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How To Be a Snowbird Without Breaking the Bank

If you’ve ever found yourself amid a frigid winter storm daydreaming of life on a sunny beach, the snowbird lifestyle may be for you. A snowbird refers to someone who, during the colder months of the year, moves to a location with a warmer climate, then moves back to their original location during the warmer months. This way, the temperature is just right year-round.

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The snowbird lifestyle is highly sought after by those in or nearing retirement and those with remote employment who enjoy traveling. Yet, contrary to popular belief, the snowbird lifestyle does not have to be unreasonably expensive or over-the-top luxurious. Having a migrant lifestyle can easily be obtained on a budget if you keep a few simple considerations in mind.

Learn about snowbirds and how Medicare coverage can be specific to you.

Invest in a Timeshare

Investing in a timeshare is a great way to jumpstart your snowbird lifestyle. A timeshare is a great way to maintain a residence in multiple locations without having to worry about year-round maintenance and upkeep. A timeshare is a type of financial investment that allows you to own a portion of a vacation home or resort, guaranteeing a specific amount of time throughout the year for you to use the facilities.

When you initially invest in a timeshare, you are responsible for paying a lump sum upfront. Then you’ll continue to pay annual maintenance fees for the lifetime of the contract, which is typically a life-term for the investor. By paying these fees, you are given a specified amount of time each year to use your timeshare facility.

Before purchasing a timeshare, it is important to look into the long-term costs and evaluate if these costs work for your budget, especially after retirement. For many, retirement means you’ll be living on a fixed income. Thus, it is essential to closely evaluate the cost of your timeshare to ensure it won’t break the bank in your golden years.

Florida is a favorite among retirees hoping to endeavor in the snowbird lifestyle. On average, the lifetime cost of a timeshare purchased at retirement can range anywhere from $60,000-$70,000. This average includes a start-up fee of nearly $25,000 and includes a $1,000 annual fee for an average term of 30 years. When calculating the average cost, it takes nearly 13 years before you begin seeing a return on your investment.

Advantages of a Timeshare

For many, the perks of a timeshare make the investment worth the costs. When you invest in a timeshare, you are guaranteeing yourself a vacation spot for a specific amount of time each year. This takes the hassle out of researching a new area and choosing a hotel. Additionally, most timeshares offer a points system to allow you to borrow or trade points on years when you wish to explore a new location. This allows you to not be stuck in the same place year after year.

Disadvantages of a Timeshare

While timeshares may look like a great investment on paper, if they go unused, the investment can be a waste. You should be willing to have several years of negative growth with this investment before you begin to see a return. Additionally, if you are looking to explore new sites and travel outside of your home location, you may see higher costs on top of your initial investment and annual fees.

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Look Into Long-term Rentals

If you are interested in becoming a snowbird but aren’t sure if the lifestyle is really for you, looking into long-term rentals may be the right option for you. Unlike a timeshare, rentals are a short-term investment that can range anywhere from 3-12 months on average.

Renting has become a mainstream lifestyle for many, and the market for renters and rental properties has only expanded. Finding a long-term rental in warmer states like Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas can easily be done with the help of an experienced realtor, subletting, or even through the internet using sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and Apartments.com.

Regardless of how you find your rental, you’ll need to budget for the additional costs during the winter months. Remember, you may still have to take care of costs at your permanent residence in addition to your monthly rent at your snowbird residence.

Invest in an RV

Being a snowbird doesn’t mean you have to end up in the same location each year. If you prefer to travel and move around more often, investing in an RV may be the right route for you. Traveling the country in an RV can ensure that you are always located in the right climate during the cold winter months and may not require a second residence if you wish to live in your RV full-time, as many do.

If you decide to embrace the RV lifestyle, the first step is finding the perfect RV for your needs. RVs tend to be pricy, so you may have to consider looking at options with fewer features that may fit your budget rather than high-end Class A models that can cost upwards of $100,000.

Investing in an RV is a great way to promote travel, a healthy lifestyle, a and healthy mental state during retirement. RVs allow you to be as mobile or stable as you wish, depending on the time of year and how long you wish to stay in one place.

What to Look for in an RV as a Senior

If the nomad lifestyle is in your future, you’ll want to be sure you understand the type of RV you wish to acquire. At the top of the list is your budget. You’ll want to be sure to purchase an RV that will allow you to still be able to afford the additional costs like fuel and maintenance that comes with owning an RV.

You’ll also want to be sure the RV you purchase is spacious enough for you to live in comfortably but not too large to maintain. Retirement should be comfortable, so finding your balance is key.

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Check out Senior Communities in the Area

Senior communities typically offer housing and recreation for those 55 years of age and older. These communities can be a great option for seniors as they offer a supportive and social environment that can improve their quality of life.

These communities provide a range of services and amenities, such as meal preparation, housekeeping, transportation, and medical care, which can help seniors maintain their independence and enjoy their retirement years.  Often snowbirds will use a senior community as a second address and declare dual residency in the state. Additionally, retirement communities often have a wide range of social activities and events, such as fitness classes, movie nights, and social clubs, which can help seniors stay engaged and connected with others.

This can be especially important for those who may be living alone or have limited access to social opportunities. Furthermore, retirement communities often provide a sense of security and peace of mind, as they have staff available 24/7 to respond to emergencies and aid when needed.

Overall, retirement communities can be an excellent choice for seniors looking for a supportive and enjoyable living environment. Plus, if you find the right community, you may be able to live there for short periods of time rather than have a year-round commitment.

Be Cautious About Aspirational Buying

When becoming a snowbird, one thing to keep at the forefront of your mind is that downsizing is ok and often necessary to live comfortably in two places. Downsizing your budget for a second residence is often the case for many who are jumping into the snowbird lifestyle. When searching for your snowbird residence, you’ll want to be sure you are investing in a property that you can maintain with ease throughout your retirement. For most, this means a smaller home with less square footage.

In addition to finances, one of the most important aspects of becoming a snowbird is to ensure you have adequate healthcare insurance that will cover you regardless of where you are residing in the U.S. at any particular time. After retirement, Americans typically enter the federal Medicare program to oversee their healthcare. When you enroll in Medicare, you will be presented with several healthcare plans to choose from. It is especially important to enroll in a plan that will provide you with the same benefits regardless of your location.

The two plan types to choose from for supplemental coverage are Medicare Supplement plans, and Medicare Advantage plans. A Medicare Advantage plan becomes your primary insurance coverage and typically requires a network of physicians whom you much choose from when receiving care. These plans are usually limited to your ZIP code and do not allow coverage outside of your network. If your plan does allow coverage outside of your network, you are typically responsible for a much higher out-of-pocket cost than if you were to use a physician inside of your network.

Medicare Supplement plans, on the other hand, allow you to travel with your coverage without paying any additional out-of-pocket fees. These plans have no network restrictions, meaning you can see any doctor nationwide and pay the same as you would a doctor in your area.

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Medicare Supplement plans are the top choice for those living a migrant lifestyle after retirement solely for their convenience and extensive level of healthcare coverage. Yet, regardless of which option you choose, you’ll want to be sure that your plan meets your own expectations and needs.

As a snowbird, you’ll have several decisions to make, don’t let your healthcare fall through the cracks.

Kayla Hopkins

Kayla Hopkins

Content Editor
Kayla Hopkins is an accomplished writer and Medicare guru serving as the Editor of MedicareFAQ.com. Upon completing her Communications degree from Ohio University, Kayla dedicated her time to understanding the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare. With her extensive background as a Licensed Insurance Agent, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her writing.
Ashlee Zareczny

Ashlee Zareczny

Compliance Manager
Ashlee Zareczny is the Compliance Manager for MedicareFAQ. As a licensed Medicare agent in all 50 states, she is dedicated to educating those eligible for Medicare by providing the necessary resources and tools. Additionally, Ashlee trains new and tenured Medicare agents on CMS compliance guidelines. Ashlee is a Medicare expert who specializes in Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Part D education.

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