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June 22, 2015, 6:01 a.m. EDT

Retire Here, Not There: Mississippi

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By Anya Martin

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Shutterstock
Downtown Jackson, Miss.

Jackson

While Jackson doesn’t have ocean beaches, Mississippi’s state capital offers waterfront living on the Ross Barnett Reservoir, known for its prime fishing, boating and active yacht club, or on the coasts of a number of smaller lakes nearby. The city also has prime golf courses and plenty of other activities, from outdoors to cultural, that retirees like. “It’s got all of the amenities of a larger city on a smaller scale,” says Amanda Overby, broker/co-owner of Jackson-based realty firm The Overby Company. And it’s a bargain to live in Jackson with a cost of living 16.6% lower than the national average.

Affordability was a key factor for Barbara Pylewski, a 67-year-old retired vice president of a manufacturing company who first settled in Hailey, Idaho, near the Sun Valley resort area. Arts and culture were high on her checklist, and she also admits being surprised to find it in a city in Mississippi, including an acclaimed symphony orchestra, ballet and opera companies, Mississippi Museum of Art, a natural history museum, a zoo and plenty access to the great gospel and blues for which the region is known. She also looks forward to being able to cycle—one of her favorite pastimes—10 miles a day year-round, and as for the deep South heat, she says she can always stay indoors if it gets too hot and enjoy the greenery from her window. The city is home to a number of colleges, including Millsaps College, Jackson State University and Belhaven University which means access not just to more cultural activities and continuing education classes but also great conversations, Pylewski says. “Jackson is really attractive to me because I wanted to be around educated, interesting people,” she said.

Beyond what to do in-town, retirees are attracted to Jackson for its convenience to other places, Overby says. Situated at the crossroads of two major interstates, residents can drive just two and a half hours and be in Oxford, Ms., New Orleans, La., Memphis, Tenn., or Birmingham, Ala. Pylewski says the number of nearby historical sites from famous battlegrounds such as Vicksburg to antebellum mansions along the Mississippi River in Natchez. Less than a day away also are Nashville (four hours), Dallas (six hours) and Atlanta (seven hours), she adds. Plus Jackson has an international airport. The one thing that retirees may not like to drive too far to find—convenient health care—is plentiful with the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a major academic teaching and research hospital, located here, and several other top-ranked medical facilities.

By the numbers

  • Population: 174,382

  • Median home cost: $95,000

  • Cost of living: 16.6% lower than average

  • Unemployment: 6.5%

Source: Sperling’s Best Places

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