What’s the first thing you should do if you’re planning to go south this winter? Nope, it’s not packing your sunscreen (although that is a good idea). Nope, it’s not changing the oil in your RV (although that’s a good idea, too). Here’s the first rule to a fun and stress-free winter sojourn: Get your financial plan in order so you won’t break the bank while you’re taking a sunny break. Navigate this checklist before you turn on the GPS and hit the road.

Insure a healthy financial future Provincial health insurance plans will seldom cover all U.S. health care costs. Avoid financial stress by purchasing out-of-country medical insurance before leaving Canada – and make sure your coverage is adequate. Remember to find out how long you can stay out of the province without jeopardizing your provincial health coverage as all provinces are different.

Be strong-willed Update your will and Power of Attorney before you leave – that’s even more important if you own a U.S. property. Death in a foreign country can complicate estate issues. Be sure your relatives or executor know where to find your will and use a Power of Attorney to appoint a trusted person to manage your Canadian-based finances while you’re away. You may want a lawyer in the foreign country to review your will to ensure ease of transfer on death.

Be tax practical The United States (and some other countries) require you to file tax forms if you spend more than six months there, including average time over the past three years. If you’ll be away at the end of April, have someone back home file your Canadian tax return and make any required quarterly tax payments on your behalf.

Snooze and you lose – financially, that is Arrange to have every aspect of your financial life actively managed while you’re away. You can do some of it yourself via computer but managing your portfolio of mutual funds and securities and other complexities of your financial life from thousands of miles away is a real challenge that can cost you real money in missed growth opportunities. Opt instead for a trusted ‘home-based’ financial manager.

Pay up before heading out Before you leave, pay outstanding bills and make arrangements to pay those that will arrive while you’re enjoying the sun – perhaps through Internet banking. An ATM card for ready cash is a good idea – and so is having a duplicate card in case you lose the original or it stops working.

Well, snowbirder, that’s a lot to think about – and do – before you leave. Simplify your planning and ensure your financial foundation will be there when you return by talking to your professional advisor before you pack your sunscreen (but do that, too, of course).

This column, written and published by Investors Group Financial Services Inc. (in Québec – a Financial Services Firm), and Investors Group Securities Inc. (in Québec, a firm in Financial Planning) presents general information only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any investments. Contact your own advisor for specific advice about your circumstances. For more information on this topic please contact your Investors Group Consultant.

CFP, CPCA, Senior Financial Consultant

Ph: 250-315-0241

Fax: 250-315-0251