Winter is (just about) officially here – but you may soon be leaving it behind if you’re a snowbird. When you go, though, you’ll want to keep your financial situation from getting caught out in the cold. These are a few suggestions you may want to consider:
Protect your home. If you’re like many people, your home is your biggest investment, so you’ll want to protect it while you’re away. You’re probably already familiar with the steps you should take, such as informing your neighbors that you’ll be gone, stopping your newspapers, forwarding your mail, using a timer to turn lights on and off, and so on. And these days, with smartphones and advanced security systems, you can look in on your home whenever you like.
Notify your bank. Recognizing the prevalence of identity theft, the fraud departments of many banks are getting more aggressive in spotting and denying unusual charges. Consequently, you’ll want to give your bank your temporary address and contact information before you leave. By doing so, you can reduce the risk of your account being frozen temporarily if your financial institution can’t reach you with questions about charges from an unexpected location. You might also find it useful to open a bank account at your snowbird site.
Gather your tax forms. If you’re gone most of the winter, you may bump up against the tax-filing deadline, which, in 2018, is April 17. So, to allow yourself enough time to prepare your taxes, or to have them prepared by a professional, gather your tax information before you leave. Make sure you’ve got all your investment-related forms, such as your 1099-INT (for interest income) and your 1099-DIV (for taxable capital gains and dividends).
Track your investments. You can probably track the progress of your investments online, and it’s a good idea to do so, just as you would at your permanent residence. Even if you’re only gone a couple of months, you may need to make some investment moves, such as “maxing out” on your IRA, so stay on top of your accounts and contact your investment professional, as needed. As always, though, don’t overreact to sudden market swings – ideally, you’ve got long-term strategies in place that can serve your needs in most investment environments. In any case, it also wouldn’t hurt to notify your financial professional that you’ll be away for a while, even if you typically only see him or her a couple of times a year.
Arrange for bill payments. If you handle most of your bills online or through auto-pay, you won’t have to worry about missing a payment while you’re gone. Still, if you take care of some bills the old-fashioned way, with checks, envelopes and stamps, you may want to give yourself some sort of reminder of when these payments are due.
Be careful on social media. To be on the safe side, you may not want to trumpet your extended time away from home on Facebook or other social media platforms. It’s sad but true that identity thieves watch for information like this. In all likelihood, you’ll enjoy being a snowbird – and by making the above moves, you’ll have less financial baggage to deal with when you take off.