Destination: Retirementville

Destination: Retirementville

National new magazines puts Chattanooga on "most affordable" retirement list

April 3rd, 2009 by Pam Sohn in Local Regional News

Chattanooga has just been renamed Retirementville by U.S. News and World Report.

The magazine's online edition features the Scenic City in a March 26 article titled "10 Affordable Places to Retire."

With 401(k)s taking hefty hits, News and World Report writer Emily Brandon says baby boomers can boost their retirement prospects by carefully choosing where to spend their kick-back years.

"If you move to a city with a lower cost of housing than where you live now, it's a quick boost to your nest egg. In some cases, retirees can even get a better house for less money and reduce their tax bill, both of which will help your remaining retirement dollars stretch farther," writes Ms. Brandon.

Tennessee has no income tax, but that's not all.

PDF: US News and World Report article

Article: Baby boomers, employers to face retirement crunch


U.S. News and World Report's "10 Great Affordable Places to Retire"

* Binghamton, N.Y.

* Chattanooga

* Cocoa, Fla.

* Eau Claire, Wis.

* Montgomery, Ala.

* Omaha

* Pittsburgh

* Roswell, N.M.

* San Antonio

* South Bend, Ind.

"Every spot on our list has a median home price below $150,000, and many have important tax perks for retirees," Ms. Brandon said Thursday. "But we also took into consideration cultural activities, sports, access to health care, recreational opportunities and other amenities that retirees need and want in a retirement location."

J.Ed Marston, vice president of marketing for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said the national story and designation are "exactly the kind of thing" the Chamber is trying to achieve with its Choose Chattanooga campaign - to promote Chattanooga as a good place to retire.

"The thing to remember is that, according to a study by the Georgia Institute of Technology and other universities, every new retirement household creates between three and four family-wage jobs. This is an economic development tool," he said.

Remay Winchester, director of the state's Retire Tennessee program, was elated by U.S. News' decision.

"I am so proud of Chattanooga," she said. "They are the only metropolitan area in the (state's retiree recruitment) program. They have to answer about 6,000 to 8,000 inquiries (from potential retirees) a year."

North Georgia, too, is growing thanks to the migration trend of boomers nearing or reaching retirement age. A recent U.S. Census Bureau report said the Blue Ridge area's 7.1 percent growth was the second highest in the Peach State.

University of Georgia demographer Doug Bachtel attributed the bump to "halfbacks" - northerners who initially retired to Florida but moved halfway back, landing in Tennessee, Georgia or the Carolinas when the Sunshine State proved too hot, too expensive and too prone to hurricanes.

Though some critics have occasionally questioned retiree recruitment programs by the local Chattanooga Chamber and the state of Tennessee, Mr. Marston defends them.

"People who move to retire tend to be affluent, and they have little impact on service costs," he said. "They don't have kids to grow the school systems. They have insurance and supplementary insurance. They pay taxes."

He also said most boomers move to retire when they are 44 to 65 years old.

"They're experienced and they're getting jobs or they are self-employed. They are in the work force and improve our community," Mr. Marston said.

That description perfectly fits Jan Chenoweth, 63, and her husband, Roger Halligan, 60. Both are artists with a studio at the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Business Development Center.

"We had targeted Chattanooga as one of three places we wanted to live," Ms. Chenoweth said. "I was from Miami, so I wanted some water around me. We like the outdoors.

"The size of the city is really manageable and the quality of life is really nice," she added. "When we heard about the ArtsMove (Chattanooga) program, we applied and now we've been here almost two years."

ArtsMove is an initiative to help artists move to and live in the city.

Tennessee now is in the top three states behind only Arizona and Florida in attracting migrating retirees, Ms. Winchester said.