How is Tennessee for retirement?

If you are planning to retire in Tennessee, you may want to know what to expect as a retiree. Here is how Tennessee performs for retirement.

3 min read

If you have a few years to retirement, you may consider moving to a retiree-friendly state to spend your golden years. An ideal state should have good weather, good transport, affordable healthcare, a favorable tax structure, and lots of outdoor recreation activities. One of the states you can consider moving into is Tennessee, the Whiskey Capital.

Tennessee is a good place to retire for people looking for a slow-paced lifestyle, good healthcare services, and a favorable tax structure. This state has a relatively low cost of living, and it ranks sixth for the lowest cost of living among all states. The Retire Tennessee Program, a state government initiative, market key cities and rural communities as retirement destinations.

What is the Retire Tennessee Program?

The Retire Tennessee Program is a state initiative offered by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development to promote the state as an ideal destination for retirees. The program comprises 17 urban and rural counties within the state that provide the amenities and resources for retirees. These counties have unique attractions and cultural amenities that make them ideal for people who want to retire.

Apart from the Great Smoky Mountains and Mississippi River, Tennessee has more than a dozen national parks, fishing lakes, and hiking destinations. You can explore the 210-mile Cumberland Trail or Chattanooga's 16-mile Riverwalk. Tennessee provides a mild climate, rural peacefulness, and the convenience of urban centers with senior communities.

Is Tennessee tax-friendly for retirees?

If you are looking to retire in a tax-friendly state, Tennessee has some of the most favorable tax laws. First, Tennessee does not charge income taxes, and this means all your retirement income including social security and 401(k) distributions will be untaxed at the state level. However, you will still pay federal income taxes on the income you receive.

Additionally, Tennessee has reasonable property tax rates. You can expect to pay an effective rate of about 0.64% in property taxes. On average, most Tennessee homeowners pay an average of $1,200 in property taxes annually. However, despite the reprieves in property and state income taxes, you can expect to pay 7% in state sales tax and 2.75% in local sales tax, totaling 9.55%. 

Tennessee offers a property tax relief program for elderly homeowners. To be eligible for this relief program, your total household income should not exceed $31,390, including retirement income and social security benefits. If you are a retiree, you must be above 65 to qualify for the relief. Eligible homeowners get an exemption of up to $29,100 on their property value.

Best cities to retire in Tennessee

Here are the most retiree-friendly cities in Tennessee that you can move into:

Johnson City

Johnson City is part of the Retire Tennessee program, and it is one of the most affordable cities to live in Tennessee. It was originally established as a railroad town in the 1850s, and it has grown into a modern city packed with coffee shops, restaurants, music venues, and art galleries.

Set in the Appalachian Mountains, Johnson City has dozens of outdoor activities that you can explore. You can go fishing in Boone Lake or hike through the 725-acre Buffalo Mountain Park. Other top attractions include the Founder’s Park, Tweetsie Trail, Blue            Plum Festival, and the International Storytelling Festival.

Another aspect that makes Johnson City appealing to retirees is its proximity to the Johnson City Medical Center and the Franklin Woods Community Hospital.


If you want a small-town feel, Germantown may be a good bet. This city is located east of Memphis in Shelby County. You can access key amenities such as fine dining, high-end shopping, healthcare, and fitness facilities.

Germantown is known as a horse riding destination, and it hosts the Germantown Charity Horse Show. If you are not interested in horse riding, there are other interesting outdoor activities you can check out. The city has a greenway for biking and walking, a performing arts center, and an athletics club. It also has a beautiful park that people of all ages can visit.


Crossville is considered the golf capital in Tennessee, thanks to the pristine nine golf courses spread across the city. Apart from golfing, Crossville also offers other outdoor recreation opportunities like horse riding, walking trails, boating, and hiking. You can also enjoy lakes, streams, and wildlife reserves.

Due to Crossville’s dozen amenities and proximity to metropolitan areas, Crossville is a popular destination for retirees. The city hosts a sizeable active senior community.

Union City

Union City is located in Obion County, one of the counties in the Retire Tennessee Program. The city has plenty of things for seniors to indulge in like the Discovery Park of American Museum and White Squirrel Winery. If you are a fan of fishing, you will enjoy fishing at Reelfoot Lake, which is known for its bluegill and crappie fishery.

As a small city with about 10,000 residents and several active senior communities, Union city allows retirees to be part of a tight-knit community. Its low cost of living allows retirees to get more bang for their buck.


Paris hosts the largest lake in Tennessee known as the Kentucky Lake. This city is named after the city in France, and it even has a mini-lighted Eiffel tower. You can visit the Eiffel Tower Park to absorb the spectacular views and enjoy a picnic with friends or family.

Retirees can enjoy various outdoor activities such as fishing, biking, pickleball, and even the World's Biggest Fish Fry festival in April. You can also enjoy the scrumptious food and learn about the city’s history.

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