Winter is here again—which may make you wish you were somewhere else. You might be thinking how pleasant it would be to become a snowbird and move to a warmer climate for the season. Of course, your stage of life will help determine if you are prepared to be a snowbird now or if you’re just hoping to be one in the future. But in either case, you’ll need to be financially prepared for winter.
So, let’s look at what it would take to be a snowbird—tomorrow and today.
The further ahead you plan, the more options you’re likely to have when you embark on the snowbird life. If you’re going to be retired, you’ll need to review all your sources of retirement income—Social Security, your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored plan, your IRA, and so on—to determine if you’ll have enough money available for your yearly snowbird trips without jeopardizing your retirement lifestyle. Your calculations will depend on what sort of snowbird existence you have in mind. Do you want to buy a second home or just rent? Will you be gone just a few weeks each year or several months? Clearly, to ensure a successful snowbird experience, you’ll need to identify your goals and create a strategy for achieving them.
If you’ve reached a point where you can indeed make your snowbird dream a reality, and you’re ready to pack your bags, you’ll need to take action on some practical matters, such as these:
- Secure your home. If you have a security system, make sure it’s armed and working properly. Stop your newspapers and magazines, forward your mail, ask your neighbors to remove any stray papers, flyers and advertisements from your porch or entryway, and arrange to have your snow shoveled.
- Notify your bank. To fight theft, the fraud departments of many banks are getting more aggressive in spotting and denying unusual charges. That’s why it’s important to give your bank your temporary address and contact information before you leave. By doing so, you can reduce the risk of your account being frozen temporarily if your financial institution can’t reach you with questions about charges from an unexpected location. You also might find it useful to open a bank account at your snowbird site.
- Pay your bills. If you already pay all your bills automatically through bank authorizations, you may not have to do anything when you leave. But if you still pay some bills the old-fashioned way, with checks and envelopes, look for these bills in your forwarded mail.
- Track your investments. You can probably track the progress of your investments online, and it’s a good idea to do so, just as you would at your permanent address. Even if you’re only gone a couple of months, you may need to make some investment moves, so stay on top of your accounts and contact your investment professional, as needed. As always, though, don’t overreact to sudden market swings—ideally, you’ve got long-term strategies in place that can serve your needs in most investment environments.
The life of a snowbird can be a pleasant one. So take the necessary steps before you leave—and enjoy your days in the sun.