Thinking about retirement on a warmer planet
I believe in climate change. That is to say, I believe the climate is changing and that human activity is contributing to that change. ‘Believe’ is a strange word to use about something that is being tracked and reported on by the finest scientific minds we have, yet that is where we are. Climate change is a debate, one that is raging anew thanks to the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Irma in the Caribbean and Florida. So I’ll say that this is my opinion, and we are all welcome to our opinions. If yours is different, I’d like to hear about it. I’m always up for a respectful and friendly debate.
As a client recently pointed out to me when we were discussing this subject, I’m not a scientist. But thinking about the future is a key part of my job as a financial planner. And so I try to understand what climate change will mean for my clients, and of course I think about what it could mean for my children, my grandchildren, and the future generations not yet born. One area I’ve looked at is carbon credits, or carbon offsets. I admit, I am skeptical. It’s hard for me to see how one company buying permission to pollute from another company that’s managed to reduce emissions is going to make a significant dent in our carbon footprint. A good source for an overview of how carbon offsets work is the David Suzuki Foundation.
Another area I look at is green investing. Many of my clients are interested in SRIs, which stands for Socially Responsible Investments. There was a wave of reporting on this subject after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015. Joel Schlesinger’s piece in the Globe and Mail looks at specific funds available to consumers, and Richard Nesbitt reported on the risks and opportunities for large financial institutions. If you want to know more about green funds and SRIs, get in touch and we can discuss your portfolio.
What if I’m wrong about climate change? Is it possible it really is just an elaborate hoax? Whenever that question is raised, whether it’s the talking heads on the cable news channels, an op-ed in the newspaper, or just the voice of doubt in my own head, I think about a cartoon that ran in USA Today way back in 2008.
The simple decision tree graphic below essentially says the same thing the cartoon does, though it’s not as much fun to share on social media. It asks us to consider the consequences of inaction vs. action in such a high-stakes situation.
If you want to talk about how your financial planning decisions could be affected by climate change or how they might be affecting climate change, give me a call. And if you don’t believe the hype, that’s fine too. Helping you create a bright future for you and your loved ones is my business, no matter what the future may bring.
Michael's Book Shelf
I read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on a vacation many years ago, but I think about it often. A psychologist, the author writes about a mental state he calls ‘flow’, where people experience deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life. If you want to sample Csikszentmihalyi’s theories, he gave a wonderful Ted Talk in 2004, and the video is still available here.
Find it on Amazon or at your local bookshop.
About Michael Caldwell
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