Interesting Stories Archives

Snowbirds – Things Worth Knowing

Keep These Facts in Mind When Spending the Winter Down South

Bathing time along a sunny Florida beach front

Bathing time along a sunny Florida beach front (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

The mobilization of Canadians to the sun belt is something to behold every year.

The Americans are certainly a lot more welcoming than they were 200 years ago but they still have more than a few rules when it comes to visiting.

At the top of the list of don’ts is not running afoul of the Internal Revenue Service and that means keeping close track of the dates you’ll be in the United States and filling out the proper forms when required, so you don’t trigger any tax consequences.

The general perception is you can stay in the United States for six months and not do anything. It’s not quite that simple.

“One of the first things you are going to have to do is count how many days [you’ll be in U.S.],” says Mr. Rachkovsky.

A proposed rule change now being considered in the United States — it has passed in the U.S. Senate but not the House of Representatives — would allow Canadian retirees to actually spend up to eight months a year stateside.

“That’s just from an immigration standpoint,” said Mr. Rachkovsky, adding there is whole different test for how you are treated from a tax perspective.

The IRS uses what is known as the substantial presence test which takes into consideration the amount of time you have been in the U.S. Over the last three years. It must average no more than four months over any three years.

If you are above that level, you are considered a resident alien and to not be treated that way for tax purposes you have to fill out a simple two-page form every year which allows you to stay up to six months.

“The majority of our members file the form, it is best to be on the right side of the IRS,” says Mr. Rachkovsky.

What you ultimately want to avoid is a mountain of paperwork that includes disclosing every bank account you have or have an interest in anywhere outside the United States, says Kevyn Nightingale, an expert in Canadian and U.S. Tax with MNP LLP.

“It’s going to be complicated and expensive,” he says, about anyone who wants to stay past the 182-day mark.

There’s a long list of questions Canadians need to consider before they become Snowbirds. Here are a few to keep in mind:

What’s the first thing you have to ask yourself before becoming a Snowbird?

“Can you really afford it?” says Lise Andreana, a certified financial planner from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. “You have to cost it out and see if it’s achievable and that means looking at your operating costs and ways you can save.”

Should I buy or rent?

That is the No. 1 question for many. Ms. Andreana says you need to ask yourself how long you plan to be stateside. She says the first year should be spent renting to make sure you like being a Snowbird and also to make sure you’ve picked the right community for retirement. “Sometimes owning a second home is a luxury,” she says.

Can I work while I’m down south?

You need a work visa. The rules are very precise. Even if you’re doing say some type of consulting work for a Canadian company while stateside, you need that visa to be on the right side of the law. “If they don’t get caught, I guess it’s okay,” says Mr. Nightingale, about people ignoring the law.

How tough can the IRS get?

The agency has cracked down on people doing work on their property which is considered investment real estate as opposed to a principle residence.

“I had a client of mine who told me some Snowbird was painting his own condo unit and the maintenance guy, usually hired by other residents, didn’t like it and called immigration people,” said Mr. Nightingale. “[That Snowbird] was now working in the U.S. Illegally, even though it was his own unit.”

What about opening bank and investment accounts?

There is nothing to stop you from opening a U.S. Stock trading account but that will mean more paperwork and probably not worth the trouble. A bank account is more of an issue for the Canadian government which requires you to declare all foreign accounts. If you have more than $100,000 in assets in the United States, based on their cost, there is a form you have to fill out with your tax return.

What about my Canadian health benefits?

Every province is different with each one having different residency requirements. While the U.S. Allows you to stay for six months, in Ontario, for example, you can be gone seven months or 212 days, and remain eligible for coverage. British Columbia and Manitoba agreed in 2013 to the same rule.

“That additional month is for international travel or even travel in Canada,” said Mr. Rachkovsky, about the gap between six and seven months.

Do you have any paperwork to prove you’re coming back to Canada?

Copies of property deed, utility bills, credit card and bank statements will help convince U.S. border people you’re not planning to stay forever.

“Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, there is a presumption in law that every visitor is arriving in U.S. with the intention to be a permanent immigrant. The onus is always on the traveler,” says Mr. Rachkobvsky.

If you are spending the entire winter in the U.S., should you be concerned about exchange rates?

Most credit cards will charge you a 2.5% fee on any foreign transaction. The Canadian Snowbird Association says it has a currency exchange program that allows money to be sent to a U.S. account every month. On $10,000, you could save you $250.

What do you need to know about travel health insurance?

“You need to check if there is a time limit for out-of-country coverage,” says Dave Minor, a vice-president at TD Insurance. Some policies will require you to travel back to Canada for a day to remain valid. A longer stay can require a more extensive underwriting ahead of time to make sure your coverage is valid.

Pre-existing conditions is the major rider you’ll find in travel policies. Many policies don’t cover you at all for pre-existing conditions and most require a period of stability before you can travel and be covered.

How much health insurance do you need?

Mr. Minor says $1-million is the minimum that you need but some companies require $2-million. It’s important to ensure emergency transportation is part of coverage because if you need a special flight to get back to Canada, and back to nationalized health care, somebody will have to pay for it up front.

Do I need to change my car insurance?

Most policies are valid for driving in the United States but considering how high judgments can run in the U.S. you might want to increase your liability from $1-million to $2-million. If you’re renting in the U.S., your existing car insurance policy might cover you for a rental car provided your normal car is parked back in Canada. But that portablity is usually limited to 30-day rentals.

What about your home insurance?

If you are going to away for seven days or more, many policies require that somebody come by and check on your house for your insurance to be valid. “I don’t know of any policies that allow you to just take off,” said Mr. Minor.

And don’t forget that the unit you are renting or owning in the United States requires its own insurance.

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Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar

Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar

hickory-tussock-moth-caterpillarIf you’re out playing in the forest this weekend, don’t pick up any caterpillars.

After the London Middlesex Health Unit sent out a notice to let the public know about the potential allergic reaction caused by the hickory tussock moth caterpillar, local wildlife experts say it’s best to leave all caterpillars alone.

“Some people don’t react at all,” said Karen Cedar, the education coordinator at the Ojibway Nature Centre. “Some people might even get hives from it.”

This fuzzy-looking black and white caterpillar is one of many that uses tufts of prickly hair to ward of predators, Cedar explained. But the tufts contain a toxin that can cause mild allergic reactions such as skin irritation and reddening. The reaction can be similar to that caused by poison ivy.

The hickory tussock moth caterpillar is usually seen on trees like hickory, ash, elm, oak and willow so it’s more likely you will come across it in the forest than in your back yard, Cedar said.

Right now is the time of year when caterpillars start to look for places to cocoon, so you might even see them wandering around on the forest floor.

If you absolutely must move a caterpillar, use a leaf rather than your hands, she said.

If you happen to touch one of the fuzzy critters, the Middlesex London Health Unit recommends washing the affected area with soap and water and applying ice or calamine lotion if there is redness or swelling. You may need to see a doctor if the allergic reaction is more serious.

Windsor Star Last Updated: Oct 04, 2013 – 10:19 PM EDT

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Thank the Special Forces – In the Post Office

Story Origin Unknown

Story Origin Unknown


Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last month. The day after she passed away my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so, and she dictated these words:

Dear God,

Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.

I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies.’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away.

Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I’m easy to find. I am wherever there is love.

Love, God





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Should You Upgrade Your Windows Operating System

Windows 8 on the big screen!

Windows 8 on the big screen! (Photo credit: bobfamiliar)

Computer Speed Issues – Upgrading to Windows 8

Are you having speed issues with your computer? I have tried everything imaginable to speed up one of my computers. I have tried defragging and file cleanup. I used one of the most thorough and up to date files cleanup programs. I shut down programs that I did not need to start on boot up. Nothing worked on that computer.

Unfortunately I had upgraded the operating system to Windows Vista. This is a problem. Anybody that paid for that upgrade should get their money back. This was a total train wreck for Microsoft. You may have noticed that another upgrade was quickly on the heels of that piece of crap.

I have been pondering an upgrade to my operating system but on research, I really didn’t see anything real convincing to help me decide. I went to Staples and talked to a rep there but he just didn’t know his stuff.

I decided to make the leap to Windows 8. The price was crazy reasonable considering we are talking Microsoft here. $118) I knew Windows 8 changed considerably from Windows 7 and had a graphic oriented interface. I was worried about ease of use and computer resource load.

As it turns out, you can opt for the traditional looking desktop or use the graphics interface. Navigating will come pretty quickly after a couple hours of exploring the options.

It has a very nice array of useful apps included with the system. I won’t even try to tell you here about all the practical apps included.

My SPEED PROBLEMS ARE GONE. As my wife stated, this is like buying a new computer. I must say that I am extremely happy that I made the move. Windows 8 also uses the new Internet Explorer 10 and it does not appear to have any significant issues and operates smoothly.

If your current operating system is Windows Vista, you need to change now. If you are using anything else other than maybe Windows 7, I personally think upgrading to Windows 8 will be a pleasant surprise.


P.S. There are a number of reports by the so called “experts” that say Windows 8 will be a flop and that it is no better than Vista. I don’t buy that expert analysis. It was the answer to my problems.



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Does Today’s Language Bother You

Where Is the English Language Headed?

WRONG WAYA recent posting on Facebook inspired some thinking about the poor English I see that is all too frequently visible when using today’s tools for communication. I realize it facilitates quick  communication using our modern equipment  but is this a good thing or is it leading to a new language that observes no rules of right and wrong?


Here is just a short list of some of the words I constantly see abused.

I see these used incorrectly all the time
your – you’re
scrapped – scraped
Pelle Island – Pelee Island
seperate – separate


It seems that our brain has a great ability to interpret these words correctly.

Try reading the example below and see if it works for you.

if yuo can raed tihs, you hvae a sgtrane mnid, too.
Can you raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.

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