As Americans everywhere watch the devastation from Hurricane Ian wreak havoc on Florida, they must prepare themselves for the negative impact that climate change-driven disasters will have on their finances, health, and lifestyle.
Newsmax Finance Editor Lee Barney asked Chris Orestis, retirement investing specialist, about how global warming trends can affect retirees' lives and investments.
Newsmax Finance: What should retirees and those preparing for retirement consider now as severe climate change weather events are increasing in severity and frequency?
Chris Orestis: When it comes to finances, for those living in flood and fire zones, they must prepare themselves for rising costs of insurance—if they will even be able to find coverage.
The loss of property or employment from the impact of a catastrophic event can disrupt a person’s income and their savings for the future. For seniors, this can be particularly problematic because they have less time and income to work with to recover.
There are serious financial consequences for seniors suddenly forced to deal with destroyed homes and property, or the aftereffects brought upon their physical, mental, and emotional health.
For seniors who have retired and settled into areas now under siege by these conditions, they are facing existential threats to their finances and their lives. Most seniors living in the areas where the acceleration of climate change has become painfully evident won’t have the time or capability to recover, or even survive, these changing conditions or the onslaught of a sudden disaster.
Newsmax Finance: In addition to the financial impacts, what about the health consequences?
Chris Orestis: It is also critical to factor in the impacts on health from heatwaves, wild fires and air quality, and catastrophic weather events such as hurricanes and floods.
Seniors often live more isolated and can find it difficult to prepare for or avoid being impacted by these conditions. As senior’s age, they become particularly susceptible to conditions that can impact their respiratory systems, body temperature, or ability to sustain trauma. The rise of heat waves, wildfires, and drought, as well as hurricanes and flooding are all recipes for disaster in the lives of seniors not well suited to cope with these conditions.
It’s critical that loves ones know where they are and how they are doing during these times, and for seniors to know where to go and how to get to shelter in times of emergency.
Newsmax Finance: What should people be thinking about where they currently live or where they might be thinking about moving in the future?
Chris Orestis: Home ownership is a critical part of living in this country as it provides not only shelter, but is an important part of building equity for the future. Housing prices have been on the rise and, ironically, some of the highest growth has been in many of the most vulnerable areas to climate change.
The question over the next few years will be—is this a game of musical chairs, and at some point who is going to get burned?
At this point, it is very clear where problems like these are accelerating, and anyone looking at retirement should take into account these realities when they are considering where they might live during retirement and possibly pick more stable environments.
Nonetheless, areas such as Florida, Arizona, Texas and California continue to be the hottest real estate markets and most desired retirement destinations. The question is—for how long will that continue to make sense? There are numerous regions in the U.S. and in other parts of the world with less volatile living environments and a lower cost of living as well.
If you can live in a safe area that will provide a lower cost of living and a good to great quality of living—I would take a strong look at that option sooner than later. Whether it’s living in the U.S. or internationally, climate change has to be among the top considerations for where to reside in retirement as a senior.
Newsmax Finance: Has the time come that climate change needs to be a part of retirement planning?
Chris Orestis: The best way to take climate change into account when planning for or living in retirement is to be realistic and pay attention to what is happening. The impacts of change are accelerating at a much faster pace than anyone had predicted.
Just compare this year to 10 years ago—and now imagine 10 years from today. There are real financial and safety consequences to come for people living in heat wave, drought and fire zones, or areas that will be impacted by rising sea levels and more intense hurricanes.
Whatever someone’s beliefs are about the causes for climate change doesn’t really matter when it comes to people’s lives. The world has reached a “Code Red” moment as the climate has undeniably changed and will continue to change at an accelerating pace—and seniors will be among the most vulnerable and impacted people to the financial, health and lifestyle consequences to come.
Chris Orestis is a nationally recognized senior care advocate and expert in retirement, long-term care and specialty senior living funding solutions. The author of two books, numerous published papers and articles, and a frequent industry speaker; he is the innovator that brought the LTC Life Settlement into the market over a decade ago.
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