How to Retire in California from Canada: Do These 4 Steps

Spending your retirement years in California seems like a no-brainer. The weather’s lovely, there’s plenty of recreational and cultural activities, plus, its topography has a little bit of everything depending on where you want to go.

California does have some drawbacks. The main one is the price and overall cost of living.

The Globe and Mail compared popular retirement states, and California didn’t fare that well. However, that isn’t stopping many Canadians from flocking to The Golden State.

But making the transition to the United States can be a complicated affair. So how can you retire in California from Canada? Before you dive in, here’s what you should consider.

  1. Decide upon a temporary or permanent stay.
  2. Consider the cost of living.
  3. Research health care and taxation options.
  4. Pick a city to live in.

Decide Upon a Temporary or Permanent Stay

Many Canadians don’t officially retire to the United States. Instead, they turn into snowbirds and spend the brutal Canadian winters basking in the sun in warm states like Florida or California.

This method requires way less work and lets you experience the best of both worlds. No more frigid snowy days. Instead, keep your house in Canada while enjoying a part-time existence in the United States. Here’s how it works.

Canadian snowbirds can spend up to six months in the US. After that, you’ll have to return to Canada.

This benefits many retirees because they don’t have to worry about taxes or healthcare – two major sticking points when figuring out a destination for your golden years.

On the other hand, if you wish to stay in the United States permanently, you’ll have to apply for legal permanent residence (also called a green card).

Consider the Cost of Living

If you’re considering spending any of your time in California during retirement, be aware that it won’t be cheap. Cost of living comparisons shows that Canadians will spend about 10.3% less living at home than in California.

The biggest price difference comes from the housing market. The study found that renting a one-bedroom apartment in a downtown Canadian neighbourhood can average close to $1,300 CAD per month.

California rentals of the same size are almost double that, with residents spending close to $2,400 CAD ($1,859 USD) on average per month. 

Retire to California

But Canadian retirees can expect to spend more on almost everything else. From transportation and groceries to dining out everything is more expensive in California.

Research Healthcare and Taxation Options

Research Healthcare and Taxation Options

If you’re only coming to the United States temporarily, you won’t necessarily have to worry about healthcare or taxation.

Retirees spending less than six months in California won’t pay income tax unless they receive California-sourced income.

You can also hold on to your provincial health care coverage as long as you follow the rules outlined by your province. Many snowbirds often purchase a travel insurance policy for their time abroad.

However, if you’re looking to become a permanent resident, you will need medical coverage. US residents qualify for Medicare when they hit 65.

However, green cardholders need to be 65 and older and have worked in the US for at least 10 years. You could still qualify if you worked for fewer years but may pay higher premiums for coverage.

If you need other options, you could purchase insurance privately through the health insurance marketplace or pick up an international health insurance policy that may prove superior.

Pick a City To Live In

According to U.S. World News & World Report, Santa Barbara is among the top city to retire to in California. Retirees can expect warm winters and lovely summers. The city is located right next to the beach and is a popular surfing point for the more adventurous.

While Santa Barbara has breathtaking architecture and a beach lifestyle, it may not be what you’re looking for. Before diving in and picking a place to live, you first need to know your facts about California and its diverse regions.

It’s often divided into four sections – Southern California, Central California, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Each part offers different scenery, temperatures, and job and housing market.

Southern California

Southern California

Southern California is usually what people picture – warm temperatures, outdoor living, and the beach. Home prices here tend to be very high, but there are affordable senior living options that may fit your budget.

Most retirees like to come here for the active outdoor lifestyle and warm year-round temps.

Central California

Central California

The middle portion of the state might be more your speed if you’re looking for breathtaking scenic views, fewer crowds, and lower real estate prices.

Bay Area

Bay Area

If you’re hoping to keep working, the Bay Area has a thriving job market. In addition, there are many cultural opportunities, eclectic festivals, and plenty of arts and entertainment.

Northern California

Northern California

Life moves slower in Northern California than in the other bustling areas. It’s filled with smaller towns and friendly communities nestled in forests and coastal waters. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream.

Like any spot you’re planning on retiring in, it’s important to spend time there all throughout the year to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

Come and visit in the winter. Spend a few weeks making sure you really understand the community before committing.

One of the worst things you can do is make a split-second decision without doing any research. An integral part of your happiness will lie in the activities you love, so find out about them.

Are there enough restaurants, museums, outdoor activities, or shopping centers? Find out these answers before you make the move.

Final Thoughts

How to Retire in California from Canada

California has so much to offer through its scenery, weather, and bustling communities.

However, it’s also going to cost a lot to live there. Figuring out how to make it work and stick to your budget should top your priority list.

Retirement planning can help you make that dream come true. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this guide.

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Author Bio - Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.

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