Global climate change is threatening our health and safety. The lethal flooding in Kentucky. Wildfires out West. The fierce winds and tornadoes that swept several Southern states earlier this year.
Swiss Re, the global reinsurance behemoth, calculates total economic losses caused by natural disasters reached an estimated $72 billion in the first half of 2022. (Reinsurance companies act as an insurer for insurance companies.)
“Climate change is one of the biggest risks our society and the global economy is facing,” says Jérôme Jean Haegeli, Swiss Re’s Group Chief Economist. “With 75 percent of all natural catastrophes still uninsured, we see large protection gaps globally exacerbated by today’s cost-of-living crisis.”
The extra costs and added health and safety risks associated with climate change should be factored into retirement planning.
Natural disasters are traumatic and older adults are at risk. Routine tasks like picking up medicines are suddenly impossible. You might be evacuated from your home and spend several nights in a shelter. The disruption is particularly worrisome for older adults with chronic conditions or cognitive disabilities.
The financial costs of dealing with damage and repair to the home can be considerable.
“While home preparation and repairs are weather-related costs wherever people live, climate change may increase these costs and be a critical factor in financial planning,” writes Joseph Coughlin, founder and director of the MIT AgeLab in “Factoring the Costs of Climate Change Resilience Into Retirement Planning.”
“Extreme weather affects everyone. Older adults, however, are more likely to be vulnerable due to health conditions and their retirement location decisions,” he adds.
To be clear, individuals can do only so much addressing the multiple challenges created by climate change. Society’s major institutions — governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations — need to do the heavy lifting.
Still, there are a number of steps each of us can take. The risks of climate change should be part of the where-to-live decision, much like community services and local amenities.
Depending on where you want to live, investigate what costs might you anticipate from coping with extreme weather conditions in the region, including insurance, energy and home modifications and repairs.
Planning can also reduce the inevitable stress that comes from extreme weather disrupting everyday life. Talk with family and friends to develop a plan.
Farrell is economics contributor to the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media’s “Marketplace.”
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