A few Novembers ago, I was on my way to a business meeting in Fort Lauderdale. While waiting for my flight out of Westchester Airport in NY, I noticed that just about everyone in the waiting area was over 65. I wondered if I had inadvertently booked myself on some senior charter flight. I walked over to one of the ground agents and asked if my flight was part of some AARP group booking. The agent looked puzzled and asked why I thought that. "It seems" I said, "that everyone on my flight is quite old." He laughed. "Why you're just flying down south with the Snowbirds!" Huh? What's a.... Snowbird?
For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, a Snowbird is not some sort of winter pigeon. A Snowbird is the charming (or not so charming, depending on your vantage point) name given to those typically older/retired people who live in two places and follow the warm weather. I'm not sure if the "snow" portion of the name refers to the fact that Snowbirds are escaping the snow or if it's because many of then have white hair. Or maybe it's both. The Snowbird Lifestyle, living in two places, has been around for a few generations. As most of us get older, colder weather becomes not only less appealing but if you live where there is ice and snow it can become a real health hazard.
On our retirement planning website, GangsAway, we provide tools and info on planning where one might set up shop/live in the next phase of their lives. The notion of living in two places is definitely an option. At first blush one might think two homes would be economically impossible but as with anything, there is more than one way to peel a grape. (I don't know if there is really more than one way to peel a grape but I like the sound of it and you get what I mean.) If you've got a little equity/savings and are willing to move to smaller digs or maybe even make one of your homes an inexpensive rental it could be a great life. Or if you own a house now, you might be able to sell it and buy two small condos. Basically you have a pie and the way you choose to carve it up is up to you. One of my friends' mothers owns a small home in NY State and used the rest of her money to buy a small home in Puerto Rico with a few girlfriends. The friends use the PR house for their own long term winter vacationing. They also rent it out when they aren't there making the second home an income producer as well. Like I said, there is more than one way to peel a grape.
Maybe this dual location lifestyle could work for you. Let's make some assumptions using some median/average numbers. According to the US Census, the average American home is worth something in the neighborhood of $300K. Some people may own homes worth a lot more while others may own homes worth less or be renting. For our purposes today, let's go with the average. Let's also assume that you have paid off your mortgage and can sell your home for $300K.
Using some of the data on our site, we've come up with some locations that might just work for you if you think you might want to join the ranks of the Snowbirds.
If you are from the Northeast you might consider a condo/coop in New Rochelle, NY which is only about 30 minutes by train from NYC, 15 minutes to the Westchester airport and has a diverse and growing downtown as well as several colleges. There you can find a nice coop for under $200K. Combine that with Boynton Beach, FL, where you could find a spacious condo fairly close to the beach for $100K. So for the same equity in your home, now you can follow the the nicest weather. Of course there are other expenses to consider like double property taxes and other fixed bills but you get the general idea. Also, maybe the second home isn't owned, maybe it's rented. These days you can get pretty inexpensive rentals in many towns in Florida too.
Here is our pick list of some warm weather and cost efficient communities that might be a great place for you to divide your time.
NM: Las Cruces