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best places to retire in tennesseeRetirees flocking to the Volunteer State for their golden years are in for a treat. The best places to retire in Tennessee offer everything from scenic mountain landscapes and hiking trails that will keep you active to historic museums where you can keep your brain stimulated. And in terms of Tennessee tax friendliness, the state ranks quite well overall. It doesn’t tax retirement plan income or Social Security tax benefits. So a 401(k) plan can go further here than in states that will tax it. Plus, Tennessee property taxes are low. But despite these advantages, preparing for retirement can be challenging anywhere. So if you’d like access to professional advice, you can use our financial advisor matching platform, which can connect you with local financial advisors.

How We Determined the Best Places to Retire

Before we devised our list of the best places to retire in Tennessee, we analyzed how different areas in the state held up against factors crucial to retirees. These include the tax burden, cost of living in Tennessee, accessibility to healthcare facilities and portion of the population that consists of seniors. We also explored access to recreational activities to make sure you have the chance to have fun and stay active in retirement. The result is this list of the 10 best places to retire in Tennessee. So read on to see who made the cut and why.

1. Winchester

According to our research, seniors make up nearly a quarter of this small Tennessee town of about 8,500 people. And it’s no surprise why. The community offers plenty of attractive features, including scenic lakes, parks and a bustling downtown area. Common attractions include the Arnold Air Force Base, the Old Jail Museum housing Civil War artifacts and the historic Oldham Theater. Outdoor enthusiasts can go boating on Tims Ford Lake or horseback riding around the Circle E. Guest Ranch. Winchester has several retiree communities, recreational centers and doctor’s offices. Our data shows the town has 2.59 medical facilities per 1,000 people. However, the tax burden for Winchester and the rest of the locales on our list hovers around 20%. So you may want to protect your hard-earned retirement savings by opening a Roth IRA or rolling over your assets into one. These retirement savings vehicles allow tax-free qualified withdrawals. And if you’re a public servant, you might want to learn all you can about the Tennessee Retirement System.

2. Loudon

If you want to retire in small, quiet town that’s rich in history, Loudon might be right for you. Many seniors already do, and they compose about 19.5% of the population, according to our data. This community can trace its roots back to the 1700s, when settlers first called the banks of the Tennessee River home. And if you like being surrounded by nature and wildlife, you may want to call it home too. Common attractions in Loudun and surrounding areas include the Hall Bend Small Wild Area and Trail, the Nickajack Cave Wildlife Refuge and the Tiger Haven Sanctuary. You can also visit the nearby Tennessee Valley Winery and a dog park. Should you need it, you can find about 1.95 medical facilities per 1,000 people. But considering the rising cost of healthcare, it’ll benefit you to save for the unexpected as soon as possible. A health savings account (HSA) may help. These savings vehicles, which you can get through an employer or through several banks in Tennessee, allow you to save for future medical costs while enjoying unique tax breaks.

3. Crossville

During the past few years, Crossville has become a popular destination for retirees. In fact, it houses several active adult communities, including Holiday Hills and Fairfield Glades, which is one of the country’s largest. Crossville is also known as the “Golf Capital of Tennessee.” A lot of these courses extend into the area’s rugged terrain, giving them a special quality. The town also sits on the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

4. Fayetteville

If you’re looking for more of a city vibe, you may be interested in retiring in Fayetteville. It stands as the largest city in Lincoln County. And it’s the entry on our list of best places to retire in Tennessee with the most recreational centers. Popular locations include Stone Bridge Memorial Park and the Lincoln County Museum Associates. It’s also the site of the popular Lincoln County Fair.

5. Pigeon Forge

If you want a livelier retirement spot, you might want to spend your golden years in Pigeon Forge. Situated just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this area attracts millions each year. In fact, Retire Magazine once ranked it among the “8 Captivating Park Cities.” And according to our research, it’s the spot on our best places to retire in Tennessee list with the most recreational facilities. Lovers of the arts and great outdoors will feel right at home here. Among the most popular attractions are The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community. You can also check out the 1960s Batmobile or the classic General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard at the Hollywood Star Cars museum. Plus, you can bring your children to the Dollywood amusement park. Live performances often feature country, bluegrass and classics spanning the ’50s and ’60s.

6. Sparta

Another small town that made our list of the best places to retire in Tennessee is Sparta. This town sits among scenic rural areas. It’s also surrounded by several waterfalls. So if that spells comfort for you, this place may be a good spot. The town is known for its music history and natural attractions. Among them is the popular Virgin Falls Pocket Wilderness. And our research shows that this is the town on our best places to retire in Tennessee list that has the most medical facilities per 1,000 people.

7. Sweetwater

best places to retire in tennessee

One place on our list of best places to retire in Tennessee where you won’t run out of fun things to do with your grandchildren is Sweetwater. As the most populous city in Monroe County, it houses several destinations, including the Lost Sea Adventure. This theme park features a network of caves you can explore as well as boat trips on underground lakes. The town also surrounds several playgrounds including Engleman Park. And for some adult fun, you can visit the Tsali Notch Vineyard Tasting Room. But overall, Sweetwater offers a vibrant and relaxing community to retire in. In fact, our data shows seniors make up 21.2%of the population.

8. Kingston

Outdoors enthusiasts and art lovers can rejoice at Kingston. The town offers the opportunity to engage in plenty of recreational activities. These include hiking the popular Bacon Ridge Trail and swimming or fishing at Watts Bar Lake, which is one of the South’s largest lakes. You can also stay active and fit by mountain biking on Mount Roosevelt. And the town frequently hosts festivals like the Kingston County Fair and the Smokin’ on the Water Festival held every July 4.

9. Kingsport

Among our list of best places to retire in Tennessee, Kingsport stands as the place with the lowest tax burden at 19.9%. So if you’re invested in an individual retirement account (IRA), you’re likely to take a smaller tax hit on your qualified withdrawals here. And beyond the tax benefits, there’s plenty to do here. For starters, you have more than 20 golf courses to enjoy. Surrounded by mountains, Kingsport provides many ways you can stay healthy and active well into your retirement. In addition, the town has about three medical facilities per 1,000 people.

10. Lawrenceburg

History buffs might enjoy spending their Golden Years in Lawrenceburg. In fact, seniors make up a healthy 21.1% of the town’s population. Common attractions include the famous David Crockett State Park and the Lawrence County Golf Course. You can also take a tour of the surrounding Amish communities. Or you can explore the Amish Heritage Farm Museum. And our data shows the area hosts about 2.86 doctor’s offices per 1,000 people.

best places to retire in tennessee

Retirement Tips

  • Regardless of which stage you’re at in your retirement planning, it’s important to save as much as you can in a tax-advantaged account like a workplace 401(k) plan or an IRA, which you can open at several banks. These savings vehicles allow you to make tax-deferred contributions and your earnings grow tax-free. However, some banks and mutual fund companies offer options with better rates. To help you narrow your choices, we developed a report on the best banks in the United States.
  • Retirement planning is a crucial aspect of anyone’s financial life, but you don’t have to approach it on your own. If you’d like some guidance, you can use our SmartAsset financial advisor matching tool. After answering some simple questions, it links you with up to three financial advisors in your area. You can then review their profiles and credentials before deciding whether you want to work with one.
  • If you’re interested in retiring in Tennessee, but you’re not too familiar with the place, you can check out our list of the 15 things you need to know before moving to Tennessee.
  • If you want to retire in a place where you can enjoy the great outdoors and stay active, but Tennessee doesn’t seem like the right fit, look into these other studies we published:

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/KenCanning, ©iStock.com/jacoblund, ©iStock.com/aheflin

Javier Simon, CEPF® Javier Simon is a banking, investing and retirement expert for SmartAsset. The personal finance writer's work has been featured in Investopedia, PLANADVISER and iGrad. Javier is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He has a degree in journalism from SUNY Plattsburgh. Javier is passionate about helping others beyond their personal finances. He has volunteered and raised funds for charities including Fight Cancer Together, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
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