10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Fulltime RVing

Lorraine and I met quite a few couples at the RV SuperShow last week in Tampa, many of them looking to buy their first coach to hit the road full-time in retirement.

Our first coach is closing in on the four-year mark and we have been full-timing for almost two years now. Here are a few things I wish I had known before making the transition to full-time RVing.

Don’t buy a new coach. Buy a gently used coach.

There is a significant depreciation cost in the first few years of ownership, easily into the hundreds of thousands if you buy into a mid-level or higher model of diesel pusher. We have met a surprisingly large number of people that decide the lifestyle is not for them after only a short period of time, often less than a year, and they sell their lightly used coach at a steep discount. We should have purchased one of their coaches and avoided the steep depreciation expense.

Bigger is better.

We constantly fight with our basement bays. We have a 40-foot diesel pusher. The bays are not as tall as the larger coaches and the storage space is more limited. I am generally going in and out of the basement bays on a daily basis. The bays are difficult to access and I am constantly playing Tetris with the things that we carry in our bay. The extra 4 to 5 feet of length of a bigger coach may not seem like much, but it is significant.

Canada is not like the United States.

It is far more difficult to full-time in a motorcoach in Canada. The weather makes it challenging to find a decent spot to park the coach in the shoulder months (April and November). There isn’t a single Class A Motorcoach resort in Canada. Most RV parks fall into the rustic category, not much more than a dirt field.

The lifestyle is expensive.

We spend more on the RV lifestyle in our coach than we did in our sticks and bricks house. When we factor in all of the various costs (fuel, insurance, maintenance, site fees) it is more expensive than we first thought. We spend at a level that we can afford but it is not any cheaper than how we were living beforehand.

There is always something going wrong.

We knew that the RV lifestyle would bring its own set of challenges. What we did not fully appreciate is just how many things do go wrong with a coach. Most of our issues have fallen into the minor category but the ownership experience is quite different from that of owning a house or a car. You have to learn as much as you can about the various systems and you need to be mechanically inclined. Either that or be prepared to spend a lot of money on RV repairs.

Dealers are not great at servicing.

If we were to buy new again, we would not worry about where we bought the coach. We would bid the configuration out to a number of dealers, get the best price and ensure that we included the factory delivery option. We would take our coach to the factory and/or to the chassis manufacturer for service. We would only use dealer servicing as a last resort.

The RV community is amazing.

We were initially a bit concerned about community. Would we make new friends? Would we have a sense of feeling at home? Would we tire of moving around? So far it has been a wonderful experience. We have experienced tremendous community and we have connected with so many terrific people in our travels.

Minimalism is rewarding.

We have everything we need inside our coach. We do not miss the house or the pile of stuff that we had collected over the past 40 years of marriage. It is hard to describe, but there is something liberating about not carrying around so much stuff.

No need to rush.

If nothing else, I wish I had known to take my time before we started out on the road. I have always been so driven in my career that I seemed to be in a constant state of rushing to achieve something in life. There are slow days in retirement and I have to remind myself that it is okay to spend time just chatting with friends or enjoying a long walk with Lorraine and Tabby (our golden retriever) or sitting outside enjoying the sun and reading a book. In fact, it is okay to take two weeks to drive down to Florida from Ontario. Or a month. Or two.

Life in our coach is so much better than I expected.

Decades of being an executive in large corporations taught me to live in a state of constant worry. To always be thinking about what might go wrong and how to plan accordingly. I carried that worry with me into this lifestyle. It has turned out to be so much better than I expected. Lorraine and Tabby have been patiently teaching me how to be content with life. And that is perhaps the best thing to know before going out on the road. You bring yourself into any context or situation. As we age, we need to be in the moment and we need to be optimistic. There will always be challenges in life. Being able to spend this time together in our beautiful coach enjoying wonderful friendships and experiences is such a blessing.

It’s Christmas!

Lorraine and I wish you a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I will be spending the balance of the day playing lead electric guitar for Christmas Eve services from noon until 9pm. Busy day.

Here is a video from one of my Christmas concerts. Those were wonderful moments with family and friends.

One RV and Home Free

Home is where we park it. We have been full-timing in our coach for just over a year now. I’ve been asked to do another seminar on the RV Lifestyle for my friends at the Hitch House, a large motorhome dealer in the Toronto area, at the end of October. And I thought it would be helpful to share our experience in making the transition from living the sticks-and-bricks lifestyle to living the RV lifestyle.

With so many irons in the fire right now, getting this seminar prepared for delivery is going to be a bit challenging. I used to do many keynote presentations during my corporate career and, unlike many, I always enjoyed public speaking. However, I knew that it would often take a day or two of focused effort to prepare for a one-hour session. I’m going to have to squeeze that time from somewhere over the next week. Wish me luck.

We encounter very few Canadians that live full-time in a motorcoach. It is far more common to see that lifestyle in the United States. I suspect part of that is due to our cold weather climate, part of that is due to the lack of available sites in Canada especially between October and May (most shut down) and part of that is due to cost considerations.

Many Canadians are apprehensive about being in the United States for an extended period of time due to healthcare concerns or perceptions  about the culture. Many Canadians are content to spend their retirement years on the front porch. The RV lifestyle is certainly not for everyone.

We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in our coach and I hope that we have many more years to live this way. Eventually we will come off the road and home will be wherever we find a spot.

Time and health matter far more to us than a house at this stage of our lives.

Canadian Snowbirds Act

Is it actually going to happen? This has been a long time coming and, even though my hopes are up a little bit, the act might stall and never get signed into law.

For those of us full-timing in Canada, getting an extra two months would be wonderful although restrictions to health care coverage in Ontario would reduce that extra time to just one more month.

Care to see how we are held hostage in our province?

Here are the rules concerning our health care coverage:

You may be out of the province for up to 212 days in any 12-month period and still maintain your Ontario health insurance coverage provided that you continue to make Ontario your primary place of residence.

To maintain eligibility for OHIP coverage you must be an eligible resident of Ontario. This means that you must :

  • have an OHIP-eligible citizenship/immigration status; and
  • be physically present in Ontario for 153 days in any 12-month period; and
  • be physically present in Ontario for at least 153 days of the first 183 days immediately after establishing residency in the province; and
  • make your primary place of residence in Ontario.

If you plan to be outside Canada for more than seven months in any 12-month period you can keep your OHIP coverage for up to two years if you:

  • have a valid health card
  • make Ontario your primary home
  • will be in Ontario for at least 153 days a year in each of the two years immediately before you leave the country

One cannot make this stuff up.

For us, the advantage of the Canadian Snowbirds Act is that it would simplify the tax issues with the U.S. government. Because of U.S. tax laws, Canadian snowbirds could be subject to double taxation even when they stay within the six-month limit. Every year, we need to file a closer connection to Canada form with the IRS to ensure that we are not taxed as resident aliens. This bill would increase the pleasure visa to eight months and include a tax provision which would eliminate any potential U.S. tax implications.

Here is the press release on the U.S. Senate bill:

On September 18, 2019, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced the Canadian Snowbirds Act, S. 2507 in the U.S. Senate. This bill would allow eligible Canadian retirees to spend up to eight months vacationing in the United States annually – two months longer than the current six-month limit.

This legislation is the companion bill to the Canadian Snowbird Visa Act, H.R. 3241 which was introduced in the House of Representatives in June by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) and Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL-22).

To be eligible for this extension, travellers will need to satisfy the following criteria:

  • Have Canadian citizenship;
  • Be 50 years of age or older;
  • Maintain a residence in Canada;
  • Own a residence in the U.S. or have a rental agreement for the duration of stay;
  • Will not engage in employment in the United States; and
  • Will not seek government assistance or benefits.

Both the House and Senate bill also contain a tax provision which will shield snowbirds from negative tax ramifications in the United States. Despite spending more than six months in the U.S., those who are approved for this extension will be considered non-residents of the U.S. for tax purposes.

Before this extension can be signed into law, it must first be passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

I’ll keep watching the status of the bill. Perhaps one day it will become law.


Regrets? I’ve Had A Few

13 Reasons You’ll Regret an RV in Retirement. Someone passed this over to me. And I clicked on the link. Perhaps you did as well.

Let me save you some time. Here are the 13 reasons.

  1. They are expensive
  2. They require upgrades
  3. They depreciate
  4. They are costly to fuel
  5. They have to be insured
  6. They require you to have extra health insurance
  7. They require you to manage your sewage waste
  8. They offer tight living quarters
  9. They are not easy to drive
  10. They are not easy to park
  11. They are expensive to repair
  12. They don’t have a lot of storage space
  13. They can make you isolated from people

Quite the list and certainly people should think carefully about the implications of embracing any type of major change in their retirement years.

Some retirees long to travel the world in a sailboat. I suspect the same 13 regrets would apply.

Some retirees long to relocate to a new country. At least a few of those 13 regrets would apply.

Some retirees stay planted in their hut. And a few of those 13 regrets would apply.

Regret is a negative emotional state that involves blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made.

In other words, regret is a state of mind.

A colleague of mine had retired and passed away only a few months later after coming down with pancreatic cancer. He prepared his own memorial service before his death and he used a familiar song to make a point:

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way.

Embrace your dream, whatever that might be and make it your own.

No regrets. Especially in retirement. The clock is ticking. Death is not that far away now.

It could be an RV, a sailboat, or a log cabin in the wilderness. Whatever it is, no regrets.

And, if you do have regrets, make a change before the clock winds down.

It is up to you.