Jul. 8—Kirk and Cindi Kruse first came to the Chattanooga area more than a decade ago when their son decided to enroll at Lee University in Cleveland.
"We immediately fell in love with Tennessee and knew someday we would retire here," said Kirk Kruse, a former hospital manager who lived most of his life around Geneva, Illinois, west of Chicago.
The Kruses left their Illinois home earlier this year and are among home buyers from 47 different state that have bought lots on the growing Jasper Highlands development in Marion County. A key advantage of the move, Kruse said, has been the lower tax rate and cost of living in Tennessee compared with Illinois.
"Property taxes here are a fraction of what I used to pay, and there is no income tax," Kruse said shortly after moving into his new home near Kimball. "Your dollar certainly goes a whole lot farther here."
A study released Wednesday verifies Kruse's findings, ranking Tennessee as the most affordable state in the country to retire. The financial website Bankrate.com said Tennessee has the lowest combined cost of living and tax rate of any state for seniors.
Without a personal income tax and with the phase out of the Hall income tax, Tennessee's tax burden is among the lowest in the country. With cheaper energy, land and labor prices, the cost of living also is more favorable to consumers.
The Bankrate.com comparison of the 50 states also ranked Tennessee in the top 10 states for its favorable weather, but the Volunteer State rated near the bottom of all states for both its crime rate and its overall health. As a result, Tennessee ranked as the third best state in the country overall to retire in, according to Bankrate's analysis of a dozen key metrics rated important by seniors.
The study found the best state overall for retirement is Georgia. The Peach State displaced Nebraska, which ranked No. 1 for seniors in the 2019 Bankrate.com study.
"Why should retirees pull the moving van off Interstate 75 and unpack in Georgia?" said Jeff Ostrowski, an analyst with Bankrate.com. "Affordability is one big selling point. The state combines a low cost of living and a light tax burden to rank No. 3 in affordability. Weather is another strong point. The state has an average annual temperature of 64 degrees, fifth-warmest in the nation. Earthquakes are rare, and tornado risk is about average."
While the top four states for seniors in the study all boasted a low cost of living, Massachusetts came in at No. 5 despite its comparatively high taxes and cost of living due to its top rating among all states for wellness. Massachusetts also boasts above- average rankings for culture and weather and its relatively low crime rate.
Like its neighbors in Tennessee and Georgia, Alabama also was among the states with the lowest cost of living. But Alabama overall scored in the bottom 10 states for wellness, culture and crime, lowering Alabama's overall ranking to the eighth worst in the country for seniors, Bankrate.com said.
"There is no state that is perfectly good or bad for retirement, and obviously any decision on where to retire is a very personal and subjective decision with a lot of factors," Ostrowski said. "But because more people are now moving across the country more now than during the pandemic, these ratings are something for people to consider."
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.