Home Care

How to Move South During the Winter in Retirement

moving seniors to warm place

It’s a tale as old as time. When a couple grows old and retires from their jobs, they migrate — just as birds do — to the South for wintertime. Some places, like Scottsdale, AZ, even have the affectionate name of “snowbirds” for these individuals. They know they’re coming because they come every single year. And why wouldn’t they? From November through March, the temperatures are always in the 60s and 70s. These seniors can golf, shop, visit friends, and then return home to see their grandkids when summer temperatures return.

If you’re intrigued by this pattern and are wondering how you can do it yourself, then keep reading. Preparing to migrate or move to warmer climates takes some time and effort, but don’t worry. We’ll lay it all out for you. Here’s what you should consider if you want to be a snowbird this upcoming winter.

Step 1: Retire (or work remotely!)

As noted above, moving south for the winter most often occurs for senior individuals or couples who have retired from their jobs. However, as COVID-19 has normalized remote work, you may be considering this change as your job has become more flexible. Either way, you need to make sure that your work situation (or lack thereof) can accommodate this type of relocation for an extended period.

Step 2: Decide your location

Deciding where you’ll begin to split time can be a big decision. If it’s your first time at this location, you may not be ready to put down money and purchase a home. However, if this location has long been a vacation spot, then you may know that this is exactly where you want to retire.

Fortunately, long-term rental options like Airbnb and VRBO give you options if you’re not quite ready to commit. When you are, you’ll now own property in both locations, and you’ll need to consider which should be your primary residence. There are a lot of questions that come with this as well. For example:

  • Where will you spend the most time?
  • Which will be your permanent address?
  • Where will you register to vote and file taxes?
  • Which state will you register your car and have your driver’s license?

These are important questions for anyone who is splitting time between two residences each year.  And remember, when you have two residences, there’s some strategy that you may want to use to lower your taxes. If your snowbird state has a more favorable tax climate, it may be worth making that your home state purely for tax purposes. You’ll just need to prove that you’re no longer a resident in your original state. For some states, that means opening bank accounts, changing your car/voting registration, getting a new cell phone number, etc. For others, that means spending 184 or more there. Do your research! It can truly pay off.

Step 3: Obtain flexible health coverage

Healthcare should be factored into everyone’s monthly budget, and this is an important consideration as you leave our home state. While you may have everything set up where you currently live, leaving your state will require you to find new doctors and understand how your current plan covers you in a different location.

If you’re 65 or older, Original Medicare will cover you in any state. It provides you the complete freedom to go anywhere you want. However, if you have the Medicare Advantage plan, then going out of network may prompt higher deductibles and co-payments.

Similarly, if you’re not yet 65 and have commercial health insurance, then your policy will likely cover you out of state, but you’ll have higher out-of-pocket costs. It’s important to keep these costs in mind and look for a suitable doctor in your new state, especially if you have existing health conditions.

Step 4: Factor in new expenses

Snowbirds often consider the benefits of relocating, but they spell out the costs of having residences in both locations. For example, you may realize that you’re taking on another mortgage and additional property taxes in Florida, but did you realize that you’ll have to run the AC year-round to avoid mold (even when you’re not there)?

Did you think about the fact that you’ll have to pay someone to shovel your snow in Chicago even when you’re snowbirding in Scottsdale? Probably not. Plus, what about that family that you want to come to visit? Are you thinking about any expenses you may be paying for them?

Don’t underestimate how much it can cost to do this. While it may still make sense to do it, you want to make sure you have the funds stashed away before you get in too deep!

Step 5: Prepare your northern home for your absence

If you’re currently living in a single-family home, make sure that you properly prepare it for your absence. Here are some tips:

  • Leave the heat high enough and turn off the water to prevent freezing pipes
  • Consider hiring a snow-removal company to maintain the property (unless you have family or neighbors who will diligently do it on your behalf)
  • Make sure your bills reach you
    • Forward your mail, pay online, or pay in advance
  • Install solar-powered exterior lights
  • Ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to keep an eye on the property

Note: No additional insurance coverage is necessary when you leave your primary residence for an extended period, so what you have should cover you!

Final thoughts

Are you over the winter weather that invades your home for 5 to 6 months of the year? Is the only thing that’s keeping you from moving is your community — your grandkids, neighbors, or friends? You’re not alone!

Countless retirees are moving South for the winter months because they love the warm weather and want to live a more relaxed lifestyle. Say goodbye to shoveling snow and hello to walking on the beach! Follow the above tips for a way to manage medical costs and other expenses as you live your best life!