The Appeal of Becoming a Snowbird

The Appeal of Becoming a Snowbird

 

Whether you live near us in the Pacific Northwest and endure month after month of gray skies and cold rain or elsewhere in the US and grow weary of snow and slush during winter, you may want to explore the idea of becoming a snowbird! Snowbirds are people who migrate to warmer areas during colder seasons in their hometowns, ideally for the entire winter season.

Once a term associated with retired, older adults who really feel the sting of a brisk winter, these days the life of a snowbird can be just as appealing to younger people, especially those with flexible career options.

 

How to Become a Snowbird This Winter

Does the term snowbird sound appealing? Have you ever considered heading south to warmer landscapes for the winter? Here are some considerations and steps to keep in mind before taking the plunge!

 

1.   Choose a Place That Suits Your Lifestyle

Do you like to golf in your downtime? Boca Raton might just be the ticket, then. Or maybe you prefer lounging on the beach—somewhere like Hawaii might suit you better.

Before deciding to migrate for the winter, you need to know what will make your winter comfortable and enjoyable. Arizona might not be for you if you don’t like dry heat. Take into account your social preferences, the activities you enjoy, and what kind of climate and humidity you prefer. Also consider if you prefer a bustling environment or someplace quieter and more low key. A care-free condo may be just the ticket, or you may prefer a secluded beach bungalow. There are plenty of options, so have fun doing your research!

 

2.   Don’t Overcommit

Putting all those snowbird eggs in one basket won’t get you very far. It’s best to have a trial period before you commit to the snowbird lifestyle or a migration spot.

Look for properties you can rent for two or three months to get a feel for the place before purchasing a property. You might end up migrating to several different areas before you make your final decision. The beauty is, the decision’s all yours!

 

3.   Establish Remote Management for Your Bills

You need to be able to manage your energy bills at home while you’re away—you can’t simply leave the mail unattended. So, before you embark on the snowbird journey, ensure you can receive your energy bills in email format. It would help if you did this for any other accounts you might owe during the winter.

 

4.   Protect Your Home

One of the drawbacks of the snowbird lifestyle is anxiety. The home you leave behind will be completely unattended and vulnerable to damage. To put your mind at ease, consider investing in a home surveillance system, comprehensive insurance coverage, and a trusted attorney. Or perhaps to arrange for a friend, neighbor, or family member to check in on your property periodically. In some areas, like California, lawyers are not allowed to represent you in small claims court, so it is best to research the local laws to protect your home.

 

5.   Pet Passports

Old Rover shouldn’t stop you from enjoying winters in the sun. Many pet owners find it too difficult to leave their pets behind for long trips, so you should get your pet passports sorted and find pet-friendly airlines to ensure you and your furry friend have a pleasant flight. If you drive to your sunny destination, don’t forget to bring along some familiar-scented items from home to reduce pet anxiety along the way.

 

6.   Expand Your Network

Though FaceTime can keep you connected to your loved ones during the winter, you’ll need more than that to keep you occupied. Check out social opportunities where you’re going; perhaps there is a community center with classes and activities, a local gym, fitness trails, or an art center. There are many apps like Meetup that can help you to connect with new people as well.

 

7.   Be Careful About Offering Open Invitations

Your loved ones may be envious of your winter staycation, and extending an open invitation is tempting. If you have too many visitors, this can draw from your relaxation time. You may find yourself spending too much time cooking, cleaning, and accommodating guests. To keep things relaxing, keep the visitors at a minimum. Alternatively, consider arranging for a few specific times when family or friends can gather collectively during the holidays or special occasions rather than opening your sunny spot to visitors every weekend.

 

8.   Contact a Financial Advisor to Make a Plan

At Merriman, we get tremendous joy out of helping you determine a realistic pathway to your dreams. So if you’re thinking of heading south for the winter to a second home or rental property where you can soak up the sun and relax (or work your job remotely) during the winter months, let’s chat about making it a reality for your family. We believe in enabling you to LIVE FULLY, and it’s never too soon to begin!

 

 

Disclosure: All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source.  Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such.

Making Your Dream of Long-term Travel a Reality

Making Your Dream of Long-term Travel a Reality

 

When I was a kid, my parents took us on a five-week trip to Europe and it completely changed my view of the world and traveling. Up until then, I had thought that people didn’t travel before retirement or didn’t travel with kids because they couldn’t walk away from their everyday activities and responsibilities. That experience helped me see that it is possible to get out there and go on your dream vacation before age 65 with some intentional planning.

 

Now, I love having the chance to help others plan and encourage them to travel and take their dream vacations. It’s so rewarding to watch others live out their dreams of bike touring the Pacific Coast from Canada to Mexico, traveling the country in their Tofino van, and backpacking through Europe after missing the chance to do so in college.

 

With fall in full swing, many families are finding their kids back at school, and some families are experiencing an empty nest for the first time in 18 years or more. If that’s the moment you’ve been waiting for to finally take that trip you’ve been dreaming about, there might still be some items you’re unsure of or haven’t yet thought about.

 

Let’s say your job offers an unpaid sabbatical, but you’re not sure if taking a few months off is going to push back your retirement timeline substantially. You know you need to make your travel plans and determine your trip route, but you’re not sure what else you need to consider.

 

As financial advisors, we help provide clarity around these unknowns. We can certainly answer your questions about how your trip might impact your retirement timeline so you’re comfortable making the decision to take time away now that you finally can! In helping answer what else you should be keeping in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some important planning items for long-term trips:

 

Financials. Consider setting all your bills to autopay if you haven’t already done so. You can also set up automatic transfers for any bank or retirement accounts that you add funds to on a regular basis. Be sure to notify your financial advisor that you’ll be gone, especially if you might be unreachable for some period of time. It’s also important to notify your bank if you’re traveling so that they don’t flag your purchases as fraudulent and deny your purchases in other countries or states.

 

Documents. Organize your important documents and know where they are in case you need to direct someone to access them. Consider making copies of your passports, medical cards, and other documents you may need to access while traveling in case you misplace any actual documents. If you don’t already have Wills, Powers of Attorney, or Health Care Directives in place, we’d highly recommend creating those estate planning documents in case something happens while you’re traveling.

 

Home. Consider having someone check on your home while you’re away. You can leave them instructions for caring for your home such as watering the plants, checking that appliances are working properly, and starting up your sedentary cars every so often. Consider setting up automatic timers for lights in your home and an alarm system for security purposes if someone won’t be at your home regularly while you’re away. You can have your mail forwarded or held by the post office while you’re away as well if that’s needed. Also consider turning on auto-replies for email and tailoring your voicemail to let others know if your usual response timing may change.

 

Pets. If you have pets and aren’t planning on taking them with you, you’ll need to find someone to care for them while you’re away. Whether that’s family, a pet sitter through a platform like Rover, or a boarding company, it’s great to leave them with detailed instructions about your pet’s food, routine, and behavior.

 

Health Care. Not all medical insurance plans offer coverage outside of your home state or country. If your coverage doesn’t extend to where you’re traveling, consider putting travel medical insurance in place in case something happens. If you have any regular prescription medications, you’ll also need to work with your pharmacist to be sure you have a plan for refilling your prescriptions.

 

Travel Insurance. Travel insurance can help provide emergency medical coverage as well as coverage for cancelations, delays, and/or accidents while you’re traveling. Consider working with an agent to determine what the right coverage is for your travel plans.

 

Contingency Plan. In case something goes awry, it’s important to have a contingency plan in place. Be sure you have an emergency contact back home and have equipped them properly for anything that could come up while you’re away. For example, be sure they know who’s watching your pets or caring for your home. Consider creating a “just-in-case” bag with additional items you might need sent to you should plans change.

 

 

Conversations about planning for dream vacations is one of the best parts of my job. I’m grateful to be able to work with people to help uncover their dreams and figure out a plan to make them happen now—not only in retirement. If you’ve got ideas about what’s important for you and your future, let’s connect! I’d love to help you get there!

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source.  Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such.

Employee Spotlight | Washington Trail Association Volunteering

Employee Spotlight | Washington Trail Association Volunteering

 

At Merriman we love giving back to our communities, whether that be in charitable donation matching dollars or using our individual allotment of volunteer hours. And in some instances, it also allows a group of us to enjoy a volunteer experience together.

In a recent review meeting, Wealth Advisor Mike Ersser, learned that a client of ours volunteers with the Washington Trail Association (WTA). Discussing their mutual enjoyment of spending time outdoors here in the Pacific Northwest prompted an idea – why don’t I organize a Merriman group to volunteer! 

A large part of our team enjoys spending time in our gorgeous parks and trails in the area and what sometimes gets forgotten is the need for trail maintenance and support. So, a workgroup was created, and they hit the trails last week at Sharpe Park in Anacortes, Washington.

They had a fun and active day starting a rock turnpike, performing duff and trail clearing, and making some new friends and memories in their work party.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the Washington Trail Association, more information can be found here.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

 

After a difficult 2020, many looked toward the new year through an optimistic lens. 2021 kept us all on our toes, with the continued pandemic and new strains, along with a turbulent market and rising inflation to name a few things.


While we don’t yet know what 2022 will bring for the economy, for markets, or for our own lives, there are still some things we can control.

 

As we welcome in a new year with hopeful expectations, let’s take a moment to recommit to those factors within our control:

 

Planning for Our Future

As we reflect on continued challenges this year, many are wondering what they can do to set themselves and their loved ones up for financial success. From getting creative with financial literacy for your little ones, to avoiding common pitfalls at early and mid-career points, to preparing for retirement and taking care of future generations, we see and help with it all. While we can’t predict what the future will hold, we can help you plan, prepare, and hold your hand through the transitions of life.

 

Building Better Financial Behaviors

Too often investors focus on markets and the latest fads when they should focus on themselves, their hopes, goals, and dreams. When we see the media focus on a trend, like we did with NFTs, cryptocurrencies, and inflation this year, it’s an important reminder to not be swayed from your investment philosophy. With the right amount of guidance and discipline, diversification can be the key to long-lasting financial freedom. 

 

May you and your family enjoy the warmth this season has to offer and a new year filled with hope, love and success!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

The 5 Biggest Financial Planning Mistakes Made by Tech Professionals | Mistake #3

The 5 Biggest Financial Planning Mistakes Made by Tech Professionals | Mistake #3

 

I love working with the tech community. I started my career at Microsoft and have since been inspired by the creative and innovative minds of folks working at tech companies large and small. I also enjoy working with tech employees, because as a personal finance nerd, I get to help people navigate the plethora of benefits available that are often only available at tech companies. Between RSUs, ESPP, Non-Qualified or Incentive Stock Options, Mega Backdoor Roth 401(k)s, Deferred Compensation, Legal Services, and even Pet Insurance, it is the benefits equivalent of picking from a menu of a Michelin three-star-rated restaurant.

 

Through my own experience as a tech employee and my experiences now as an advisor working with tech professionals, I’ve identified some of the biggest financial planning mistakes that can hold the tech community back from achieving financial independence and success.

 

Mistake #3 – Burning Out

 

There has been a significant decline in Americans’ use of vacation time. Twenty years ago, the average American took almost three weeks of vacation per year. As of 2016, Americans average only about 16 days of vacation per year, almost a full week less. You might think that improvements in technology over this 20-year timeframe would allow us to be more productive and therefore take more time off. It seems that the curse of this increased productivity is a greater reluctance to disconnect from work and give ourselves the permission to unplug.

 

Taking more time off has a positive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. For those that need more convincing to submit a PTO request, research has found that those who take vacations are more likely to get promoted than those who underutilize their available time off. Taking steps to prevent burnout can not only lengthen your career and make it more sustainable, but it can also get you an increase in title and a pay increase. If that isn’t a compelling argument for taking a vacation, then I don’t know what is. At Merriman, we want to help you achieve your definition of living fully, whether to you that means taking time off for an epic adventure or maybe you have a larger goal of making work optional. Whatever your goals, we’re here to help you!

 

Be sure to read our previous and upcoming blog posts for additional mistakes to avoid as a tech professional.

Disclosure: The material is presented solely for information purposes and has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be relied upon as such.

Wellness as a Financial Strategy

Wellness as a Financial Strategy

 

I work with clients to create plans for spending, saving, investment, taxes, insurance, estate, and all the other items that, if managed, can lead to financial security and peace of mind.  Often, after all the planning, I get the question: What else can I do to help my financial situation?  While a good plan can help mitigate the ups and downs of the markets and the economy, it still can lead many to feel like they have little control over their situation.  This question often stems from a sense of not feeling totally in control of your financial situation because of volatile markets, the economy—and recently, a global pandemic.

One area I have started to introduce to my clients as a financial strategy is to consider doing an evaluation and plan for their physical and mental health.  The estimated average healthcare costs for a couple in retirement is $285,000.  This figure can include Medicare supplement premiums, deductibles, drugs, co-pays, dental, vision, counseling, and other care services.  Over the past 30+ years as I have been working with clients, I have seen firsthand how these costs are becoming an increasing burden to retirees as inflation in the healthcare industry is very much outpacing increases in incomes.

For many, chronic conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and auto-immune diseases are a big burden physically, mentally, and financially.  My story was typical of a lot of people I see.  Busy family life, high pressure jobs, and the stresses of life slowly add up.  Late in my 40’s, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and started taking medication.  I thought I was in pretty good shape and didn’t give it much thought as my mom had high blood pressure all her adult life, and I thought it was hereditary.  As I got into my 50’s, my cholesterol and triglycerides started steadily increasing to unhealthy levels.  Like many, I ignored the slow decay of my physical and mental health.  Denial was strong.  I would get flashes of trying to stem the aging “tide” but would eventually fall back to poor exercise and eating habits.  There were always more important things to do than focusing on my health. Between feeling the aches and pains of nearing 60 years old and waking up to the knowledge of the effect my health would have on my retirement finances, I became acutely aware that I needed to seriously focus on my health.  My motivation of wanting to feel better physically and mentally was boosted by the fact that I wanted to use my retirement savings for better things than healthcare costs.

In late 2018, I got to work.  First, I did an inventory of my state of health.  To do this, I consulted with professionals, gathered tools and health data, and did a deep dive into educating myself about nutrition and mental wellness.  I also examined my consumption of food and alcohol, my utilization of exercise, and my stress levels and other facets of improving my emotional health.  Second, I set aside feelings of ego, guilt, and pride to create a realistic road map to improving my health.  One of the main things I learned right away is that there is no quick fix.  To reverse years of poor habits and choices, it takes a long period of time.  It definitely is a marathon and not a sprint, as to do it the right way involves lifestyle changes and not diets or boot camps.  

I’m eating less with mostly plant-based meals, exercising consistently, and addressing the stresses I face on many fronts.  It has been fabulous!  My energy levels are much higher, and I have a much more positive attitude about life in general.  For many years, I felt anxious about the state of my physical and mental health and that I couldn’t get the motivation to execute a good personal healthcare plan with consistency.  I’m glad the added boost of seeing improved health as a financial strategy has motivated me to create and execute the beginnings of a sound personal health plan.

We all live with the genetic lottery, and predicting our future health is difficult, but it would be ridiculous for me not to do everything in my power to live healthily and potentially not spend my hard-earned money on healthcare.  I encourage everyone to create and execute a health and wellness plan to feel great physically and mentally.  It also is a good financial strategy.