Find Us On:


The Unofficial Field Guide to the American Snowbird


Yearning for warmer winters? Think about what it'd mean to leave your nest – temporarily – and establish a new one.

February 20, 2018
A different breed than the common American Retiree, Snowbirds head south for months at a time, often in pairs, chasing an endless summer in places like California, Texas, Arizona and Florida or further afield in Mexico, the Caribbean islands and South America.

About 17% of American Retirees wait until they turn 65 to relocate to a different state or region. Many seek warmth and adventure, while still maintaining ties with all that’s familiar in their hometowns. These seasonal visitors, known as Snowbirds, come in droves, boosting populations in warmer states by 10% to 12% in January and February. Most start off as migratory, but almost a quarter eventually became permanent residents of their winter homes.

If you’re hoping to join these travelers on their southern journey, you’ll want to put a lot of thought into what it really means to leave your nest – temporarily – and establish a new one.


Seasonal Migration

One study showed that by age 61, most people feel free enough to live wherever they want, without constraints from work, school or family responsibilities. It’s not surprising that many empty nesters take the opportunity to move to a new habitat, at least part time. But how do you narrow down the choices to find your dream locale?

We can start with the weather. Retirees report they’re happiest with the climates in the Mountain, South Atlantic and Pacific regions of the country. Not surprisingly, those not-yet-retired also want to move to those areas. Why not test a few places out before deciding? Take extended vacations to cities in regions that seem to match your preferred lifestyle. These trial visits can give you a true feel for the place.

Learn, too, about the tax rules in your prospective new home. Many of the states eyed by soon-to-be retirees offer no state income or estate taxes and favorable tax treatment on retirement income. Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Texas often top lists of tax-friendly places to retire, but each has its own rules and requirements for establishing residency or domiciles, in order to benefit.

Of course, as with all things tax-related, it can get complicated, particularly if you own property in multiple states. Visit, then talk to a knowledgeable accountant and estate attorney to get an idea of what you’re in for.


A Place to Perch

Once you find a location, it’s time to find a home. Start the search before you retire to give yourself enough time to ensure your chosen habitat is a good fit both personally and financially. There’s no need to rush into a commitment to a place that will sit empty for months at a time, so take your time and consider renting for one or two years before making a decision. You’ll be able to explore the area and closely examine for-sale opportunities, while relegating many of the maintenance responsibilities to someone else.

Consider, too, whether you want to upsize or downsize. There are benefits and drawbacks to both. If you do want to buy, try to do so a few years before you stop working. Getting a mortgage is much easier when you still have employment income coming in. Plus, you’ll need to decide if you really want to commit yourself to a mortgage at a time when you may not have steady income beyond your Social Security and required minimum distributions.


Feathering Your Nest

If Snowbirds have plumage, it comes from your choice of warm-weather clothing, accessories and home décor. But those aren’t the only costs.

There’s maintenance and homeowners or condo fees, utilities, travel costs, property taxes, insurance, out-of-network healthcare; you may even need to buy another car or rent one. And you’ll have to factor in travel expenses like gas and hotels on your route south, as well as flights to and from home.

Crunch the numbers with your accountant and financial advisor before you even think about flying south for the winter. If you need to, think about seasonal employment opportunities, too. Just be sure to maintain the appropriate requirements to work in your chosen state.


Before Taking Flight

At minimum, you’ll want to ask someone to watch your home, maintain the grounds and set appropriate temperature controls while you’re away. Here are a few other things to check off before heading south.

  • Winterize your home (e.g., store outside equipment; remove food and trash)
  • Consult your professional advisors to ensure your powers of attorney and estate planning documents, including your will, are valid in your new state
  • Consider a home protection service
  • Forward your mail
  • Create a secure digital or physical file with important tax, health, estate planning and insurance documents
  • Order necessary medicines
  • Make arrangements for your snowdogs and snowcats (i.e., your pets)
  • Turn off any unnecessary services (e.g., cable, subscriptions)
  • Take a video of all belongings in case of damage or theft
  • Ensure continuing healthcare coverage
  • Set up automatic bill pay
  • Register your vehicle in the other state


Birds of a Feather

Establishing a new life elsewhere doesn’t mean losing sight of your old one. With Skype, FaceTime and Facebook video, you can hear and see your loved ones anytime. Of course, you can always call or write to them, too. The same can be said of your professional advisors. They’re just a phone call away should you need to touch base on something.

While it’s important to keep in touch with your family and friends, it’s also crucial to make new connections wherever you may roam. To widen your circle in your new “home away from home,” take advantage of community events like cookouts, socials, dances and book clubs. Check out rec centers, libraries, places of worship and community associations. You’ll feel like a local soon enough. 

Sources:; U.S.News & World Report;;;; Tesar Law Group; CNBC;; National Association of Realtors,; Merrill Lynch; “Snowbirds, Sunbirds, and Stayers: Seasonal Migration of Elderly Adults in Florida,” Florida Weekly

Eight Estate Planning Essentials

Review eight of the different documents you may need to prepare for yourself and your family.

January 20, 2018

Estate planning is more than just creating a will. Here is a look at eight different documents you may need to prepare for yourself and your family. Talk to your advisor about navigating this process.

1. Last Will and Testament

A legal document used to distribute property to heirs, specify last wishes, name guardians for minors and identify who is responsible for managing the estate and implementing your wishes. Every adult needs one. If you don’t specify who will  take care of your children and who gets your possessions, the state will specify.

2. Durable Financial Powers of Attorney

A durable power of attorney gives someone you trust authority to handle your financial and legal decisions if you’re unable to do so yourself. Of course, the person selected needs to be someone who will represent your best interests.

3. Durable Medical Power of Attorney

You assign a healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney to make medical decisions for you when you are incapable to do so for some reason. This person will need relevant health information so be sure to include a HIPAA provision that gives your physicians permission to disclose your medical information.

4. Living Will and Medical Directives

A living will lets you specify what types of medical treatment you want to sustain your life, if you’re terminally ill or are in a vegetative state. Medical directives apply if you become incapacitated and are unable to communicate your wishes for treatment.

5. Revocable or Living Trust

In many states, a living trust can be used to distribute property a little more privately than a will. It also can help avoid a costly and stressful probate court process and may offer substantial tax benefits. Living trusts can also be used to transfer assets in an orderly, and private, manner. You can even stipulate provisions for the bequests, if you wish.

6. Beneficiary Forms

For insurance policies, retirement accounts and some other assets, the beneficiary form prevails over the will. So whomever you’ve named will receive those assets unless you update the form. It’s a good idea to keep current copies, as well.

7. Letters of Instruction

A way to share any wishes not covered by a will, such as preferences on your funeral, how to care for your pets or whether you want to donate your organs.

8. List of Contacts

A detailed list of people to contact in certain circumstances, including family, friends and the professionals who oversee your legal, financial, insurance and health matters. 

Raymond James financial advisors do not render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.

Ensuring Your Financial Plan Outlives You

Generate seamless life transitions by tailoring your plan to the needs of both you and your spouse.

January 18, 2018

Married life brings with it a divvying up of responsibility. In the past, husbands often oversaw investments and handled retirement and estate planning details. This is changing, however. And, considering women typically outlive their male counterparts, modern couples understand it’s essential for both individuals to be familiar with their family’s financial plan. It’s also important to keep in mind that the partner who assumes the lead financial role has a responsibility to ensure the financial plan can be maintained if and when one spouse passes away.

Strategic Coordination

Unfortunately, because discussing a loved one’s death is unpleasant, many couples put it off. That’s a mistake – one that invites problems by essentially assuring that the surviving spouse will have to make important decisions while they’re dealing with the stress of a major life loss. Making certain your financial plan survives you begins with talking about it, in detail, with your spouse.

This is particularly important because the person who handles financial matters may have a temperament that’s better suited to the task, meaning the surviving spouse can be left with a plan that seems complicated and difficult to follow. Since that spouse also will be dealing with grief, it’s easy for trouble to surface. And although the spouse who’s maintained the couple’s finances likely views their financial advisor as someone their partner can turn to when they’re gone, the other spouse may not view the relationship in the same light.

Avoiding this unfortunate outcome can be eased by recognizing that there are three parties in this equation, and that forming a good working relationship between you, your partner and your financial advisor is of the utmost importance. This relationship should include – at a minimum – an understanding of your investment strategy and portfolio holdings, what accounts are included, how assets are titled, and what needs to happen if one spouse dies. In this regard, it’s a lot simpler if your and your partner’s accounts are all under one roof.

Thoughtful Accommodation

Acknowledging that the surviving spouse may not want to handle financial matters in the same way is essential for the long-term success of your plan. For example, choosing specific stocks, bonds and other investments may be fine for a well-informed and experienced “do-it-yourself” investor. However, the surviving spouse may not have the time, experience or inclination to be a portfolio manager. If that’s the case, it may be wise to either modify the portfolio ahead of time or identify investment alternatives that may be more suitable for the surviving spouse. Creating an investment policy statement – a document that discusses important subjects such as the annual withdrawal rate your portfolio can support – can also help to guide the less-involved spouse when the time comes.*

Thorough Preparation

A well-structured financial plan will also include appropriate cash reserves, which will prove especially important for the surviving spouse. Having immediately available cash gives the survivor time to adjust without needing to make major financial decisions. Try to set aside a year’s worth of living expenses – more, if you can manage it – in highly liquid accounts such as CDs, money markets, and checking and savings accounts. Though yields in these kinds of accounts are minimal, that’s not the major consideration here. You want to buy time for the survivor. Life insurance is essential and can help, but there’s no substitute for immediately available cash.

To be fully prepared, it’s also important that you and your spouse both understand whatever recordkeeping system has been used and have easy and immediate access to those files. Be aware that your way of approaching financial recordkeeping may not make sense to your spouse, and try to bridge any gap that exists. It’s useful to have a master directory that covers every relevant account, asset and obligation. This might include bank and brokerage accounts, corporate retirement plans, IRAs, life insurance policies, real estate and other assets such as coins, art and collectibles; partnership agreements if one or both spouses have their own businesses; and any other items that have a bearing on your long-term financial objectives. This directory should include account names and numbers, contact people and their phone numbers, URLs and passwords – anything necessary to access and manage the accounts. Obviously, you don’t want this falling into the wrong hands, so be sure it’s stored safely and that there’s a backup copy in a separate location. Remember to update both directories as time goes by and your situation evolves.

Although details matter a lot here, what’s most important is ensuring that all your hard work and careful planning aren’t damaged or even undone by failing to consider that the responsibility for carrying out your shared goals may shift from one spouse to another late in life. If that reality is acknowledged, discussed and approached as partners, it can serve as a way for you and your spouse to grow closer. 

*Withdrawals from your account which exceed returns will reduce your principal.

Done Deal: Tax Bill Takes Effect

View here

Your Medicare card

When you’re enrolled in Medicare, you’ll get your red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail. If you're automatically enrolled, you'll get your red, white, and blue Medicare card in the mail 3 months before your 65th birthday or your 25th month of getting disability benefits. Your Medicare card shows that you have Medicare health insurance. It shows whether you have Part A (Hospital Insurance), Part B (Medical Insurance) or both, and it shows the date your coverage starts.

Be sure to carry your card with you when you’re away from home. Let your doctor, hospital, or other health care provider see your card when you need hospital, medical or other health services.

Medicare card

For more information, click on this link.....

Material prepared by Raymond James for use by its advisors.