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Cheaper cost of living can make a positive difference when all things are considered

Mississippi home to third-lowest median income in U.S.

When retirees move to a new state, among the primary factors attracting them are the cost of living and housing costs. And retirees have been moving to Mississippi by the thousands over the last few years.

These retirees, from a variety of locations, have discovered the advantages of living in a state with one of the lowest per capita incomes in the country.

Mississippi’s average income per resident is some $24,000. In Connecticut, it’s $44,000, the highest in the United States. (The average retiree household has an annual disposable income of $33,000.)

Low median income, but…

According to U.S. Census figures, Mississippi has the country’s third-lowest median income, $32,477. Only Arkansas and West Virginia are lower.

There are, however, some advantages to living in a poorer state such as Mississippi. For example, the average Mississippi resident might well go into shock if he had to pay fuel costs for Connecticut’s long, seriously cold winter. And the Mississippi resident who balks at the commute into Jackson or along the Gulf Coast probably can’t imagine what a commute might be like from Connecticut or New Jersey into Manhattan.

The monthly parking costs once he gets there would be more than many Mississippi residents earn in a week. (Maybe even two.)

If the New Jersey or Connecticut resident doesn’t want to make that long, frustrating drive twice a day and pay for parking, he can take the train. But that’s expensive, too.

The brighter side is…

And this points up one bright side to living in a poorer state: Everything costs less.

A person earning $60,000 in Atlanta would only need to earn $47,492 in Jackson to maintain a similar standard of living.

That same $60,000 in Charlotte would only require $52,752 in Jackson, according to the Web site of the National Association of Realtors, www.realtor.com.

With housing costs, the disparity around the state becomes more pronounced and Jackson a significantly more expensive place in which to live. (But that doesn’t mean that someone from out of state wouldn’t find it cheaper to live in Jackson, in most instances.)

According to www.coldwellbanker.com, a home with a market value of $250,000 in Philadelphia could be expected to cost around $112,000 in Jackson but would only cost about $85,000 in Gulfport/Biloxi.

Around the country

A home worth $200,000 on Long Island, N.Y., would be $78,000 in Jackson but in Gulfport/Biloxi or in Tupelo, it would cost only $59,000.

A $175,000 house in Montclair, N.J.: $66,000 in Jackson. In Gulfport/Biloxi and Tupelo: $50,000. The $175,000 house in Munster, Ind.: $128,000 in Jackson; $97,000 in Gulfport/Biloxi and Tupelo and that same $175,000 home in Tallahassee, Fla.: $157,000 in Jackson and $119,000 in Gulfport/Biloxi and in Tupelo.

And the $175,000 home in Louisville, Ky.: Not much less in Jackson, at $172,000. But only some $131,000 in Gulfport/Biloxi and in Tupelo.

If you had a New Orleans home worth $150,000, it could be expected to cost about $131,000 in Jackson. In Gulfport/Biloxi and in Tupelo: only $99,000. And moving from Miami would bring a huge saving in housing: Your $150,000 home in Florida would only cost $65,000 in Jackson and in Gulfport/Biloxi and in Tupelo, $49,000.

In Shreveport/Bossier City, a home that cost $150,000 would actually cost a little more in Jackson — $152,000. In Gulfport/Biloxi, the cost would be some $116,000.

Finally, for less expensive housing, a Myrtle Beach, S.C., home worth $125,000 would be more expensive in Jackson, some $148,000. In Gulfport/Biloxi and in Tupelo, you could save money because you would only have to pay $111,000 for a house of the same value.

The house from which you moved in Athens, Ga. would cost you the same $125,000 in Jackson, but only $95,000 in Gulfport/Biloxi and in Tupelo.

Perhaps this is why entities such as the Area Development Partnership (ADP) (Forrest, Lamar and Perry counties) in Hattiesburg “get many requests from out-of-state people who want to relocate in the Hattiesburg area,” according to Joy Peterson, ADP’s public relations manager.

Peterson cited a constant influx of new residents into the greater Hattiesburg area.

An even better bargain? Get rural

Data on salary comparisons and housing costs from sources such as the National Association of Realtors and Coldwell Banker is limited to certain larger cities in Mississippi.

But if you move from these cities into a more rural area, move into areas away from the Gulf Coast and from Jackson, chances are good that costs will be even lower.

This is what is happening in George County, according to Sue Wright of the county’s Economic Development Foundation. Wright said that people are moving into the county from the Gulf Coast and Mobile, even from Hattiesburg, and, “The cost of housing and land would come to mind first regarding the cost of living.”

Retirees cite other factors that make Mississippi attractive, particularly taxes. For them and, certainly, for the people already living in Mississippi, taxes across the board are lower.

Bloomberg Wealth Manager magazine keeps an eye on the states that are best at letting the individuals who accumulate money — and not the state governments — keep the money. Mississippi, with a “B plus” for what the magazine describes as “wealth-friendliness,” ranks 13th in the nation.

Contact MBJ contributing writer at George McNeill at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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