BOSTON (CBS) – Once the real snowbirds appear at the bird feeders you know winter is not far behind.

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“Let’s go someplace warm this winter” is heard in many conversations. It’s what I refer to as snowbirditis. You want some place warm to avoid the winter cold and snow.

If you go, how long? A couple of weeks unless you are retired and can stay longer. Do you start with a month to test the waters and slowly work your way up to 3 months or more? That seems to be the approach for many snowbirds.

The real snowbirds, the Juncos, spend about 6 months north and 6 months south. Just remember south to them is Massachusetts!

Spend as much time as you can where you think you might want to spend the winters. If you are not retired do you have accumulated sick time or vacation time so you can get a month off to do a retirement dress rehearsal?

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Once you decide on an area to stay in you have more decisions to make. Do you rent or do you buy?

Whatever you do, can your family get there easily if they want to visit? Is there something there that would attract the kids to come visit? Recreation facilities? Beaches? Boating? Golf courses? Shopping? Entertainment?

Definitely in the beginning of this phase of your life renting is probably the best way to go. You are not locked into any major commitments or an area until you are sure this is where you want to spend the winters.

Are you ready to build a second support system, to put down roots even if it is only for six months each year? And owning two places means twice the maintenance, twice the taxes, and twice the insurance. And you always need someone to look after one of your homes when you are not there.

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The Juncos have it easy; they know they can live in my trees and eat at my feeder all winter rent free!