What Can Retirees Do About Climate Change?

With climate change emerging as a significant retirement issue, you may be wondering what retirees can do to protect themselves and their families. It turns out there’s a lot you can do—adapting your lifestyle, protecting your finances, and, if you’re so inspired, participating in activism.

Let’s look at each of these possibilities.

Evolve to a green retirement lifestyle

There are several “triple win” climate change solutions you can implement that have the potential to save you money, improve your health, and help you be more gentle on the environment. Such solutions include:

  • Downsizing your home to reduce maintenance costs, property taxes, insurance, and energy bills. You can achieve a “triple win” status if you choose a new home that enables you to walk or bike to get around town, helping you exercise and reduce carbon emissions in the bargain.
  • When you can’t walk or bike, try using public transportation, potentially saving you money and reducing your stress.
  • Growing your own fruits and vegetables. Better yet, replace your water-hungry lawn in the process.
  • Eating more fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes and less meat. Try to make plant-based food the main focus of each meal instead of meat.
  • Buying food at a farmer’s market, preferably a market you can walk to. At a local farmer’s market, you have the opportunity to buy locally produced food, make friends with the vendors, and get exercise walking though the market.

Most retirees have less regular income compared to their working years. But instead of viewing this as a diminished situation, think instead that you’re living a “green retirement.”

Protect your life and your finances

Are you living in an area that’s threatened by fires, floods, drought, or extreme weather events? These events can take a devastating toll on your finances and health. If your area is at risk for these types of conditions, you might want to consider moving to a more climate-friendly location—before you’re too old and don’t have the energy and resources to make such a move.

You can also broaden your idea of a “retirement investment” to mean deploying retirement savings to reduce your living expenses in light of climate change. The “return” on your investment can compare favorably to investment returns on your savings. Examples include:

  • Insulating your home
  • Buying energy-efficient appliances
  • Installing solar panels if you live in a sunny area
  • Buying a car with high gas mileage, such as a hybrid, or even an electric vehicle
  • Installing drought-tolerant plants together with drip irrigation

It’s hard to predict whether climate change could cause inflation or stock market crashes during your retirement. However, you might consider climate change to be one more reason to take steps to protect your retirement income and living expenses against the risks of inflation and stock market crashes.

If you’re really motivated…

Some retirees might want to reposition their retirement investments in a way that aligns their values with their investments. If you decide to take on this admirable goal, just remember, the devil is in the details. It turns out that there can be several different ways to define a “climate friendly investment.” Morningstar is a good source of information on sustainable investing, devoting an entire landing page on their website to the topic.

Another response might be to get involved with organizations that help reduce the impact of climate change on communities. For example, the Elder Action Network was formed to create a community of elders to leave a better world to our kids, grandkids, and future generations. Two of their initiatives are particularly relevant: climate action and regenerative living.

Of course, the steps described here won’t necessarily be easy to implement. But this is the hard work facing the Boomer generation: addressing the serious threat of climate change on our finances, health, and society.

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