Cities in Florida are typically the main attraction for retirees, but according to a recent study, there are plenty of other great options across the South.
Southern Living and Investopedia partnered to create a list of Southern small towns and cities for retirees that offer excellent quality of life and make sense financially.
The small towns and cities were analyzed across four categories:
- Cost of living
- Home values
- Access to hospitals
- Continuing education programs
The destinations on this list were selected out of the 41 top-rated cities and towns from the 2023 South’s Best Awards by Southern Living.
The final cities were chosen based on data from Investopedia on how each location compared to the U.S. as a whole on a variety of economic and lifestyle criteria including: home and rental affordability, average resident age, access to restaurants, hospitals, colleges, airports, and green spaces.
Chattanooga, Tennessee is the best overall city for retirees in the South.
The city is the fourth-largest in the state and is just two hours from Nashville, Atlanta, Georgia, Birmingham, Alabama and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is home to the iconic 16-mile Riverwalk and offers retirees many lush golf courses.
Tennessee was the top destination for Americans retiring outside their home state amid the pandemic in 2021, according to the Census Bureau.
Chattanooga offers residents an average home value of $295,930, up 2.8% over the past year, according to Zillow.
Another significant financial benefit is that property taxes are relatively low and there is no state income tax, according to Livability.
- Best all-around: Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Best for Healthy Living: Beaufort, North Carolina
- Best for Outdoor Enthusiasts: Abingdon, Virginia
- Best for Home Buying: Ocean Springs, Mississippi
- Best Mountain Town: Blowing Rock, North Carolina
- Best for Food Lovers: Greenville, South Carolina
- Best Beach Town: St. Augustine, Florida
- Best Access to Nature: Eureka Springs, Arkansas
- Best for Lifelong Learning: Lexington, Kentucky
- Best for Arts and Culture: Savannah, Georgia
- Best for Affordability: Huntsville, Alabama
- Best for City Lovers: Fort Worth, Texas
Beaufort, North Carolina, was named the best town for healthy living. According to Southern Living, 60% of Beaufort residents live within a 10-minute walk of the park.
Founded in the 1700s, Beaufort is one of the oldest towns in North Carolina, and with a nickname like “The Crystal Coast,” it’s no wonder it is considered a nautical town. The town inspired two Nicholas Sparks novels, “A Walk to Remember” and “The Choice.”
The North Carolina town offers retirees the ability to enjoy the outdoors all the time, thanks to its average year-round temperatures of 65 degrees. According to the city’s website, Beaufort is often described as the smaller version of its historic big city sisters, Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi, was named the best city in the South for home buying.
The quaint community in coastal Mississippi lies along the Gulf of Mexico on the eastern shore of Biloxi Bay. It is known as a vibrant art community and is home to the nationally accredited Walter Anderson Museum of Art, named after the American painter and writer.
According to Zillow, the median home value in Ocean Springs is $253,877, up 1.5% over the past year.
On top of having a relatively affordable average home value, Ocean Springs can offer Mississippi residents the benefits of all forms of retirement income being exempt from taxation, including Social Security benefits, income from a 401(k), income from an IRA and any pension income.
The state also has low property taxes and moderate sales taxes, according to SmartAsset.
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