A Leisurely Pace, Safe Neighborhoods and Nearby Lake Recreation Await Retirees in Leafy Smyrna, Tennessee
Cost of Living: Above the National Average
Quiet Smyrna (population 48,000) is in rural Middle Tennessee, about 20 miles outside of Nashville. It started as a farming community in the early 1800s and was later home to Sewart Air Force Base. Today, automobile manufacturing plays a key economic role. In fact, Nissan employs 8,000 blue collar and white collar employees here, something that has helped Smyrna grow by 15% within the last decade. Residents are conservative, practical and hard working, and 26% of them are age 45 or better. Twenty-six percent hold at least a four year college degree. The cost of living is 7% above the national average. The crime rate meets the national average, and the city is racially diverse.
The median home price is $235,000. Established, leafy neighborhoods have bungalows, brick ranch ramblers and raised ranch ramblers while newer areas have Craftsmans and contemporary four squares. Some sections have elegant estate homes. Apartments are not in great supply.
Tennessee is somewhat of a mixed bag when it comes to taxes and retirement. The state has no personal income tax. Social Security, IRAs and all other forms of retirement income are not taxed. People age 65 or better with an annual income less than $37,000 (single) or $68,000 (married) pay no taxes on dividends and interest.
Real estate is assessed at 25% of fair market value. The annual taxes on a $235,000 home are approximately $1,645. There is no homestead exemption, but a property tax relief program for seniors, the disabled and veterans exists. Under this program, depending on income, the first $27,600 of a property's market value is exempt from taxation (for disabled veterans, the amount exempt is $175,000 depending on income). The state sales tax is high at 7%, with another percentage or two tacked on in Smyrna.
People enjoy Smyrna's gentle pace, as well as its opportunities for outdoor recreation. Ten thousand acre J. Percy Priest Lake is just 10 miles outside of town and has 20,000 acres of public lands for fishing, camping, picnicking, boating, canoeing, hiking and horseback riding. The lake has two yacht clubs, and five marinas offer boat rentals. Camping is first-come, first-served, and permits are not required.
Residents also enjoy Smyrna's 10 public parks, 36-hole public golf course and seven miles of meandering greenways, many of which are found along pretty Stewarts Creek.
While locals spend a good deal of time on the lake, much of the Smyrna social scene revolves around church, and churches are around nearly every corner (Baptist and Methodist are particularly popular). In fact, Smyrna was named after a Presbyterian church.
Community spirit is well ingrained, and volunteerism here has a long history. There is also a Lyon's Club, a Rotary Club and a Toastmasters Club. Shopping venues include not just local retailers but national chains such as Target, Kohl's, PetSmart, Wal-Mart and Staples.
Smyrna boasts a bit of antebellum and Civil War history as well, as this area was once dotted by cotton and tobacco plantations. The Sam Davis Home, one of the most significant, is a state historical site. Built along the Stewarts Creek in 1820, it is open for tours and houses a museum.
Stonecrest Medical Center is a part of the TriStar Health System and is accredited by the Joint Commission. It has an accredited chest pain center, an award winning cancer program and a certificate of distinction for primary stroke centers. Medicare patients are accepted. For military retirees, Murfreesboro, just 11 miles away, has a VA hospital.
The Smyrna Senior Citizens Club, open to people age 55 or better, has exercise classes, congregate meals, tax assistance through AARP, trips, yard sales and more. Meals on Wheels is also active.
The Smyrna Public Library is located in an attractive brick building and is a part of the Linebaugh Library System. Wireless internet, computer classes, a bookmobile, book clubs (and books) are standard fare.
Smyrna is hot and sticky in the summer with temperatures in the 80s and 90s. Winters bring temperatures in the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. On average, the area receives 50 inches of rain and a dusting of snow each year. The sun shines 210 days of the year. The air quality meets the national average.
Retirement in Smyrna has some drawbacks. The tornado risk is 100% higher than the U.S. national average, and there is no public transportation system (but a bus does run to Nashville and neighboring towns).
Despite these issues, retirees who live in this quiet hamlet have good things to say about it, pointing to its down-to-earth way of life and lake recreation. With musical Nashville just down the road, Smyrna offers small town living with easy access to big city museums, music venues, shopping, dining and more. It is a great retirement spot!
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