Our intern, Drew Martin, is a native Middle Tennessean, and is passionate about promoting Nashville and the surrounding area as an ideal place to retire. Drew is currently a Junior majoring in Business at Tennessee Tech University.
When looking for the perfect city to retire in, what are some of the main factors to consider? While family and relationships are often key factors, cost of living, entertainment, weather, healthcare, taxes, and living options are all important considerations. When looking at these factors and evaluating cities, it becomes clear that there’s not many cities that excel in any of these, let alone all of them. When thinking of cities that might work, there’s really only one that comes to mind that is a perfect mix of all these factors and more: Nashville, Tennessee.
There’s no other city that can say they’re home to four professional sports teams, two of the biggest hospital operators in the nation, a top 10 county in the entire country according to Niche.com, and an entire genre of music all while being so reasonably priced. That is pretty hard to compete with if you ask me. Let’s more fully explore why I feel that when you’re looking to retire there’s only really one option for a place to live and that place is Nashville.
Nashville’s Cost of Living is Reasonable
As far as cost of living goes, Nashville is actually very reasonable compared to most other cities. While the cost of living has certainly increased over the past several years due to its popularity, the overall cost of living is only 1.4% above the national average -- for a city with the prestige of Nashville, this is still quite reasonable especially compared to other big-name cities around the country. It is 5.5% cheaper overall to live in Nashville than in Chicago, 6.1% cheaper than in Atlanta, and 85.8% cheaper than in New York City.
Not only is Nashville significantly cheaper than most other big cities around the country, but it is also much more reasonable than other popular retirement destinations in the South. The overall cost of living in Nashville is 10.5% less expensive than in Naples, FL, 10.1% less than in Charleston, SC, and 4.6% less than in Asheville, NC. The median cost of buying a home is also much cheaper in Nashville than in these other cities with such cost coming in at only $262,000. This is compared to $324,000 in Naples, $317,000 in Charleston (South Carolina), and $287,000 in Asheville (North Carolina). Being this reasonably priced on top of all the other benefits that come from living in Nashville, I don’t see how you could pick anywhere else.
Culture is bountiful in Nashville
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of entertainment in Nashville? Music, and you’re not wrong for thinking that --Nashville has a ton of it. There is not a single city in the world that is so exclusively tied to an entire genre of music the way Nashville is with country music. It is actually the location of the Country Music Hall of Fame, which is a significant tourist attraction within itself. Even if you are a local, the Hall is a great resource since it is fun to see the rotating displays, attend concerts at the Hall, and take your visiting guests to such an attraction.
Adding credence to claim that Nashville is the country music capital of the world and is a great place to hang out on any given night of the week is the activity you will find as you stroll down Broadway. The nightlife in Nashville is really unmatched, especially if you enjoy live music. The streets are filled with honkey tonks and bars, almost all with some type of live music being played. While one will undoubtedly spot many tourists throughout Broadway and the surrounds, there are many locals – young and not-so-young -- that frequent the strip for high quality entertainment.
Nashville is also a hot spot for many different concerts outside of the smaller honky tonks. Some of the top venues include: Bridgestone Arena, Nissan Stadium (where the NFL’s Titans also play), Ascend Amphitheater, The Grand Ole Opry, The Bluebird, and – Nashville’s Mother Church -- The Ryman Auditorium. These venues have played host to some of the most famous musicians in the world over the years. As big as country music is in Nashville, the city is really a hot spot for all types of music and brings in concerts for all different genres. With the upcoming opening of the National Museum of African American Music, the diversity of music will continue to grow and elevate the entire offerings that will be available in The Music City.
Even if country music isn’t really your thing, there’s plenty of opportunities to experience world class theater and classical music. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) hosts top Broadway shows throughout the year and is host to three resident artistic companies, including Nashville Ballet, Nashville Opera, and Nashville Repertory Theatre. You can always count on some extremely popular show being played at this venue. Adding to the culture scene is The Nashville Symphony that plays at The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, a venue that has been ranked as one of the top 15 classical music venues.
The art scene in Nashville also has a lot to offer Nashville-area retirees, including the Cheekwood Estates and Gardens which boasts 55 acres of botanical gardens. In addition to the gardens and art displays, Cheekwood has year-round activities and offers a variety of attractive membership options, offering a discount to seniors. Art galleries – while perhaps not competing with major metropolitan areas – nevertheless offers a variety of options for the art enthusiast throughout the year. Frist Art Museum offers a rotating schedule of exhibitions and is housed in a cool art deco building that was formerly home to Nashville’s primary post office. In addition to being home to The Frist, the city’s art crawl is a fun time to stroll through 20 or more art venues throughout spots in downtown.
The only thing that you could even argue is as big as music in this city is sports. Historically, Nashville is not known for its sports teams, but the way the sports culture has grown in just the last 15 to 20 years is remarkable. Nashville is the home to four professional sports teams: football (NFL’s Titans), hockey (NHL’s Predators), baseball (Pacific Coast League’s (AAA) Sounds), and soccer (with the recent addition of Nashville SC to the MLS). Very few cities in the country can make such a claim – especially a city of Nashville’s size. While larger U.S. cities have similar sports teams, the ticket availability per capita is quite nice, helping to keep the ticket prices down. (For those NBA fans, you can always get your fix down the road just a few hours west in Memphis.)
In addition to offering professional sports, Nashville is home to solid college sports programs including SEC’s Vanderbilt University (great baseball, solid men’s and women’s basketball at times, and fun football), Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro (which boasts a solid and rising football program and solid basketball program in Conference USA), Belmont University (great college basketball in The Ohio Valley Conference), and Lipscomb University (a rising college basketball power in The Atlantic Sun). Even if you do not become a diehard Vanderbilt football fan, attending SEC games and taking in all of the pageantry will provide quality entertainment in your retirement years.
As you can see, no matter what you like to do for entertainment, you are guaranteed to find it somewhere in Nashville or Middle Tennessee.
Four Seasons and Mild Winters Make Nashville Very Livable
Arguably one of the best aspects of living in Nashville is the weather. Living in Tennessee you will really get the chance to truly experience all four seasons. Overall, the temperatures usually maintain a pretty moderate level and never get too extreme. When you look at the average monthly temperature, the lows never drop below 27 degrees and the highs never exceed 89 degrees.
Precipitation in Nashville is also generally not too extreme. (Of course, The Flood of 2010 is one of those exceptions.) Like most of the Southeast, however, the amount of rainfall is relatively high. Nashville is in or near the top 10 in amount of rainfall for the top 51 cities, according to Current Results – surprisingly, this puts it ahead of Seattle. However, the number of rainy days is not much above average. There will even be days where you will experience snow – something the transplants from the Northeast or Midwest welcome on occasion. I think it reminds them of why they moved from those locations. Despite the higher rainfall and occasional cold winter, the moderate temperatures year-round make Middle Tennessee an attractive place to retire. Other popular retirement cities, such as places in Florida, Georgia, or Texas, get quite hot and can stay hot. While the winters may be slightly more attractive from a temperature standpoint, give me a more balanced weather environment without such a long duration of extreme heat in the summer and fall months. Other than playing football in the Fall, there is nothing better than catching a high school or college football game on a perfect October night in Middle Tennessee. Add the mild winter to that mix and you have a great year-round weather for retirees to enjoy activities throughout the year.
Low Taxes in Tennessee for Retirees is Another Plus for the Nashville Area
Another big plus for retirees in Nashville is the great tax benefits. Tennessee arguably has some of the most generous tax regime for retirees and Nashville as a city ranks high. In fact, CNBC lists Nashville as the 2nd most tax-friendly major city in the U.S. (out of 52 cities). Outside of the Hall Income Tax (which is being phased out), Tennessee has no state income tax. This is especially helpful if you are trying to save for retirement or are already retired. Compare that to the state tax rate in most of the other Southeastern states except for Florida, and you will see how the tax rates can help one’s retirement portfolio go a bit farther. In addition to a low income tax regime, Tennessee also has the 14th lowest property tax rate in the country at only 0.74% according to personal finance website WalletHub. Nashville’s urban core has a higher tax rate, but it is still reasonable overall at an average of 1% according to CNBC. (Note that Nashville’s property taxes are due to get a significant increase in 2021, despite the public outcry.)
Retirees especially benefit from Tennessee’s tax stance. Tennessee does not tax social security benefits or retirement plan distributions. As many Southeastern states have tax rates near or above 6%, this is a significant advantage of calling Nashville home. (In fact, I would argue that these differential tax rates make Tennessee a great place to retire even if it were to temporarily reside in Tennessee to do Roth conversions before moving back to a high-tax state.). While income taxes and property taxes are generally favorable to Nashville residents, the sales tax is not as generous. Although Tennessee’s sales tax rate of 7% is not too extreme, the state and city sales taxes for Nashville residents is a tad over 9%, putting it in the top 15 of the top 115 cities for sales tax rates according to The Tax Foundation. Despite the higher sales taxes, Nashville retirees reside in a generous tax regime, adding to my theory that Nashville is a great place to retire.
Healthcare in Nashville – It’s Part of their DNA
Healthcare is another big factor that you need to consider when choosing a city to live, especially when looking at places to retire. The Nashville area is home to the headquarters for both the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) and Community Health Systems (CHS), representing two of the biggest hospital owning and operating companies in the country. Moreover, Nashville is home to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, one of the top 20 hospitals (out of 158 hospitals) in the nation according to The U.S. News & World Report! Being home to Vanderbilt should just be another positive that further proves how great the healthcare is in Nashville. In addition to Vanderbilt, HCA’s TriStar hospitals are scattered throughout Middle Tennessee -- access to top health professionals can be found at top hospitals such as St. Thomas West and Midtown Hospitals, and St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital. If your kids and grandkids eventually move to Nashville to be near you, it may be comforting to know that Nashville is also home to one of the top 10 children hospitals in the entire country, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
Surrounding Communities in Middle Tennessee Are Attractive Options for Retirees
Even if living in the middle of a relatively large city doesn’t necessarily interest you, there are plenty of great communities on the outskirts of Nashville that are perfect places for retirees to live. Retirees will have all the benefits of Nashville within a 10-20 minute drive while perhaps avoiding some of Nashville’s negatives (e.g., increasing cost of living and increasing property tax rates). Personally, my favorite of the surrounding areas is Williamson County – the county just south of Nashville with an ever-growing population of 218,000. I grew up in Williamson and I absolutely loved it. According to Niche.com, it is actually ranked the #1 county in the state of Tennessee and the #18 best county in the nation. While Williamson is one of the pricier counties in the state, most residents – including me believe that higher cost of living here are justified by the benefits the county provides. Williamson is full of beautiful neighborhoods, countryside estates, parks, and quaint downtowns, and offers fun things to do. The two more prominent cities are Brentwood and Franklin. Historic downtown Franklin offers an array of great food, and ample boutique shopping. Multiple historic civil war sites are also near downtown Franklin. With its safe environment, downtown offerings, and neighborhoods to live, Money magazine has ranked Franklin as a top 10 place to retire according to Franklin’s website. The Williamson County Parks and Recreation seems to make a concerted effort of providing cultural and recreational activities for seniors, whether it is the Williamson County Enrichment Center, the Academy Park Performing Arts Center, or the various fitness and wellness programs. The Williamson County Library system and the City of Brentwood Library has a lot to offer seniors looking to grow intellectually (as is recommended, of course).
While Williamson County may not appeal to everyone (especially in light of its higher cost of living), there are other great options near Nashville -- the Murfreesboro and Rutherford County area is one such option. This area is ranked the #4 county in the whole state, according to Niche.com, and has a population of 307,000. For those looking for many of the advantages that Middle Tennessee offers yet want to avoid the ever-increasing cost of living, Rutherford provides a good option. The cost of living is 36% lower in Rutherford. Specifically, the median home cost is actually half of what the median home cost is in Williamson. Murfreesboro has a lot of new communities, and is the home of Middle Tennessee State University. Not only is MTSU a good university to become a part of, the school offers discounts to seniors looking to expand their learning at a good rate.
While Rutherford County is growing in popularity, Sumner County is not far behind. Hendersonville, Gallatin, and Goodletsville are the largest cities in Sumner, and offer something that Williamson and Rutherford generally don’t – lakeside living on Old Hickory Lake. The overall cost of living and the median home costs are almost identical to Rutherford without as large of a population at around 191,000. Sumner County is home to the popular retirement community of Fairvue Plantation, a 500+ acre master planned community that offers intermediate to luxury homes in a golf and boating environment.
Wilson County residents and recent retirees are proud that they call Wilson County home. Mount Juliet is a new or not-so-new darling bedroom community of Nashville. The cost of living is, again, more reasonable than Nashville, yet boasts many living options, including Del Webb at Lake Providence for the Over 55 crowd. All of these surrounding counties are fantastic options if you want to live in the Nashville area, but don’t want the “busyness” or the potentially higher costs of a bigger city. You really can’t go wrong with any of them.
Retirement Communities in the Nashville Area
If you’re specifically wanting to live around many other retirees, the Nashville area offers some solid active adult retirement communities. The Del Webb at Lake Providence Community in Mt. Juliet is a nice option for those preferring an over 55 crowd. This community includes a clubhouse, fitness center, outdoor pool, sports complex, and a fully stocked 15-acre fishing lake. Houses in this community are reasonably priced as they range from $200,000 to $550,000. Del Webb has a new entry to the Nashville area as they began developing Southern Springs in beautiful Spring Hill in 2019. The base prices range from $300,000 to $540,000. This development is approximately 30 minutes from downtown Nashville, yet just south of Williamson County. The Retreat at Fairvue is another active adult community, is generally priced over $275,000, and is in Gallatin.
If you are not necessarily looking for a retiree community, but are looking for an active lifestyle in retirement, you may want to consider some master planned communities in the area. Some larger master planned communities that are home to working families and well-heeled retirees alike include Westhaven (Williamson County with a private golf club), The Grove (Williamson County with a private golf club), Stephens Valley (a new master-planned community in Williamson County), and Fairvue Plantation (Gallatin with a private golf club). Stephens Valley is a new area to keep an eye on. It is turning into a beautiful community with a commercial section that offers restaurants, shopping, office spaces, and even a hotel for any of your guests. The houses in this community are a little pricier; ranging from $600,000 to north of $1 million. There are obviously many more fantastic living options for retirees, but these are just a few of the most highly rated ones in the area.
If you are perhaps not looking to stay as active as you once were and are looking for more support in the coming years, a senior living option may be considered. There are many senior living options in the Nashville area when the timing is right. One of the most desirable communities to live in the Nashville area is The Heritage at Brentwood. This continuing care facility is complete with a clubhouse, a day spa, and dining areas for residents. Look for future articles where we discuss more senior living options in Middle Tennessee.
As you can see, the Middle Tennessee area has much to offer and is a solid place to retire. With its recent growth and popularity, it’s an exciting time to move to Nashville as you can grow with the city. Whether you want to live in the middle of a major metropolitan city, in a comfortable suburban community, on a beautiful country estate amongst lush green hills, or on the banks of Old Hickory, the Nashville area offers it all. As a retiree, you will have plenty of alternatives to explore, grow, and play. I fully recommend that you keep Nashville, Tennessee in mind when looking for a place to call home for your glorious retirement years.
Of course, if you do move to Middle Tennessee and need a partner in helping you develop that purposeful retirement while developing an income and decumulation plan in retirement in a tax-efficient manner, feel free to reach out to our leadership and fiduciary financial advisors Steve Martin and Mel Bond.