Hurricane season begins this month. Soon talking about the weather and the impact of climate change will not be simply about conversation, but about planning and, for some, urgency and action in a stage of life popularly described as a time to retreat and relax.
David and Rachel were years ahead of everyone else in planning for their retirement. Not just saving and investing, but knowing where they were going to live and what they were going to do when they got there. You could call them super planners. The kind of people financial advisers should love, while the rest of us pure mortals who don’t even know what time to pick up our kids from school see them as something between awesome and annoying.
More than a decade ago, while retirement was a distant idea, David and Rachel bought a condo in one of Florida’s coastal towns. Layout, location, and views were the things retirement brochures are made of. This was where they would retire. Meanwhile, the condo would produce rental income from tenants looking for spectacular views and beach access would fall out of bed.
Looking away as if imagining herself there overlooking the ocean at sunrise, Rachel recalls, “We loved being there, we would visit regularly.” David, nodding, “yes, all the fun was there, restaurants, shops …”
Then years ago, they started to notice something that became more and more common. Sandbags stacked along the road slowing the rising waters. David noted, “It wasn’t hurricane season, there wasn’t even a recent storm, and there was water on the road every day.” He continued: “We couldn’t stay there, rumors and news reports suggested that climate change would only worsen the flooding over time; we were imagining that we wouldn’t be able to get in or out of our condo depending on the water level.” Nervous, Rachel intervened saying, “What if there was a hurricane, how high would the water be then? What if we had to go to the doctor? “They reluctantly sold their dream home to retirees.
Rachel and David, like many retired people, are managing life in the cone of uncertainty. No, not the financial uncertainty, but the uncertainty of climate change. The cone of uncertainty is often used to describe where hurricanes could land. We are all familiar with television weather maps that show lines that form a cone from where a hurricane “could” give its force and cause the most damage. Now climate change has introduced a new cone of uncertainty about where to live in old age.
Consider this. According to POT, evidence is emerging linking climate change with
extreme weather conditions, such as hurricanes and storms, that are sure to affect your favorite retirement destinations on the coast. Although they get less media coverage than hurricanes, the rising waters are also affecting the retirement destinations favored by urban reducers on the water fronts of the Carolinas, New England, and even as far north as my friends in New Scotland and Maritimes.
Western retirement destinations are not immune. Warmer weather in desert climates threatens the livability of golf resorts throughout the year. Rising temperatures too believed to contribute to terms that increase the frequency and ferocity of the wildfires that threaten retirement dreams in the mountains and canyons of the west.
And even those who are aging in place (slang for staying in your current home until retirement) you need to think about how the weather can affect your quality of life, as well as costs during retirement. Previous extreme heat waves in ChicagoFor example, it cost many older people their lives. For others, air conditioning, previously used for only a few days a year, is now used for a few months and is now an unplanned retirement expense.
How could climate change be taken into account in retirement?
It’s hard to believe, but there are people who deny age. Yes, science is in, we are all getting old. As we get older, we are likely to have more chronic health problems, mobility issues, living alone, and the need for things that were once goodies – air conditioning for example – are now health needs.
Sadly, in major storms and other weather events, most of the people left behind, hospitalized, or killed are older adults. It is estimated that 70% of those who died in Hurricane Katrina they were older people. Older people in Puerto RicoOlder men, particularly, were more likely to die as a result of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Likewise, of the 1,500 who died in 2019 Paris heat wave, half were older adults.
Here are some initial questions to consider climate change in your retirement.
Where to retire? Retirement is like real estate. The quality of retirement depends, in part, on three things: location, location, and location. As “knowable” as you may be, are you putting your future older self and loved ones with reduced mobility, fragile health, special nutritional needs, at the center of the cone of climate uncertainty?
Have you planned what could become an annual, or even routine, expense of preparing your home for an approaching storm or seasonal weather events? The costs can be more than just the price of plywood and nail guns for people in hurricane country. As we age, we may need to identify and hire professional services to prepare our homes to respond to unpredictable weather events.
What about the price of repairs after flood, wind, and fire damage? Will the rising cost of insurance be an expense to consider in retirement planning as the weather changes? In some areas, will the necessary insurance be available in the future?
Similarly, will air conditioning become a major cost factor for some, while increasing moisture, mold and mildew management costs will be a consideration for others?
On a more existential level, does your retirement dream destination community offer adequate emergency transportation, health, food, and shelter for seniors, not just services designed for younger, healthier, and more mobile evacuees?
Retirement planning is about more than financing dreams and goals in later life. It’s about doing the best we can to plan and prepare for uncertainty. Many of us would never trade for a walk on the beach, a view of the mountains, the spectrum of colors in a canyon, or even the comforts of the home we’ve lived in for decades, but prepare for the potential conditions and costs of climate change. should be enough. it is now part of our retirement plan.