Sunday, April 9, 2017

Canadian Snowbirds vs US Citizens

That's probably one of the saddest titles I've written over a post for a long time. In fact, the whole post is one I considered not writing at all, but in the end, I think it's a good idea to "set the record straight". All this stems from a letter submitted to our local newspaper (our local newspaper to the city in the US we call home when we're here) from a US resident (I assume a citizen).  Even worse ... is the sadness you feel when you realize some people don't see you as people, but as a non-entity, not even worthy of having an opinion.

We own a home here, and we pay taxes, water, sewer, electricity, cable, TV, phone ... all of that, just like any citizen of the US. I guess if we have a complaint about them, we're entitled to say so since we pay for them. We may not be given all the same rights as citizens since we only live here part of the time, but this is our home while we're here and I resent someone telling me otherwise.

I rarely speak out about this stuff (and we tend to keep our complaints to ourselves), because some Americans make you feel like you're an intrusion, even though we pay for everything they pay for, and we bring tourist dollars, tax dollars, and retail dollars to the city, yet we don't take away jobs from any citizen of the US ... and we hire US citizens to perform work and services for us. How exactly is this a detriment? We even support American charities and armed forces while we're here.

I'm pretty confused about this "go home" attitude we face from some.

(Once even while parking to have dinner at a restaurant an American asked "why don't you go home where you came from" and I have no idea why. We were simply parking our car in an empty space (and there were plenty of spaces to park). I really wanted to tell him our home was only a few miles from the restaurant but I didn't want to create a scene and damn all Canadians.) We're usually very careful what we say in the US and to whom.

Specifically, the letter involves a complaint about Spectrum's services - one made by a Snowbird (all Snowbirds aren't Canadian either ... we know plenty of Snowbirds here that live in the northern US states and winter in Florida) about the rise in cost of some of our services.

The writer of the letter thinks we shouldn't complain about the increase to our "away" services. I suppose you wouldn't complain about a rise in the cost of a service you aren't actually using, would you? Of course you would ... I don't care where you live. I mean, sure I can see your point to some extent, but your attitude really sucks. As  my mom would have said ... you need an attitude adjustment.

When we bought our home here (and yes, we do refer to it as home while we live here) we signed up with Brighthouse for our services - we didn't sign up with Spectrum.

Brighthouse charged us $153 a month for home phone, cable, and high speed internet services. When they found out we were Snowbirds, they set us up with a vacation package.

That vacation package would allow us to turn off those services during the period we were not at home in Florida (3 months or longer to qualify). For that, the initial fee was $2.99, and $0 per month that we didn't use the service.

Spectrum now wants to (and will) charge us $5/month for each of our services, so that means $15.00 per month to receive no services at all. A pretty big increase. You bet we're not happy about that, and it wouldn't matter if THIS were our only home, we'd still complain about such an increase. Over a 6 month period, that $15 equates to an additional $90 - and no, it won't "break-the-bank" but if I'm going to be paying money for something there should actually be something to pay for.  On top of that, what costs an American $90 is ... well, only $90. Because of the exchange rates for the dollar, it costs Canadians $120.62. What costs $180 in the US, actually costs Canadians $240.95. This is not a minor increase for us.And because it wasn't factored into our budget ahead of time, one we weren't prepared for.

Spectrum also increased the monthly cost of the services we receive while we are at home here ... from $153 to $180 - roughly 27 or 28% increase in those US fees. And to be frank, we aren't getting any better services for that increase than what we had with Brighthouse.

I'd give a giant thumbs up to Brighthouse, and not so much of one to Spectrum. Brighthouse provided us with some pretty awesome customer service - not so much Spectrum.

And to answer the reminder of the questions asked by the letter writer ... read on.

"Yet they have the luxury of a home elsewhere (I say this because they always refer to home as not Florida."
The luxury? We've worked all our adult lives and saved, doing without so we could afford to get out of the snow and cold when we retired. We planned for this, worked hard for this, went without to get this, bought everything we owned second hand/used to be able to do this. We never even took holidays before this.

It's not a luxury. We worked for it, and we earned it. We aren't rich, nor even well-off. We live on a budget, when in Canada and when in the US. We have to. And we refer to our home in the US as "home" as well.
"I would ask while they are enjoying our state do they get forgiveness from the bank"...
Well since we use the bank's services year round to pay our bills out of, and transfer money into it from our accounts in  Canada - why would we expect anything less than to pay the bank fees? We don't expect to use a service and not pay for it.

In Canada, we don't pay bank fees. My bank doesn't charge seniors fees for banking services.  Canada does have some good things going for it.
"discounted property taxes?"
Obviously not since we own the home year round, not just six months out of the year. Nor do we expect any discount since we pay our taxes once a year, and all at once.
"discounted rate on water and sewer"
It's a user based cost. Our water and sewer fees are about half the cost when we aren't living in Florida. While the "fee rates" don't change, we don't use the water or sewer services so we don't pay much.

Since you didn't ask, our hydro fees are about 35% less than when we are here. That's because during the summer, we need to run the air conditioner to prevent mould and dampness damage to the house in Florida - if we didn't have to do that, our hydro fees would be 50% less than when we are here. We don't use the air conditioner between December and April (that's when we're here) - if we do, it's very rare. We do our best to keep our costs to minimum.
"As they are here in the colder months, does the home heating cost go down" We know it does not."
Well if you are referring to our other home in Canada, then it's the same as other services.

It most certainly goes down when you don't use it. Why would we leave the heat on full blast while we aren't there? We set our heat at 55-60F while we aren't at home. Canadian homes are well insulated - that temperature is enough to prevent freezing of any water pipes, and that's all we need. We pay for the amount we use, which is less than half of what we'd pay if we stayed there in the winter and needed the heat.

We also pay discounted fees for our home phone, internet, cable, water and sewer fees. Naturally, when you don't use something, you aren't paying for it to the full extent you usually do,

As for the heat in our Florida home ... it's rarely on, and the cost for it (when it is used) ends up being less than half of what we'd pay in Canada to heat the home for a month. We (personally) are Canadian. It's normal for a home temperature to be 68 degrees in the winter.
"I would suggest that living in two places is too expensive that they pick one and stay there."
You must live in a cocoon. You do know of course just how difficult it is to move to the US permanently, right? Probably not.

Old people don't usually fit any of the qualifications required to move permanently. You don't think we haven't already checked all the resources? We can support ourselves, and don't need to work or take away any jobs, but we still don't qualify.

Only if we were actually wealthy could we afford to do such a thing - it isn't like most of use have half a million or a million dollars just lying around with nothing better to do with it than invest it in bettering another country.

Besides, why would we really want to? The cost of paying for the US health care would far outweigh any benefits permanent residency would afford us. We'd have no choice but to pay for that health care because we wouldn't qualify for Medicaid or Medicare.

At least if we live part time in Canada, we maintain our health care coverage there which, in our retirement years, costs us nothing. On top of that, extended health care plans for retirees from all the years of working mean we have prescription coverage, eye glasses, hearing aids, dental coverage, orthotics ... Yeah, we worked for that coverage too so why give it up?

Thanks, but no thanks. Besides, in the summer, it's just as lovely in Canada as it is in Florida. More so I think.

If we could, we'd happily live here year round - not because it's better, but simply to avoid the 3 day drive each way. I don't know why some people think doing this is easy, because it isn't. We're doing it because when you get old and have health issues made worse by the cold, you need to be somewhere warm. At least you do if you don't want to be stuck inside your house for 4 or 5 months at a time, and don't want to shovel 3' of snow every other day.

Actually, when I think about it, we do have other family here. They lived their entire married life as citizens in the US. It's a shame they weren't still here now.

Most of the Americans we've met treat us like any other resident, because when we're here, we are residents. This is our home too.

We love our home in Florida, we love the neighbourhood we live in, we like the city, and our neighbours (mostly Americans) have already become like family to us and welcomed us with open arms ... and thank God, none of them are like you.

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