Relocate To Retire Early, Cut Costs, And Go Fishing

Not too long ago, conservative commentator, Ben Shapiro, announced that he was leaving California and moving his business to Nashville, Tennessee. And why did he do that? Certainly not for the same reason that I left Virginia 3 years ago when I also made my move to the Volunteer State.

What? You didn’t know? Didn’t hear about my big move to Northeast Tennessee back then? Well, I can assure you that it was a widely covered event. And big news back then, Bucko. Still, it appears that much of the public and a huge legion of my online followers have already forgotten about it. Sad. I know.

But I figured what better time than now to refresh everyone’s memory about it. But, more importantly, to list the reasons why I moved to Tennessee. After all, for anyone who’s interested in early retirement or just relocation, it should give you a good idea of how and why you might think about moving from your current location.

Living in a High Cost of Living Area

From the moment that I was “let go”, or RIF’d, from my former job as a systems analyst at an information solutions company, I knew that I was under the gun. In a bind, as they say. Why? Well, I lived in a very expensive part of the country. How expensive you might say? I have no exact idea. But let’s just say that the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment there was just over $2000.00 a month.

Hurts. Now. Don’t it?
And no, it’s surely not as expensive as NYC or San Fransisco. Still, according to some surveys, Arlington, Virginia is up there among the most expensive cities to live in in the USA.

So now that I was officially unemployed. And had no income, other than the meager severance package that my company had so graciously provided me and others with, after summarily canning us all on that fateful day in the Fall of 2017. I soon realized, after lots of bean counting, that I could probably afford to retire early. And not have to go back to a job that I’d surely come to detest. But I just couldn’t afford to do it in expensive Arlington, Virginia.

Relocate in Early Retirement for Lower Housing Costs

So yeah, that’s the number one reason why I left my home. The rent was too damn high! I just couldn’t afford to retire early in Arlington, Virginia. But I already knew from experience and online research that there were plenty of other nice smaller cities and towns with way lower rents and housing prices.

Road Trip Across the Country to Find my New Home

So I made a plan to road trip to many of these cities. Particularly locations, near great fly fishing, hiking, beaches, and even skiing out West. And eventually, after four road trips around the country, taking me all the way from Fort Lauderdale, FL to central Pennsylvania (near Carlisle and State College) and even out West to cities and towns all over Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.

Believe it or not, I eventually came to relocate to the Tri-Cities area in Northeast Tennessee in December of 2018. Clearly setting the great Tennessee migration trend for others to follow, like my good friend, Ben Shapiro. And I have no doubt, that many more luminaries and other major media personalities from around the country will soon follow my lead in relocating to this humble Southern state, as well. After all, it has a lot going for it, which I’ll get into in a minute.

Relocate to Retire Early to a Cheap and Desirable Location

But first, my specific point here is that you might have to relocate to achieve the early retirement lifestyle. After all, the early retirement lifestyle relies on stout cost cutting, living good on the cheap, and saving and investing lots of money. So that you can build up a big enough nest egg to leave your current job as early as possible–before the standard 65 retirement date. And with that in mind, I think it’s fairly obvious that you’ll be able to retire the earliest, if you cut the biggest household expense of all, which is housing cost, by relocating to a cheap and desirable location.

So that’s why I moved to Northeast Tennessee. It was one of the cheapest and nicest locations I found on my travels.

Incidentally, before I get into the other reasons why I relocated to NE TN, I did want to offer this piece of advice, if you’re thinking about moving someplace new.

It’s best if you get a boots on the ground visit to a particular location prior to moving there. So you can get a feel of what the place is really like. Case in point, I was fairly certain before I embarked on my road trip around the US that I’d end up living in Chattanooga, Knoxville, or even certain cities in CO or ID. But when I visited those places, they just didn’t seem right to me.

In fact, I only visited the Tri-Cities area with the intent of fly fishing the South Holston River. But I ended up feeling more at home there than anywhere else on my travels.

So, you should at least visit a few locations where you’re thinking of moving before you relocate. If you have the time and funds.

I suspect you’ll end up being much happier for doing so in the long run. Because you never really know what a place is like until you spend some time there. Visiting the local shops, bars, and restaurants. Meeting some locals, and exploring the area.

Retire Early to a Location With Your Recreational Interests in Mind

Anyway, this brings me to the second and perhaps most important reason why I relocated to the Tri-Cities region of NE TN. There’s excellent fly fishing and hiking in the vicinity. Some of the best in the country. No, really. Heck, I didn’t believe it either until I got here.

Hiking Opportunities Abound Around the Tri-Cities Region

Indeed, there are certain hikes in this region that are among the very best that I’ve ever done in the entire country. Hikes that will blow your mind, like the balds near Roan Mountain, which I’ve covered here. Or Grayson Highlands in Virginia, which I’ve covered here. Moreover, there are also lots of lesser known local hikes that I’m constantly doing because those hikes are closer to my home. For instance, Buffalo Mountain is fantastic hike that’s only a ten minute drive from my home. And Laurel Fork Falls on the Appalachian Trail, is within 30 minutes, as well.

Roan Mountain Flaming Azaleas
Roan Mountain is one of the best hikes in the nation and is close to Johnson City, TN.

But as much as I enjoy the hiking around here, especially in the wintertime when the days are short, I often enjoy the fly fishing in the Tri-Cities area even more. And there’s no doubt that the fly fishing here is some of the best in the entire United States. And sure, there’s plenty of other states that offer great fly fishing. For instance, I love fly fishing the legendary limestone spring creeks of Central Pennsylvania. Or the freestone brook trout streams of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Or even the world famous steelhead runs on “Steelhead Alley” in PA and upstate NY, particularly on the Salmon River in Pulaski, New York. Not to mention that Idaho–pretty much the entire state–has the very best cutthroat trout fishing in the entire United States. And some of the greatest wilderness areas south of Alaska, too.

Fly Fishing Opportunities Abound in Northeast Tennessee

But having said all of that, I enjoy the fly fishing opportunities near my home just as much as all those other fantastic fly fishing locations. And why is that? Well, we have the South Holston and Watauga rivers, for starters. Both of which, are world-class trout tailwater fisheries on a good day. And there’s lots of good days on those rivers, since the winters here are usually somewhat mild and you can usually find a time in between the TVA generation schedule to wade those rivers on most days of the year.

South Holston River in Northeast Tennessee
The South Holston River in Northeast Tennessee is an excellent trout tailwater fishery.

Fly Fish the Smaller Streams in Northeast Tennessee

But even if you can’t fish those top notch tailwaters, well, there’s still plenty of other
great trout streams in the vicinity. Streams like Whitetop Laurel, one of the prettiest streams I’ve ever fished, although the fishing there can really be hit-or-miss. Or the Doe River, which is one of the better freestone streams in all of Tennessee. And then, of course, there’s a plethora of other lesser known small streams that the locals are fly fishing, like Laurel Creek, Laurel Fork, Beaverdam Creek, and even South Indian Creek, a real sleeper with some fat browns, if you can bushwhack to them.

Anyway, by now, I’m sure you’ve got my point that the second reason why I relocated to the Tri-Cities area in Northeast TN is because there’s excellent fly fishing and hiking nearby. And also that you should never get me talking about fly fishing, because it’ll be hard to get me to stop, which I freely admit. So let’s move on to the third reason why I relocated to NE TN in early retirement, which I have no doubt was one of the primary reasons that Ben Shapiro also left his home of California. And that’s taxes.

Relocate to Lower Your Taxes in Early Retirement

Okay, so in 2021 Tennessee will become the 8th state with no income tax.

Prior to 2021, Tennessee still had a tax on interest and dividends exceeding $1250.00, known as the Hall Tax. How do I know about this? Because, for tax year 2020, I finally got hit with the Hall Tax, as my combined interest and dividends surpassed the $1250 limit. Thus, I was hit with a Tennessee tax bill of a whole $7. Yikes! However, the Hall Tax has been eliminated and is no longer in effect. As a result, I’d be willing to bet that more than a few retirees might be considering Tennessee as a retirement destination, due to the fact that they won’t have to pay taxes on their hard-earned dividends and interest. And income.

But before everyone gets all giddy thinking that they won’t have to pay those income taxes, just remember that Tennessee has the highest combined state and local sales taxes, at 9.53%.

Ouch! Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is that you can’t escape the tax man. Although if people really got fed up with them, well they could just dress up like natives and dump some tea into a particular harbor. Just saying.

Still, almost all tax surveys I reviewed prior to moving to Tennessee showed that it was one of the top states with the lowest overall tax rates in the US. So I thought it would be a good idea to move to Tennessee, when combined with the lower housing costs and excellent outdoor activities. Yet, from a tax perspective, it’s possible that if you’re a lower income person, such as myself, then you might be better off living in a state with an income tax. Huh? How’s that?

That’s because a sales tax, in general, is regressive. Whereas, a progressive tax is progressive. That is to say that a regressive tax will tax individuals, such as myself, the most as a percentage of their income. By definition, a regressive tax is one in which low income taxpayers pay a disproportionate share of the tax burden, while middle and high income taxpayers shoulder a relatively smaller tax burden. That’s taxes as a proportion of their overall income.

So I actually haven’t done the complete tax analysis on this. But in the future, if you see that I’ve moved to Bristol, Virginia, well, you can bet that the tax equation, etc. came out a lot cheaper in the Old Dominion state. And for that matter, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming might also be good choices as well.

That said, if you were a middle or high income taxpayer, well then, a no-income-tax state like Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wyoming, and New Hampshire might be the best places to establish residency.

Yet another thing to consider on this, though. If you plan on living overseas. Then, you’d definitely want to be “domiciled” in a no-income-tax state, as you wouldn’t be paying sales taxes on purchases you definitely wouldn’t be making. And whatever income you had wouldn’t be taxed either, at a state level.

Relocate in Early Retirement to Escape the Rat Race

So the final reason I moved to the Tri-Cities area of Tennessee was because of traffic. Guess what? There’s not as much of it here in Johnson City, TN, as there was in crowded Northern Virginia. Still, I hear the locals complaining about it.

And I think to myself. My God, the traffic anywhere near Washington, DC and vicinity is enough to make someone jump off a rooftop. Whereas in Johnson City, it’s just traffic. Well, maybe it’s bad when the train comes lurching through town. Then, you really have to wait awhile for it to pass. Takes a while… Trust me.

And sometimes someone in a truck might get impatient and rush around you on the highway. Still, it’s way less stressful than the traffic nightmare that I was used to. So let’s just leave it at that. That way, I won’t have nightmares tonight about the hellish traffic situation in Arlington, Virginia. That said, it did take me a while to get used to people moving slower in the grocery stores and elsewhere. That’s probably a good thing.

Anyway, that’s about it for the reasons why I moved to Northeast Tennessee after retiring early. So to recap, and reflect on how this might apply to your particular situation. If you’re considering retiring early or just relocating, I’d say you move for the following reasons:

  1. To reduce your housing costs. So you move to a lower cost of living area. This works particularly well during early retirement, as you won’t need to stay in a high cost of living area to make a bigger salary.
  2. Only move to an area where you’ll be happy. In my case, I looked for a place that had excellent fly fishing and hiking. But everyone has different hobbies and preferences. Some people are beach people, while others ski. Surf or ski? Still, others just love golfing.
  3. Take a good look at the potential taxes you will be paying prior to moving someplace new. That’s just so you won’t get a HUGE unexpected bill during tax season. Case in point, I researched the tax situation in multiple states many times prior to my move to Tennessee. Also, know that just because a state has no income tax that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be paying less in taxes, if you move there.
  4. You relocate to escape the rat race, stress, and traffic of the big cities. If you can. As I mentioned, I’d dreamed for years of escaping the intense heat, humidity, and horror show of traffic and gridlock that is Northern Virginia and Washington DC. And yes, I’m happy now that I don’t have to deal with that anymore.
  5. Although I didn’t mention it above, many people are now interested in moving to states that match their political affiliations. So Republicans are migrating to red states; Democrats to blue ones. And this is great news, as it will no doubt further the political divide in this country, which is exactly what we need right now.
  6. And finally, another thing that I think everyone has noticed lately is that people are fleeing cities and states that have/had more stringent lockdowns to ones (like FL, GA, ID, MT, TN, TX, etc.) that are less draconian about allowing normal business operations and essential social interactions. This, of course, demonstrates the public’s overwhelming support for government mandated lockdowns. Because who doesn’t enjoy being placed under house arrest for a sickness that has a 99.95% survival rate for those under 70? Maybe that’s why so many people are moving to Tennessee these days. Still, not everyone is gonna like it around here, where I live. Cause there’s lots of lifted trucks, most folks are very supportive of the Second Amendment, and paying less in the way of taxes, here. Tax man, be darned. Yes, it’s also a red state. And we got us some good old Tennessee whiskey, too! So Yee-haw and go Vols and Nascar!


Thank you for reading my post: Relocate To Retire Early, Cut Costs, And Go Fishing. If you’ve enjoyed reading this, please subscribe so that I can send you notices about my future posts. Subscribing is FREE and I don’t spam or share your email. Also, please share this post with your friends, family members, and co-workers on the usual social networks. This will help support this blog and grow my audience.

After a long career in the publishing industry, Gary Alan left his corporate job to pursue his next adventures in life as a blogger, writer, investor, fly fisherman, hiker, and traveler. He is the author of the adventure fiction book, 'Big Thunder-Hearted River'.

1 thought on “Relocate To Retire Early, Cut Costs, And Go Fishing”

  1. I’ve lived in NE Tennessee for over 20 years now. Moved in from Ohio. Can’t wait to leave.
    There are a few problems with your relocation plan.
    The locals are uneducated and very poor. They through they’re trash in the street from their cars or let it blow out of the their trucks. The rivers and lakes are filled with old tires and plastic waste. All of the rivers including the Clinch have been devastated by industrial and human waste for years. It’s a Trumptard state with full support of State government. Quickly on its way to becoming Mississippi. But the biggest problem is health care. If you get seriously Ill in the Tri Cities and are treated in a local hospital you’re screwed.
    There are other negatives to living here. You’ll experience all of this as you spend time in the area.
    Low cost living comes with major compromises

Comments are closed.