Now that holidays are over, the lucky ones among us will soon be headed to their winter homes. If you're one of these "snowbirds," consider yourself fortunate. But before you go, you need to take care of a few things, apart from packing your golf clubs and sunscreen. Specifically, you'll want to ensure that your financial situation is in good shape while you're gone.
Here are a few tips for helping you do just that:
• Open a checking account. Trying to pay for something with an out-of-town check is difficult. So, even if you don't plan on writing many checks in your winter home, you might want to open a checking account. Keep in mind that many banks offer senior citizens discounted fees and a lower minimum balance.
• Make sure your bills are paid while you're gone. Just because you're out of town, your bills won't go on vacation. You may still have a mortgage, and you'll have utilities, investments and other regular expenses. If you haven't already set up bank authorizations to pay these bills automaticalIy, now is the time. It's easy to do, and it can save you a lot of hassles.
• Stay in touch with your investment professional. You'll need to let your investment professional know where you are at all times, just in case he or she must contact you immediateIy about your accounts.
• Stay informed. Even though you may feel as though you're on vacation when you're at your winter residence, the world keeps turning. That's why you need to read the papers, watch the news or take whatever other steps you normally do to stay informed. By staying on top of current events, you'll be in a better position to make investment decisions - both while you're a snowbird and when you return home.
• Keep track of any earned income. It's true: Some industrious snowbirds keep working while they're basking in the sun. If you do some consulting or other type of work while you're at your winter home, make sure you keep track of your income. As long as you maintain your primary residence, you'll most likely owe income taxes in your home state only, but it's still a good idea to keep close tabs on your "snowbird income" and consult with your tax adviser. Also, keep records of any business expenses you may incur during the winter. And make sure you know where this documentation is when it's time to do your taxes.
If you're not a big fan of winter, you're probably eagerly counting the days until you can assume your official "snowbird" status. And by taking the above common-sense steps while you're away, you'll maintain the progress and momentum you need to achieve your long-term financial goals - winter, spring, summer and fall.