Climate change is affecting us in ways no one could have imagined just a few years ago, and these dramatic changes in weather patterns may even affect your retirement. In recent years, the world has been plagued by higher temperatures and an increase in the volume and intensity of natural disasters. You may need to incorporate the impact of climate change into your retirement planning.
Climate Change and Your Retreat
Most people retire in place, which means they stay in the house where they lived and raised a family. Those moving for retirement often choose warmer climates like Florida, Texas and Arizona. But before moving to a dream retirement spot with warmer weather, do your research. The increased incidence of wildfires, floods, and hurricanes in states like Florida, Texas, and California might give you reason to reconsider your relocation plans.
For example, the toxic smoke from wildfires can make it difficult to enjoy your retirement years and exacerbate health problems. Mick Smyer, founder and CEO of Growing Greener in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, says he has friends who left Napa Valley and retreated to Washington state to escape the threat of wildfires, but have then experienced the smoke from Canadian wildfires that affected their health in Washington State. They have now moved again to central Pennsylvania. “People talk to financial planners about the impact of longevity on their retirement, but they rarely ask how climate change might affect where they hope to retire in 15 or 20 years,” Smyer says.
Climate change and your retirement budget
Climate change can impact your retirement budget, especially if you have to pay for air conditioning or to repair your home after a natural disaster. It can also be increasingly difficult or expensive to buy insurance against natural disasters. Dan Hawley, president of Hawley Advisors Wealth Planning in Walnut Creek, Calif., says his clients built a home at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and were shocked to find their homeowner’s insurance quadrupled to 4. $000 per year. “Four thousand dollars a year eating away at your retirement budget is a very large amount of money, and I don’t think when they built that house in the mountains, my clients took that into consideration,” Hawley says.
Preparing for natural disasters can be a significant and costly expense. “You see it on the news. A storm is about to hit Florida. You have to get plywood to put your house together,” says Louis D. Bailey, membership and organizing manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice in Washington, DC. he is low-income more severely than the others. There’s a financial aspect to being able to get up and go, and where are you going to go?”
Climate change and your health
Existing health issues could be exacerbated by environmental concerns such as extreme heat or wildfire smoke. “Older people are more vulnerable to some of the health impacts of climate change,” says Smyer. “For example, the impact of extreme heat can lead to heat distress. Sometimes the medications older people take interact with the heat.”
Elderly people with reduced mobility are often the most affected by extreme weather events. “What we call the urban heat island effect happens in areas like Washington, DC and New York where there’s a lot of concrete. It has an impact on health – diabetes, hypertension and asthma,” says Bailey. “And if you don’t have air conditioning in your apartment or house, you’re more likely to experience one of these heat-related events.
Home improvements can help the environment
You may be able to make improvements to your home that could help the environment and maybe even save you money over time. But consider making costly changes while you still have a stable income, before you retire. “When our seniors live in older homes, some of the infrastructure in those buildings is so old they need a complete upgrade,” Bailey says. “And at retirement age you just can’t get up and find another apartment or move out, so you’re stuck in place and that leads to a lot of isolation for our seniors as well.”
Many states and cities have programs that subsidize solar panels. Consider replacing older appliances and HVAC systems with more energy-efficient models. New windows can be expensive, but they can dramatically increase energy efficiency.
Volunteering on climate change
Climate change offers older Americans the opportunity to get involved and volunteer. “We know that retired seniors have time, experience and motivation,” says Smyer. “Many seniors say that one of the challenges of retirement is having a sense of purpose. And for many seniors, climate action and leaving the world a better place for their children and grandchildren for future generations is one answer.