    Pickwick Cabin Rentals*** 731-689-0400 Daily/Weekly Vacation Rentals on Pickwick Lake and the Tennessee River – Pickwick Cabin Rentals http://www.pickwickcabins.com/
    You can visit, ask questions, explore, all while enjoying a nice vacation.
    I don’t have a horse in this race, just noticed the for rent signs along the road, so I thought I suggest it.

    by godsgirl — March 1, 2015

  49. Great article. Thanks for the info, you made it easy to understand. BTW, if anyone needs to fill out aGA Form Tax Exemption, I found a blank form here http://goo.gl/lhMk3l. This site also has some tutorials on how to fill it out and a few related tax forms that you might find useful.

    by Jill Rivas — March 4, 2015

  50. I ran across this article and found the article wonderful. The comparisons back up what I have found in my own research. The Kentucky/Tennessee border is very favorable weather wise too. (North Carolina/ South Carolina border has comparable weather.) A plus not mentioned is if you are retired you can attend college for free in Kentucky. I have lived in SC, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio and California.

    by DeyErmand — November 11, 2015

  51. DeyErmand, can you post the link to the article?

    by Louise — November 12, 2015

  52. Arkansas also has free tuition at its state academic institutions for residents who are over 65, to earn college degrees at any level. This is not an audit, but actual earning of degrees. Fees, books, etc., must be paid for by the student, but the tuition is free.

    by Elaine C. — November 12, 2015

  53. Louise, I was referring to the article here. Sorry I didn’t clarify.
    Elaine, Yes fees, books, etc, must be paid by the student.

    by DeyErmand — November 13, 2015

  54. love & I mean LOVE,LOVE,LOVE EASTERN TENNESSEE………TRULY GOD’S COUNTRY

    by JOE — February 25, 2016

  55. Uh oh, Joe. You are going to get so many questions. Allow me to be the first. WHERE, WHAT, and WHY?
    Thanks!

    by ella — February 26, 2016

  56. Savannah Lakes Village is in the middle of NOWHERE. There is an Arby’s restaurant 7 minutes from the neighborhood and maybe 2 mom and pop small restaurants and that is it. No stores for shopping and one grocery store. You can get beautiful homes there and value for your dollar but you need to go to Augusta 30 miles away for shopping and medical. That made me nervous. Facilities need renovated. Pickle ball are on tennis courts. The golf clubhouse was nice and we had a nice lunch there.

    by Liana — February 26, 2016

  57. We also visited Tellico Village in Louden, TN and it’s one of two at the top of our list. It has almost everything on our wish list: golf, indoor/outdoor pool, pickle ball, lake, workout room, lots of clubs, very friendly people, reasonable restaurants within a reasonable distance, major metropolitan city within a reasonable distance. This is a pay as you play neighborhood, and the rates are reasonable. The only thing it is lacking that I found is it is not a walking neighborhood and we did not find walking trails. I was told they might be building some trails and there are some trails across the lake? Also, I think a new infinity pool was on the drawing board when we visited over a year ago. Don’t know if anyone has any updates? Another negative would be if you want a lakefront home with a great lot, you are probably going to end up with an older home since I believe some of the homes are 30+ years old. I just haven’t found a newer neighborhood in the SE with lakefront properties offering all these amenities that don’t have exorbitant monthly fees.

    by Liana — February 26, 2016

  58. Liana’s comment about Savannah Lakes Village, one of the best bargains in real estate in the entire southeast, is slightly misleading. Most people are more interested in distance to a supermarket than to an Arby’s. There is a Food Lion 8 minutes from the community — it may even be next door to the Arby’s; that’s a bit farther than most of us want, but 16 minutes round trip a few days a week is not a burden. I have seen homes at SLV priced at less than $100 per square foot, and a few have water views. If you play golf, the two courses are in excellent condition and fun to play — one with dramatic changes in elevation, the other a more classic layout. All expected amenities are on site, and club membership is almost laughably cheap (although such amenities as golf, bowling and others require payment of a modest fee each time you play). Some people do not need, or even want, bright lights and big city in their retirements, and for them a remotely located but large and active community is fine. Savannah Lakes Village can fill the bill. I visited the community and wrote a review here: http://www.golfcommunityreviews.com/archives/articles-by-category/south-carolina/15-south-carolina/3418-free-golf-membership-and-low-home-prices-at-savannah-lakes-village.html

    by Larry — February 27, 2016

  59. My husband and I have visited Savannah lakes village and we rented a home in tellico village. It has been about 2years since we visited savannah lakes. They were slowly upgrading their facilities but the state of the women’s locker room had me running. In addition, they were struggling to turn the place around. However, residents were very hospitable. In addition, way too remote for us.

    We rented a house in tellico village as we had bought a lot in tellico village. We got a steal on the lot but the village’s permits were expensive. Still remote but a 1/2 hour ride will get you to Knoxville or Maryville each very appealing. Amenities are very nice and, I felt, reasonable. But they charge extra for everything! Still would have been cheaper than living in the north. Sold our lot because of very specific medical needs of my husband.

    Neither place is 55 plus but residents are mainly that.

    Soleil at Laurel canyon, northern Georgia, very nice Wonderful amenities. Folks over 65 school tax is dropped from your property tax bill. Near the mountains and many transplants as being 45 from Atlanta.

    by Vickie — February 27, 2016

  60. Allow me please to disabuse anyone considering east TN as a viable option for retirement living. To consider Knoxville as a major metropolitan area is nuts. No Chinese restaurants, marginal barbeque, at best, UT football 24/7, 365, no other sports reported, 1 newspaper, ultra-extremist right wing political culture, very expensive and poorly built homes, nearly a 10% sales tax rate, lousy roads, worst drivers in America, and despite its overstated low cost of living, the only thing it has going for it is no income tax….Not enough in my opinion to justify EVER retiring here. I live in Knoxville in Knox county. I pay property tax to both entities, practically at the same rate. No snow plow, 1X per week trash pickup, police presence non-existent, underfunded school districts. Specifically re: Tellico Village, closer to an hour to Knoxville, 30m to Maryville. Overpriced housing, difficult to sell, roads under constant repair. Unless you’re married to your vehicle, you’ll be spending a lot of windshield time. Fuel prices higher as Pilot HQ is here and they rule the roost. People at Tellico may be friendlier but that could be due to large amount of transplants. Locals, it is said, are friendly, but not welcoming…..oh, so true. Nashville or Memphis would be better choices, IMHO, but east TN, backward, sheltered, poorly educated. There’s a reason Dolly got outta here!

    by John — March 14, 2016

  61. Hey, Feb. 25th Joe! I see you haven’t responded to ?? about the where, what and why? Unless you’re closer to the Smokys, most everything else is pretty ugly. Maryville, Townsend, Walland all very pretty but you’ll need to travel a fer’ piece for basic services. Sevier County is tourist nightmare, Blount County is full of commuter traffic from Knox county. As posted above, Knoxville has LOTS of $$, but is still an oversized college town and if it weren’t for that, it would be an isolated backwater. Don’t believe the low cost of living baloney. Food is as expensive as in other parts of the country, gas more expensive, housing is ridiculously expensive for what you get…..cheap, builder grade quality, built by unqualified labor. To get anything decent, $350K plus. There is a glut of $600K+ houses and not much of any quality under $250K. They think land within smelling distance of a body of water, even one that had a huge coal waste dump a few years back is worth $50K-$150K per acre with no improvements. Too many THINK it’s God’s country, when in reality it’s more like God’s forsaken country. Best place for health, wealth and peace of mind is west of the Mississippi…….not the mid-south.

    by John — March 14, 2016

  62. Hi John,
    What about the Jonesborough area? Seems pretty there. And Greeneville for hiking?

    by ella — March 15, 2016

  63. Hi John. I found your comments about NE TN very interesting and probably very truthful. You seem to know your “stuff”. My boyfriend & I went to Wears Valley last year after not having been there in a few years. The traffic was horrendous. It was bumper to bumper in Sevierville. I will NEVER go back.

    by Debbie M — March 15, 2016

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