Homeward Bound

Our last day at Hearthside Grove. The weather for the past two weeks has been incredible. Lots of sunshine and very warm temperatures.

The sense of community here has been far different than I imagined. Friendships formed quickly. Dinners, day trips, get togethers, and connecting with people as we walked around the resort.

Ken and Carol, Lou and Pam, Dave and Daphney, Moe and Cindy, Barry and Iris, Gary and Susan, Rita. These were a few of the many people we connected with during our time here.

Most of the people we have met are retired. Not surprising given that we are vacationing in mid-September. And all have been very successful in their careers. Such amazing life stories.

It has given us a glimpse into what our retirement will look like and we are very excited about beginning that part of our journey.

When we said good-bye to one of our new friends, she described Hearthside Grove as a paradise. And she is right. This has been such an amazing experience for us. We would certainly buy a lot but for the location. As Canadians, we need to winter south.

That said, many of our friends here at Hearthside also have lots in California at Desert Shores and at Motorcoach Country Club. That is where they winter.

We are planning to spend a few months down there at one, or perhaps both, of those resorts in the early part of 2019. I hope we will see many of our new friends again.

Residency Calculator

If you are a U.S. Citizen, well, the U.S. Residency Calculator won’t be of any use to you. Lorraine and I, on the other hand, will have to be very careful about the number of days we spend in the United States.

When we first started planning out our retirement, we assumed we could be Canadian Snowbirds by just crossing the border to the U.S. in November and coming back to Canada in April. Enjoy moderate weather for twelve months of the year. Striking off one of my bucket list objectives for retirement: to never be cold again.

Perfect, eh? (Sorry about the Canadian stereotype.)

It turns out to be far more complicated than staying less than six months in the U.S. in any given year.

The substantial presence test, to avoid being considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes and goodness knows we already pay a ton of taxes in Canada, includes two very important points:

  • Physically present in the U.S. for 31 days in the current year
  • A three-year total of 183 days which includes all the days spent in the current year, one-third of the days spent in the preceding year and one-sixth of the days spent in the year prior.

That means only 120 days south a year to avoid being considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes. That means leaving in November and returning to Canada at the end of February. That means missing out on my bucket list objective to never be cold again.

February is cold in Canada. Very, very cold.

The U.S. Residency Calculator is helpful to determine whether you have to be a bit more formal in terms of staying in the U.S.

A Canadian can get an exemption by filing a Form 8840 with the IRS. This allows a Canadian snowbird to stay in the U.S. for up to 182 days every year without being considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes. To qualify, you have to be in the U.S. for less than 183 days in the current year, demonstrate a home in Canada in the current year (owner or renter) and establish a closer connection to Canada than the U.S. The latter can be demonstrated in terms of where you bank, pay taxes, keep your belongings, where your drivers license was issued amongst other things.

The 8840 form can be found on the IRS website here. The form should be filed before June 15 in the year after your 182 day stay in the U.S. although the Canadian Snowbird Association recommends proactively completing and filing a new 8840 each year and maintaining copies to indicate that you are entering the U.S. as a temporary visitor from Canada.

If a snowbird loses track of time and exceeds 183 days or more, then it is possible to file an exemption under the Canada – U.S. Tax Treaty. Sounds like a really complex process though which would require lawyers and fees. Best to keep it within 182 days. At least for now.

The Canadian Retiree Visa bill, H.R. 979: Promoting Tourism to Enhance our Economy Act of 2017, could see Canadian retirees being able to spend 8 months in the U.S. (owning real estate will not be required to obtain the visa). The bill has yet to pass but if it does, we will be applying for that visa. That said, every province in Canada has residency requirements to maintain health care coverage. In Ontario, we have to be physically present in the province for at least 153 days in any 12-month period. Not sure who is counting those days but I was somewhat surprised to learn that regardless of where you pay your taxes, you are a bit of a prisoner in your own province within Canada.

Who knew travelling in retirement could be so complicated?

Home

It has been a couple of weeks since our house closed. The house is no longer our home. We are living downtown and loving it.

The biggest surprise for me? I do not miss the house.

Nobody needs to own a house to have a home.

The process of downsizing was humbling and emotionally draining.

I came across Jonathan Look’s blog, Life Part 2. He has a post on The Luxury of Little:

… like many people in the “developed world,” I had so many possessions that I couldn’t remember where my stuff was, or in many cases even remember that I had it. My junk drawers were expanding. I had “spare” cables, obsolete electronics, redundant tools, more sets of dishes and silverware than I had places for people to sit, and boxes of mementos that “one day” I would get around to going through and sorting.

Our situation was like that. Too many things. Way too many things. And, now that they have been sold, donated and tossed, I don’t seem to care about them.

Why did we fill our lives with so much stuff? Probably because we did not fill our lives with experiences that matter more.

Our transition into retirement is teaching me about many things. And one of the important lessons has been about possessions.

As Jonathan puts it:

… having a lot of “stuff” we don’t see or use doesn’t make us more secure. It drains our finances, limits our options, distracts our attention, diminishes our energies and most importantly, it wastes our time.

Downsized

Well, not quite as posed as this stock photo:

Similar result though. We are now officially downsized.

Wow. I do not ever want to go through that process again!

Over 38 years of marriage, we had gathered quite an impressive collection of stuff. Months of effort in terms of going through papers, books, furnishings, electronics and pretty much everything else that North American consumers tend to purchase for their homes.

At times, I was literally embarrassed by all of the stuff. At times, I felt liberated by shedding most of the stuff.

Moving from a 5,200 square foot home with almost 2,000 square feet of garages into a 1-bedroom condo — and ultimately into about 450 square feet in our coach — seemed impossible when we started. But we did it. Although with a bit of stuff being held in a storage unit.

Our house closed around noon today.

Still a bit longer before we head out on the road. But for now, we will hang out in a wonderful space in the downtown core.

Downsizing

This, apparently, is what downsizing looks like. An older couple with a few boxes and a plant. I found the photo online here.

Downsizing is an incredible amount of work. I fully appreciate why some people decide not to move. It really is a lot of effort.

Our house is empty now, for the most part. Still a fair amount of stuff to work through yet before we close the doors for the last time at the end of June.

I have found that downsizing can be a very stressful and emotional exercise.

The toughest room for me to deal with was my recording studio.

Last week it looked like this:

And now?

Sold.

Waiting for the new owner to come and pick it up. Like most of the other stuff in our house.

I’ve told Lorraine that I am very excited about what happens next. And I am trying to manage my emotions as we go through the process of getting ready to go out on the road and experience new adventures.

The time between now and then? Well, let’s just say that I will be happy when it is all behind us.

Maybe like the couple in the photo above. That part of the job looks finished for them.