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VOL. 128 | NO. 90 | Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tennessee Named Top Choice for Retirement

By Andy Meek

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Retirees considering where to spend their golden years might want to consider Tennessee.

That’s according to Bankrate.com, the personal finance website, which this week ranked Tennessee at the top of its list of the 10 best states for retirement. The site’s analysts crunched numbers in several categories, including cost of living, taxes, health care, crime and climate.

They combined all those results into a composite picture, and Tennessee ended up faring the best. The Volunteer State beat out competition from the likes of Louisiana, South Dakota, Kentucky and others on the Top 10 ranking.

Chris Kahn, a research and statistics analyst with Bankrate.com, told The Daily News that Appalachian states fared especially well in the ranking.

“There are probably a million different ways to put together a Top 10 list like this,” Kahn said. “Some folks want to be the near the coasts. Some want to be near their kids. What we did is put together a list of questions we thought everyone should ask before moving somewhere to retire. So, we looked at things like whether there is good access to medical care. We thought they should ask about low taxes and cost of living, the crime rate and the weather.

“And once you take all those basic questions into account, Tennessee was at the top of our list.”

“Once you take all those basic questions into account, Tennessee was at the top of our list.”

–Chris Kahn
Research and statistics analyst, Bankrate.com

The compilation was put together over the course of several weeks, and it drew from publicly available data sources. Tax rates, for example, were based on an estimate of the state and local tax burden by the Tax Foundation, and average temperatures over 30 years were drawn from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Western Regional Climate Center.

Cost of living statistics came from the Council for Community and Economic Research.

Kahn said the crime rate was “a knock on Tennessee,” but that all other factors were positive. He said Tennessee had the second-best cost of living in the country, and it was No. 3 in terms of low taxes.

In publicizing the survey results, Bankrate said it seemed to disprove a popular notion about the Sun Belt being the most ideal place to retire to. Indeed, the results showed there is more to consider than abundant sunshine and golfing opportunities.

Regarding the economics of living in Tennessee, prominent national economist Art Laffer was in Memphis around this time last year to speak to the Economic Club of Memphis. He also made the rounds locally before that speech, including meetings with FedEx founder Fred Smith and with a group of businessmen at the East Memphis office of investment firm Waddell & Associates.

Smith’s son Richard Smith was at that latter meeting.

Laffer’s purpose for the Waddell meeting and the speech to the Economic Club was to in part tout the economic strengths of Tennessee. Laffer told the small group that he moved years ago from San Diego to Nashville “purely because of taxes.” And that he paid for his home in Belle Meade, an exclusive Nashville neighborhood, with his first year’s tax savings.

In a roughly 30-page paper he wrote called “The Economic Consequences of Tennessee’s Gift and Estate Tax,” Laffer described Tennessee’s economic policies as “first-rate” and summarized them as follows: no income tax, low total tax burden, right-to-work state, low union activity, low corporate tax and low property tax.

On top of that, he added, both political parties in the state generally favor pro-growth policies.

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