Boggs: Snowbirds: plan your finances before your escape

Boggs: Snowbirds: plan your finances before your escape

Canadian snowbirds are taking off for the warmth of the sunny southern United States and other popular vacation destinations.

While away, the last thing you want to worry about is money and your investments. Some good planning can ensure you have your financial house in order before leaving and enjoy a stress-free vacation.

Critical things to think about before you go are access to cash, your investments and preparations in the event of an emergency or catastrophe. These are essentials.

Before you leave take an inventory of bills that must be paid while you’re gone such as credit cards, loans, income and property taxes, subscriptions and membership dues. Make sure you can pay them while you’re outside the country, have someone do it for you, or arrange for them to be paid through preauthorized payment or automatic withdrawal from your account. Internet banking is a great way to keep track of expenses and bill payments.

One of the big stresses of being abroad is fluctuations in currency.

“Having U.S. money in a U.S. account eliminates stress in the ups and downs of currency and exchange rates — one of the biggest concerns that many travellers have,” says Rodney Adams, a financial adviser with Edward Jones in Edmonton.

“You may also want to get a U.S. credit card on your U.S. account, again to avoid exchange charges that you can incur if using a credit card on your Canadian account.”

Before heading off, it’s a good idea to identify the most convenient ATM locations near where you’re staying so you will be able to withdraw funds from your U.S.-based account.

With so much volatility in financial markets these days, keeping in touch with your investments also is very important.

It’s probably a good idea to meet with your financial adviser before you leave home to make sure your portfolio is in good shape and to make arrangements for investments that mature while you’re away such as Guaranteed Investment Certificates, term deposits and bonds.

Make sure your adviser knows how and where to reach you while you’re away and vice versa.

How much time you want to spend checking in on your investments likely will depend on what type of investor you are and the type of investments you have.

“If you’re a conservative, long-term investor with a diversified portfolio you probably will not need to make a lot of changes while away,” says Adams. “Most of the calls we get are from people who basically want an update about what is happening. If your portfolio is based on your long-term goals chances are those won’t change in three or four months and it should be pretty much maintenance free.”

Adams recommends snowbirds consult with an insurance specialist to get the travel and medical plans that are right for them.

“As you age it gets more challenging to get insurance,” says Adams. “Make sure you understand the costs, what you do and don’t qualify for. We have seen people stop going strictly because of the cost of insurance.”

There are legal and estate issues to cover as well.

Your powers of attorney should be up to date in the event that something happens to prevent you from managing your affairs. Have a current will in place and let someone know where your legal documents are kept.

You also should be very aware about how long you stayed in the U.S. Canadians are permitted to spend 183 days in the U.S. over a 12 month period, not just in a calendar year.

If you exceed that limit the government considers you a U.S. citizen and you could become eligible to pay U.S. tax. The U.S. has been cracking down and enforcing this rule, which has caused some Canadian travellers some problems.

“I have yet to meet many people who really understand how this works, but as a rule of thumb if you spend four months away you should be safe,” Adams says.

Talbot Boggs is a Toronto-based business communications professional who has worked with national news organizations, magazines and corporations in the finance, retail, manufacturing and other industrial sectors.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

A passenger places a tag on luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and familial connections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

WASHINGTON — The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian… Continue reading

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of… Continue reading

Radio and television personality Dick Smyth is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro of news radio commentary, dies at 86

TORONTO — Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

Most Read