Nearby Lake Recreation, Safe Neighborhoods and a Very Low Key Way of Life Bring Retirees to Quiet Brandon, Mississippi
Cost of Living: Below the National Average
Mississippi has a number of Certified Retirement Communities, and peaceful Brandon (population 24,000) is one of them. This rural town got its start as a trading center in the early 1800s and became an incorporated metropolis in 1831. It is 10 miles east of the capital city of Jackson (population 550,000 in the metro area) and about 10 miles south of Ross Barnett Reservoir. As a Certified Retirement Community, Brandon has undergone an evaluation by the state to determine if it is a suitable place to retire. This program is a way to attract new retirees to Mississippi, but Brandon meets the criteria, which include an affordable cost of living, quality medical care and safe neighborhoods.
Brandon is growing, too, and has doubled in size during the last two decades. Thirty-eight percent of residents are age 45 or better, and 35% of all locals hold at least a four year college degree. The cost of living is 4% below the national average, but the median household income is well above the national median. The crime rate is below the national average, and the city has some racial diversity. Most Brandonites lean to the right politically.
The median home price is $190,000. Most neighborhoods well tended and shaded by tall trees. Old Brandon, which includes the historic downtown district, has stately residences from the city's early days, as well as smaller, brick ranch ramblers. The northern part of town, sometimes called Reservoir Brandon, has larger, newer homes close to the water.
When it comes to retirement and taxes, Mississippi is a very friendly state. Retirement income, including Social Security, is not taxed. Property is assessed at just 10% and a $300 homestead exemption credit is available to everyone. For people age 65 or better, $75,0000 in home value is excluded from taxation. The annual taxes on a $190,000 Brandon home are approximately $1,525 for people age 64 or younger and approximately $810 for people age 65 or better. The state sales tax is 7% (prescription drugs and health care services are exempt, but food is not).
Even though Brandon is just outside of Jackson, it feels a world away. The downtown Pearl Street Historic District is small and simple but has a town square with boutique shops and antique stores. With structures from the early 19th-century still standing, the area feels a little out of time, even with modern automobiles chugging down the streets. Brandon is the kind of place that rolls up most of its sidewalks at dark and where neighbors sleep with their doors unlocked. Church attendance is high, and Baptist churches are particularly plentiful.
There are shopping centers, strip malls and a few large, national retailers, including Sears and Home Depot, but most merchants are locally owned. Most restaurants are locally owned, too, although Ruby Tuesday and Pizza Hut have a presence. Abbie's Fish House serves up smoked barbeque sandwiches and the best fried catfish in town while the Heart and Soul Diner specializes in homestyle food. Several nearby communities, including Flowood and Madison, have more dining and shopping options.
The Black Rose Theatre is a community theater that brings in audiences from around the area. The Brandon Day Festival each May celebrates "everything Brandon" and has arts and crafts, delicious food and a free concert on the last night. Residents enjoy six community parks.
Three golf courses, including the beautiful Bay Pointe Resort and Golf Club, have a Brandon address. The Old Brandon Cemetery, which dates from 1834, is the final resting place of 200 Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Battle of Shiloh. Visitors often report seeing a strange mist over the cemetery, and some long time residents say that it is haunted.
The Brandon Public Library has free online books, a genealogy room and free internet access. Hinds Community College has a continuing education department.
The Brandon High School football team, the Bulldogs, receives strong community support (in fact, everyone is encouraged to wear red on Fridays to support the team). Hinds Community College has a football, baseball and basketball team, all of which appreciate new fans.
Much of life here, though, revolves around the reservoir, locally known as "The Rez." With 33,000 acres and 105 miles of shoreline, boating, fishing and swimming fill many a day. In the early mornings, when the air is fresh, and in the evenings, when the katydids chirp and the sun slowly loses its glow, there is no better place to be than on the water outside of Brandon, Mississippi.
Crossgates River Oaks Hospital has 149 beds is accredited by the Joint Commission. It is also an Adult Level IV Trauma Center, and it accepts Medicare patients. River Oaks Hospital in Flowood, about seven miles away, is award-winning for excellence in spine surgery and joint replacement and is accredited by the Joint Commission. It, too, accepts Medicare patients. Jackson has several well-regarded hospitals, as well as a VA hospital.
The Brandon Senior Center is open to anyone age 55+ and offers a robust exercise program, special events, trips, classes, lunches, dances, movies, a computer lab and more. It also publishes a monthly newsletter to keep everyone current on Center events. Trained Rankin County workers also work with individuals age 60 and better to help them access services and resources.
Summers are hot and steamy, particularly after the rains come, and winters are mild and damp. Summer temperatures are in the 80s and 90s, and winter temperatures are in the 30s and 40s. On average, Brandon receives 55 inches per year, and on the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, it comes in below the national average. The sun shines 215 days of the year.
Retirement in Brandon has some downsides. The tornado risk is 300% higher than the national average. There is no public bus system. Some people say the town is somewhat insular (yet others compliment its Southern hospitality).
With its languid pace, safe neighborhoods and water recreation, Brandon entices many a retiree. Those who have retired here are happy to call Brandon home and think that most people who visit will want to call it home, too.
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