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Becoming a Snowbird: What You Need to Know

5 minutes read Dec 23,2020
Becoming a Snowbird: What You Need to Know

Snowbird. It's a word that not everyone knows, but it refers to people who spend the warmer seasons in northern states, and then head to milder southern climates during the cold winter months. There's no doubt that becoming a snowbird means adopting a new lifestyle. But what exactly does the shift entail?

There are numerous considerations to keep in mind when weighing the snowbird lifestyle. In this post, we're highlighting eight of the most important things to remember when embarking on a snowbird adventure. Read on to see what you should know before heading south for the winter!

Person Using Calculator

8 Important Considerations When Becoming a Snowbird

1. Calculate All the Costs

The number one consideration when becoming a snowbird is to calculate the costs. All the costs. If you want to purchase a second home, consider more than just the mortgage. Remember the costs of taxes, insurance, upkeep, long-term improvement, and if you're living in a dedicated resort or community, site rent. Estimate those numbers and calculate what the average annual cost will be.

If you're planning to live in an RV, rather than a vacation home, there are different costs to consider. You'll need to secure a site for the winter. We recommend you check with your favorite resort to see if they have special offers for long-term stays. You'll also need to consider the cost of purchasing an RV or motorhome, plus maintenance and fuel during the drive.

2. Decide on a Primary Residence

For tax purposes, you must carefully weigh your choice of a state of residency. Depending on your situation, it may be more advantageous to establish residency in your snowbird state. For example, many popular snowbird states have attractive tax rates for retirees, making them desirable to live in.

Paperless Bills on Phone and Laptop

However, if you're planning to establish primary residence in a state, you need to investigate the rules. You'll need to spend a certain number of days in that state to be a resident. You should register your car, bank, and vote in your state of residence. You'll also need to use utilities year-round in the state. Be sure to keep your receipts to verify your residency if the government inquires about it.

3. Look Into the Tax Status of the State You'll Live In

When becoming a snowbird, you should consider the tax status of the state you'll live in during the winters. For example, some states like Tennessee, Florida, and Texas have no income tax. That said, there can be caveats. Florida has higher property taxes for non-residents than residents, which can negate the other tax perks. So, make sure you do a little research on the taxes in the state(s) you're planning to live in.

4. Switch to Paperless Billing

Though the traditional paper bill may be what you're used to, you should switch to paperless billing. Make the switch for utilities, internet, cell phone plans, insurance, any other services that bill. By doing so, you'll save yourself the headache of shifting physical bills between two addresses. Even with mail forwarding, the situation can get hairy.

5. Check on Your Medical Coverage

Before you depart on your snowbird adventure, be sure to check your medical coverage. If you use private health insurance, you need to ensure that the network extends to your snowbird destination. Often, private health insurance is confined to a limited network and offers little or no coverage outside of the network.

If you use Original Medicare, you'll have coverage throughout the U.S. at any medical office that accepts Medicare. Remember, however, that Medicare Advantage is a private health care plan and thus has a location-based network.

Woman With Dog and Moving Boxes

6. Know the Challenges of Moving a Pet

One of the biggest challenges in becoming a snowbird is moving a pet. Some pets move quite easily, and dogs in particular do well. But the challenge isn't only in your pet's temperament. You'll also need to coordinate and manage veterinary visits between two states. Make sure that you're keeping up on your pet's shots and appointments, even while you're splitting your year between two locales.

7. Make an Effort to Socialize

An important part of the snowbird lifestyle is socializing. Get to know your neighbors by bringing over a tray of cookies, a loaf of banana bread, or another treat. Additionally, at our resorts, you'll find many planned activities including dinners, dances, clubs, sports, and more. These are great ways to make new friends, which in turn will keep you happy and healthy.

Snowbird Home in Florida

8. Ensure Your Primary Home is Maintained

Since you'll be spending a good chunk of your time in a second home or RVing at a resort, it's important to have a game plan for your primary residence when you're out of town. Here are a few things to consider:
  • Keep the temperature high enough to prevent pipes from freezing
  • Arrange for someone to housesit
  • Install a home security system
  • Ensure that landscaping is regularly attended to

Becoming a snowbird isn't always an easy task, but it is a rewarding experience. You'll discover an active lifestyle, many new friends, and warm weather during the winter months. But the snowbird lifestyle is even better shared with others. Share this post with a friend, colleague, or family member and discuss embarking on an active 55+ adventure together!  

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