Tennessee would first become a territory for the United States in 1789. It would be less than a decade later, in 1796, that Congress would declare that it was the 16th state of the union. The region is rooted in the Watauga Association, which is widely considered to be the first constitutional government formed west of the Appalachian Mountains. The land area that would become this state was originally part of North Carolina, and then the Southwest Territory.
When the Civil War broke out in the 19th century, the people of Tennessee were torn as to which side they should join. They would eventually secede from the Union, sending more soldiers to fight in the conflict than any other state besides Virginia for the Confederacy. It would initially have competitive party politics, but disenfranchisement in the 1880s would exclude poor families and minorities from voting until the Civil Rights Movement.
There are several significant industries which form the backbone of the state’s economy. Agricultural, tourism, and manufacturing all provide a strong GDP for Tennessee each year, with the primary products including cattle, poultry, and soybeans.
You will find metropolitan cities like Nashville and Memphis when you move to Tennessee. There are natural wonders to explore like the Great Smoky Mountains. You can even visit Oak Ridge, which was where early uranium refinement happened during World War II. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider if you are thinking about a move to this state.
List of the Pros of Living in Tennessee
1. You won’t need to pay a personal income tax when living in Tennessee.
When you start living in Tennessee, then you will discover that the state does not have an income tax. You will not be seeing discharge come out of your paycheck with the federal withholdings that your employer is required to take. There is a slight caveat to consider with this advantage because there are interest and dividend earnings that are taxed. If your primary source of income is through investments, then you will see a bit of a tax bill. The goal is to phase out this remaining tax by 2022, but there is no guarantee that it will happen.
Under the current tax structure for interest and dividend earnings, the first $1,250 in taxable income for single filers is exempt. Joint filers receive their first $2,500. Then everything is taxed at a flat rate of 6%. If you are older than 65, have a total income of less than $37,000 (single) or $68,000 (joint), then you are also exempt.
2. Tennessee will help you to fall in love with music all over again.
It is not unusual for people to think of Tennessee as the place where the country music genre resides thanks to Nashville, but Memphis and the other cities provide a well-rounded musical experience for those who live in the state. You will discover that the blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and jazz all have a prominent position in the history of music when you live here. There are still numerous live music venues to enjoy, while there are also legendary stages like the Grand Ole Opry to see.
You can even visit Sun Studio, Loretta Lynn’s ranch, and walk in the footsteps of the greats like Aretha Franklin when you start living in Tennessee. It really is a one-of-a-kind experience.
3. You cannot ignore the whiskey when you start living in Tennessee.
There is the whiskey that you can purchase in the store, and then there is the liquor that you can buy when you live in Tennessee. You will discover that Tennessee whiskey is in a category all of its own. It must be made using specific methods to qualify for this label. Jack Daniels might be the most famous brand since it is sold around the world, but “Jack” isn’t the only version that you will find. There are some local distilleries that you will discover here that will blow your socks off with how good (and strong) their whiskey happens to be.
4. Literature has a home in Tennessee as well.
Although this state might be known for music, agriculture, and booze, you will discover that there are some significant literary chops to explore here too. Tennessee was the birthplace of several famous writers, including James Agee and Alex Haley. The Sewanee Review is believed to be the oldest continually published periodical of its kind in the United States. There are numerous poems, plays, and various literary works being composed in the state right now. If you have a love of the creative arts, then you will enjoy every moment of the time you can spend living in Tennessee.
5. There are plenty of fairs and festivals to enjoy when living in Tennessee.
With a state that has so many musical influences throughout history, one would expect that the festivals and fairs that are celebrated in Tennessee would be a world-class experience. You will not be disappointed with what you get to enjoy when attending a popular event like Bonnaroo. You can also make your way to the CMA Music Festival if you want to rub elbows with some of today’s hottest stars.
Tennessee has its big city wonders, but the charm of the state still lies with the small towns that you can find from the east to the west. Make your way to Bell Buckle to celebrate Daffodil Day through the downtown area, where you can see blooms still going even though they were planted over a century before. Monteagle celebrates Trails and Trilliums, while Warburg’s Mountain Laurel Festival is equally beautiful. Don’t forget the Slawburger Festival in Fayetteville!
6. You can tour numerous historic sites in Tennessee.
When you start thinking about the best places to visit in Tennessee, then there is an excellent chance that Graceland comes to mind. You can still tour the home of Elvis Presley, learn about his work, and get to know his life. A road trip to Dollywood can be a fun experience if you’re interested in the legend of Dolly Parton. If you prefer the mountains, then spend time in Gatlinburg to tour the Great Smoky Mountains. Franklin is the place where you can see one of the most historic Main Streets in the United States. It is a struggle to run out of things to see and do once you start living here.
7. The autumn colors in Tennessee are absolutely gorgeous.
Many people travel to the New England states during the fall season because of the way the trees change the colors. Vermont and Maine might offer a special experience, but Tennessee will always take the cake. The trees here are always put on a stunning display to create a gorgeous backdrop wherever you happen to be. Although the Great Smoky Mountains win the award for the best viewing place, there are numerous options to tour if you visit after the summer.
You will also find that Tennessee is one of the few states that still experiences all four seasons in its location, which can help to make the adjustment easier for those who are moving from a more northerly location.
8. There are thousands of caves for you to explore when living in Tennessee.
There are over 9,000 caves for you to explore when you live in Tennessee. Some of the locations are even free to visit. The places that offer paid tours are still worth the time to see if you happen to be in the area. You will discover a magical wonderland under the ground, with stalactites and stalagmites offering beautiful pillars that make you feel like you’re visiting a natural cathedral. You will discover locations throughout the state, so there is bound to be a cave near you no matter where you happen to live.
9. You might be able to take advantage of the Tennessee Promise Program.
The Tennessee Promise Program allows the child who graduates from high school in the state to attend a local community college at zero cost of the family. This program was inspired be federal efforts that want to push kids toward a higher education by making the first two years more affordable to them and you. Although you may not be able to earn a 4-year degree from this option and it may not be as effective as AP or International Baccalaureate® classes, it is still a better option for continuing education compared to what other states offer.
10. Tennessee offers a competitive cost of living experience.
The cost of living in Tennessee is approximately 20% lower throughout the state then it is across the nation. Almost everything about living here involves lower prices, including your groceries, consumer goods, and utilities. Even your housing expenses are going to be reasonable unless you decide to live in an urban area like Nashville or Memphis. With the average household income at less than $39,000, it almost needs to be structured this way to be livable for the average family. If you can pull in more than that with your paychecks, then you’ll be in a good position to save and live a comfortable life.
11. The property taxes in Tennessee are low.
If you plan to purchase a home when moving to Tennessee, then you will be pleased to know that the state has one of the lowest property tax rates in the country. The average household will only pay about $1,000 each year in this tax. The rates are not the same across the entire state, so you will want to be careful about where you choose to live. If you purchase a home in the Memphis area, then you will be facing a bill each year that is closer to $2,000 annually instead.
Renting faces a similar dilemma when you start moving to Texas. The average apartment rate in Nashville is currently about $1,350, but you can find places for half of that cost if you can move to one of the small towns in the state. The rate of home prices is actually outpacing the rise of rental expenses, so you might think about renting a place right now, and then purchasing something later.
12. You have access to professional sports in Tennessee.
Even though Tennessee is something thought of as a rural state, there are several professional sports teams that are located in the area. The Tennessee Titans represent the National Football League, while the Memphis Grizzlies play in the NBA. Minor League Baseball is present with the Nashville Sounds and the Memphis Redbirds. Chattanooga and Knoxville both have soccer teams. You can watch the NHL thanks to the Nashville Predators as well. The University of Tennessee is also quite popular, having won 13 SEC Championships in its history.
13. There is a local coffee shop in almost every community.
You can always find your fair share of Starbucks shops when you start living in Tennessee. What you will also find is that local businesses flourish in these communities. You won’t have any trouble finding something that you love, especially if you decide to move to Nashville. Every place seems to have its own niche. Some host live music events, others work with local farms to create unique menus, and Crema has been awarded a top finish at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual competitions.
14. The unemployment rates are generally very low.
There are plenty of job opportunities available throughout the state of Tennessee. Nashville and Memphis are home to exceptional markets where open positions are frequent and pay well. The jobless rate in Nashville recently hit 2.3%, which is half of what the rest of the country is experiencing right now. If you are struggling to find work where you are living right now, then make your way here and you should find a job in no time at all.
List of the Cons of Living in Tennessee
1. The summers can be brutal when you start living in Tennessee.
If you like summertime temperatures which feel like you are taking an afternoon at the beach, then living in Tennessee is going to be a challenge for you. The weather here during July and August tends to get very hot and sticky. If you are planning on the move, you will want to avoid this season because the average high is well above 90° and the humidity makes it feel even worse. When you are out and about, make sure that you have plenty of fluids along for the ride so that you can stay hydrated.
2. Tennessee barbecue is not for the faint of heart.
You can get Tennessee barbecue either wet or dry, but you will discover that most folks use a spicy dry rub on their ribs to create the flavors that are a trademark of the state. You will also discover that the same spice combination makes for an excellent addition to grilled vegetables too. Memphis tends to make it a little sweeter than other communities, but it is bursting with flavor no matter where you go. If you’re not used to a little (okay, a lot) of flame on your tongue, then you may want to avoid the smoked meats for a while after your move.
3. It can be challenging to make new friends when living in this state.
There is more polarization in our relationships in the United States then at arguably any other time in history. When you start living in Tennessee, then you will find that there is a certain friendliness in each community that can feel encouraging at first. You will also discover that it can be challenging to make new friends in the first days and weeks after your move. There is a certain level of superficial interaction here that causes people to stick to their own tribes. If you are on the outside looking in, then this environment can feel exclusionary, and there may not be much that you can do about it.
4. The growth levels in Tennessee’s cities can be challenging as well.
Cities like Nashville and Memphis are growing so rapidly that there are times when the planners seem unable to keep up. Although every community deals with rush hour at some level, traffic levels are borderline insane in Nashville at this time. You will also discover that housing prices are rising rapidly, so you will need to start looking right away for a place to live if you plan on moving right away. The cost of living is fairly reasonable if you can afford a place here and get a good job. If not, then it may not be the best option right now.
5. You will need to deal with the threat of severe weather in Tennessee.
Tennessee might not be in the heart of Tornado Alley with its location in the United States, but it does sit in the lower Midwest or upper South where cold fronts hit warm weather to create severe thunderstorms. The occasional tornado is always possible, especially in the late spring to early fall. There are storms with hail and severe lightning that blow through occasionally. You also have the occasional threat of a hurricane or tropical depression if one chooses a specific track as it makes landfall along the East Coast.
6. Some neighborhoods need to worry about gang violence in Tennessee.
The FBI announced in 2018 that “every major gang” operating in the United States had a presence in the tri-cities area of eastern Tennessee. That included names like the Vice Lords, Aryan Nation, Gangster Disciples, SUR-13, the Bloods, and the Crips. WJHL reported that a suspect killed in March of 2018 in Jonesborough was a member of the Crips, along with numerous other arrests and crimes related to gang activities based on the tattoos of those arrested. Over 150 people are arrested each year with suspected affiliations.
7. There are multiple nuclear power plants in Tennessee that produce electricity.
TVA currently operates three nuclear power plants on their own that are capable of generating an average of 7,800 megawatts each day. The facility in Spring City became the first new unit of its time in the United States to come online in the 21st century. Although this type of energy is safe and reliable under most circumstances, there are capital expenses from these projects and the risk of an accident to consider – especially if you live near one of these locations. Make sure that you know what your evacuation route happens to be if local authorities call for one.
8. Driving is a way of life when you live anywhere in Tennessee.
Even though the urban areas offer public transportation options, you will want to own a vehicle if you need to arrive somewhere in a reasonable amount of time. Nashville’s WeGo Public Transit has a reputation of not being entirely dependent, and it doesn’t even offer full coverage to the city. You also have the option to take a taxi or hire an Uber, but life becomes easier if you can afford the expense of a car.
The pros and cons of living in Tennessee generally have the positives outweighing the negatives. There are communities where it is affordable to live without the worries of crime or complication. You may not experience as many of the benefits if you choose to live in one of the larger cities, but that also means you have more access to activities. When you can find the right balance of comfort and compromise, you will discover that this state really is an amazing place to live.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.