Ken and Elsie Forbes

Fall 2006 CSANews Issue 61  |  Posted date : Jun 01, 2007.Back to list

Ken and Elsie Forbes
Ken Forbes and his wife, Elsie, are what you could call typical Canadians. They raised a family of three – two girls and a boy – and each has married. The Forbes have three grandchildren and three step-grandchildren. At age 18, Ken began working on the assembly line at General Motors. Over the years (40 of them), he moved up from working a shift from 6:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. After a dozen years or so, he became a plant supervisor before retiring at age 58. Elsie was a stay-at-home mom. They bought their residence in 1957 and still enjoy their empty nest. So much, in fact, that Ken has never wanted to travel. However in 1978, they accepted an invitation to visit a cousin who had moved to Florida.

“We visited my cousin in Largo and my wife decided she wanted to enjoy the winters in Florida. She told me she would buy a property and I could join her if I wished, or stay home alone in Canada.”

When he weighed the thoughts of fending for himself, plus the fringe benefits of marital bliss, he decided that moving south for the winter was not such a bad idea after all, so the Forbes spend their winters at King’s Manor mobile home park in Largo, in the Clearwater area.

Q: What type of home did Elsie purchase?
A: We have a single mobile home with a car port and utility shed, plus a Florida room that we call our ‘Canada room.’

Q: Do you always go to the same place each year?
A: Yes, although we have taken a couple of cruises out of Florida with family.

Q: How do you get to the Sunshine State?
A: For over 20 years, we drove south. Now that we are in our 80s, we have a sonin- law who drives us. We pay to have him fly home, and fly back to get us in the spring.

Q: How much does the unit cost on a monthly basis?
A: We budget on an annual basis. It runs us about $8,000 Canadian a year, all in.

Q: From a business standpoint, do you consider that your wife made a wise investment?
A: We think so. Elsie paid ten thousand dollars ($10,000) 25 years ago. It has probably doubled in value.

Q: What factors did you consider in making the decision to own or rent?
A: It depends on circumstances. If you are still working, you should probably rent. In my case, I was retired and we had a lot of extra time that we could spend in the south each winter, so we bought. Plus, we had the money available. Besides, I didn’t have any choice! Elsie said ‘We’re doing it’!

Q: What do you do for recreation down south?
A: Not much. Elsie walks. I enjoy gardening and looking after our citrus trees. Before my eyesight started to fail, I looked after our neighbours’ gardens as well. Elsie went golfing occasionally and we used to go bowling once a week, but it didn’t cost much. We can’t bowl anymore. Now I just sit around listening to the grass grow.

Q: What happens to your home in Canada when you are away?
A: Our son drops by to check on it every few days. It’s necessary for our insurance that we have it checked at least every three days.

Q: Have you considered flying to Florida and, if so, what kind of ground transportation would you use?
A: I like a large sedan. If we were to fly, we would consider getting a car to leave in Florida for our winter use. However, our kids say that would be silly and expensive. One of them would drive our car south, just for the vacation. The cost to fly our son-in-law back and forth runs around four hundred dollars Canadian.

Q: Other than driving you down, do you have visits from friends and/or family?
A: Oh yes! We have three bookings already: January, February and March. On average, our family visits last about two weeks each.

Q: Where and how do you meet people?
A: Just people in our neighbourhood. Most are American, but there are some Canadians. Again, some are snowbirds, some are full-time residents.

Q: How do you keep up with Canadian news when you are south?
A: There is a radio program, ‘Canada Calling’, but we rarely hear it. Any news from Canada we get when our kids call us.

Q: Could you summarize your snowbird expenses and/or savings for us?
A: We buy about 75 gallons of gas each way, so it depends on fuel costs along the way. We budget for about $8,000 each winter for everything. We stay the maximum allowed up to six months. We live on pretty modest means. There are not really any additional expenses and certainly no savings by staying south. Besides, the kids are going to get whatever is left anyway!

At 87, Ken, despite being a home-body, loves his time in the deep south and looks forward to taking care of what he still refers to as ‘Elsie’s place’.