Planning a sustainable retirement

Is climate change putting your retirement plan at risk? That might sound like a strong statement, but have you looked at what is happening across retirement hot spots? Florida, as well as Texas and Louisiana, are being pummeled by more and stronger hurricanes that bring severe flooding. In fact, the whole East Coast bears the risk of increasing hurricane damage, as well as the challenge of rising sea levels caused by ice melting in the Arctic. California has been breaking heatwave and wildfire records in recent years, leaving millions of acres burnt and producing hazardous air quality for millions of people thousands of miles away.1

Uncomfortable things to consider

Extreme heat and poor air quality are bad for everyone, but they can be particularly challenging for older people. Similarly, severe weather events, such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires are dangerous, exhausting and uncomfortable for anyone because they may involve sudden evacuations, stays in temporary shelters and the loss of your home. These events are even more traumatic for older people who are often less mobile, more prone to illness and may have less energy to deal with the aftermath, such as making insurance claims, rebuilding a house or moving. 

Experts generally agree that we’ve locked in the current level of warming and climate change and we can only work to stave off even more severe conditions.2

So, what can you do? Quite a bit, actually! There are a number of steps you can take to help address the most negative impacts of climate change on your retirement plan. And if you are actually keen to incorporate sustainability into your life, there are many opportunities, from switching to an electric car to supporting sustainable investments.

Are you cool with heatwaves?

Let’s first look at how to protect your retirement plans and assets as the climate changes. If you are still deciding where you will retire, you have time to factor the newer weather patterns into your decision. Think carefully about your tolerance for hardships such as extreme heat, drought, poor air quality or withstanding a hurricane – do you want to face power outages, water rationing, lack of clean air and other challenges to daily life as you age? You also need to consider the potential financial implications such as higher insurance premiums for properties in higher risk areas and the costs of repairs from damage or being forced to live somewhere else temporarily.

Climate-proof your house

If you already own property in a higher risk area and are planning to retire there, you can still take a number of precautions. First, check your insurance policies carefully to make sure that you have appropriate coverage and make sure that it will remain affordable in the future. Second, think about any potential renovations to your house that might help protect from it from severe weather events. You may also need to consider the financial costs of complying with new regulations. It may be wise to also buy a back-up power generator, air purifiers for the house and additional water storage.

Live sustainably

Perhaps you are someone who is already well aware of sustainability issues, including climate change. There are many  ways – big and small – to make your lifestyle more sustainable as you head toward retirement. If you are still in the process of planning where to live, you have the chance to look for areas less prone to extreme weather and that are close enough to towns or cities so that you can take public transportation. You can also make your next home more resource-efficient: heat-proof your house with good insulation and install solar panels that generate enough energy to offset air-conditioning, collect and use rainwater, plant trees and other plants that are resistant to dry conditions.

You might go even further with changing your lifestyle: switch to an electric car, decide to eat less beef and repair old clothes instead of discarding them. Instead of jetting off between two homes or for quick weekends away you might reserve air travel for international trips or long vacations. While cruises have been popular with seniors for decades, you may think twice about whether they meet your sustainability requirements.

Leave a legacy of sustainability

Maybe sustainability is a cause you want to get actively involved in – and you may find that your children and even grandchildren feel even more strongly about this topic, and so it’s something you can do together. One way to get involved is at a local level, such as joining your condo board or municipal leadership to help address these issues. There are also many non-profit or other philanthropic organizations dedicated to issues from climate change to recycling that you can become active in. You can also support sustainability efforts financially by donating assets or becoming involved in projects that are dedicated to making an impact. 

The younger you are, the more this will be an important topic. But even people who are already in their 50s are having to think about growing old in a world where climate change and an increasing focus on sustainability may force them to reconsider or adjust their retirement plans. However, these changes also give you the opportunity to make an impact for generations to come.
GE-3364438 (12/2020) (Exp. 12/2022)