Magazine targeted to retirees features benefits of NatchezPublished 12:05am Sunday, May 19, 2013
Some people think of retirement as a time to slow down.
But for Sandy Taylor, retiring to Natchez was a chance to stay as busy as ever as cheaply as ever.
Natchez was recently featured in a 12-page article touting its benefits as a retirement community in Where to Retire magazine, and Taylor was one of the featured Natchezians. One of the reasons Taylor told the magazine writer for why Natchez is a hidden gem in the retirement world is the opportunities the city presents retirees to volunteer in life-enriching social and cultural venues.
“I think when people retire, they don’t retire from life; they are just retired from a job, but they still want to be involved and know that they are a viable part of the community,” Taylor said. “With all of our cultural events, the music festival, (Natchez National Historical Park) doing its thing, I think that when people retire and come here, while they may retire from a job, most of them are very involved because this is a town of volunteers.”
Another reason Natchez makes a great retirement community is because it has a low cost of living, Newcomers Club incoming President Dolly Freedman said.
Freedman and her husband John retired to Natchez, having raised their family in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., and then spending 15 years in the New Jersey suburbs of New York City. Their lives there were good, she said, but expensive.
“We needed to move to an area where it would be affordable for retirement,” Freedman said. “We came from a very expensive area where the housing was anywhere from $500,000 to a million dollars.
“Not only do you live here and shop downtown or go to restaurants and find things to be cheaper, but the overall cost is a lot less — it is immensely less than where you can be in any major city.”
The low cost of living was a theme that Taylor reiterated, saying that she and her husband Tom cut their expenses by two thirds by moving to Natchez.
“That is something people don’t realize, and that is why Natchez is a jewel people have not discovered yet,” she said.
But some are working to change that. Since Natchez became a member of Mississippi Hometown Living in 1996, the Natchez Retiree Partnership has been working to recruit retirees to the area.
Feiser said the group — which now operates partly under the auspices of Natchez Inc. — has been successful in recruiting 255 retiree households.
“It is a form of economic development,” Feiser said. “No, it is not having a big company come here, but it is getting people to come to spend money in your community that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t attract them.”
“Generally, retirees have a little bit of money to spend, and they buy houses, the eat at restaurants, they buy other items and they are paying taxes but are not overtaxing the school system because they don’t have children in it.”
At the same time, retirees can live comfortably in Mississippi because the state doesn’t tax retirement income, Feiser said.
Mississippi is one of two states — the other is Tennessee — that has a retiree recruitment program, and Feiser said he travels to a show for retirees in Chicago every year to promote the area.
“Most everybody that is there except for Mississippi and Tennessee are trying to sell you a development,” he said. “We are just there to get you to come down to Mississippi — and Natchez in particular — and we think once you get to Mississippi you will see what we have to offer is pretty interesting.”
And what Natchez has to offer, Freedman said, is an environment that is incredibly inviting to retirees.
Freedman was first introduced to Natchez 12 years ago after her daughter moved to the area for work, and was able to experience the recreation opportunities available at Lake St. John and to see historic preservation done right when attending a wedding at Dunleith during that time, but it was only after moving into Natchez full-time that she said she was able to appreciate it.
“When you come for a visit, you spend the time with your family and so you are doing whatever it is they are doing — they may be taking you for a boat ride or to a crawfish boil,” Freedman said.
“But it is the overwhelming hospitality of Natchez and the culture that you have the opportunity to get into, to participate in, when you live here. Natchez gives you a lot — they have great restaurants, they have the music festival, they have the balloon race. I am enjoying all these things, and I mostly enjoy the welcome.”
And while moving away from the big city means not as many cultural opportunities are available, there’s still plenty to do, Freedman said.
“Natchez doesn’t quite have the arts that New York does, but I see that Natchez now offers all those things on a little smaller schedule, and we are thrilled it is a music and arts community,” she said.
Feiser said that since the Where to Retire feature was published, he has heard from 64 retirees considering locating in the area.
And while Taylor said she’s enjoyed her heretofore secret retirement haven, she’s glad the word is getting out.
“South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida, they are crammed with people and it is very expensive to live there,” she said.
“Natchez hasn’t been discovered yet as a retirement community, but now that we are getting some stories about us and our name is getting out there, we will get some more people and things will start happening and popping around here — I look forward to that.”