How to Be a (successful) Snowbird

When the long, cold winter has lost its appeal, what does it take to temporarily fly south?

Upon retirement, many people decide it’s too much to deal with the frigid temperatures of winter along with ice, snow, and limited sunlight. Those looking for a break head South to Florida, Texas, Arizona, or South Carolina for a reprieve. So, how do you snowbird successfully?

Determine if you will rent or own your southern escape. If you can afford it financially, there is no right or wrong answer. Items to consider:

Renting: helpful if the area is new to you, increases flexibility, decreases fixed expenses (no regular home maintenance, option to skip a year, if needed), temporary, not guaranteed.

Owning: permanent and known, potential for income-producing property when not in-use personally, offers possibility of changing state residency for potential tax incentives.

Examine your ability to switch state residency. This only applies if you own in both locations; there can be different tax incentives (i.e. no state income tax in Florida) if you qualify to change your residency.

Coordinate access to and payment for medical care. Prearrange to have prescriptions filled for 90-days, online, or transferred to a local pharmacy (check state laws on your ability to do so). Establish local, routine care doctors, if possible. Your ability to access affordable, continued medical care in more than one state will depend on personal health insurance coverage.

Include others in your annual preparation. If leaving for an extended period of time, involve neighbors or family to look after your house while you’re gone. Arrange for snow removal, mail/package delivery, security systems, automatic lighting, thermostat readings, and an occasional drive-by visual check to make sure everything is as it should be.

Properly winterize your primary home and change your address (or forward mail) while you’re gone to decrease confusion and maintain access while away.

Research other coverages to alleviate potential future headaches. Do you need additional coverage such as a second homeowner’s (or renter’s) policy? Travel insurance? Security system?

Preparing for an extended vacation out-of-state can require additional legwork and forward thinking, but the payoff of sunny, 70-degree weather in February will be well worth it!