How to climate-proof your future with a higher savings rate
The rise in climate costs is only beginning.
Most Americans have inadequate savings and are doing little about it, and most are ignorant of growing climate-driven costs that are predicted for the next decade. A new study shows that nearly 7 in 10 Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings. And 34% of us have nothing! What are you going to do about energy and health cost increases? The danger of house flooding? Those rising food costs, municipal taxes and fees, and transportation costs?
Why aren’t we saving?
The US Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that the US savings rate fell to 3.1 percent in September 2017, the lowest it’s been since December 2007. We didn’t all just suddenly get lazy or start lacking self-discipline. Sure, there are a number of economic and social factors we need to learn to dodge. The economy changed. We are seeing stagnant incomes, skyrocketing prices, and declining interest rates. And maybe we are simply living beyond our means. After all, credit cards and mobile pay methods like Apple Pay are making it easier than ever for us to spend money.
On top of these factors come new climate-driven costs. We need to plan for additional outlays that will be hitting our budgets soon, costs that few financial coaches and journalists are mentioning.
What climate costs to expect
There are lots of predictions of growing pressures on your household budget. Let’s take a look at our home utilities. Our heat wave-driven demand for electricity will cost utility customers an extra $12 billion a year. San Mateo, CA residents just saw a 36% increase in their sewer bill. Besides the growing costs that are needed to power a home, we still need to worry about increasing extreme weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Just a flooded basement can cost upwards of $26,000.
Thanks to these rising floods, droughts, and temperatures, food prices have been driven up by as much as 20% in recent decades. If industrial farmers continue to cope with drought, warming, and migrating crop conditions, we can certainly expect cost surges.
And let’s not forget rising climate-driven medical costs. On top of missed work, flu costs can set you back $130 for medical attention and medicine. Maybe you’ll avoid the flu and get hit with more rising allergies instead, which cost Americans $17.5 billion annually.
Climate costs are hitting us from all sides (we didn’t even mention transportation, taxes, or infrastructure!). We need to go beyond normal budget-saving advice and leave extra room for these new or growing costs. Now is the time for a climate-proof savings plan.
Let’s budget better
It is recommended that you save between 10 and 15% of your annual income. You have an opportunity to make a big change, but it takes some heavy emotional lifting. To make your finances climate-proof, savings are key. And the key to climate-proof savings for most of us is to seriously change our lifestyle.
Here’s are some ways to make that easier:
- We need to make room in our budget for growing climate costs. A detailed monthly budget can help you understand your cash flow. Use online budgeting tools (check out our budget bookmark), and analyze your monthly spending.
- Stop spending money. Sure this is easier said than done, but this list gives excellent advice for those of us quick to make impulse buys. Tips like understanding your spending triggers or simply sticking to cash instead of credit cards can make all the difference. Raising or planning a family? Check out this money-saving list for frugal families, which is packed with advice.
- How climate-proof is your job? It may pay to invest in a career change.
- If you are among the few who will pay less tax thanks to Tax Reform, put those savings aside. We should all be seeing our 2017 tax returns roll in about now; let’s put those away too.
- Growing transportation costs and time spent in traffic congestion cost the average San Franciscan $1,996. Alternatives to driving are available for some, but you can also consider moving for a cheaper, easier commute.
- Our Where-to-Live Scorecards give the cost of living in your hometown and some measures of earning opportunities that might be useful.
- Check out this list of US cities where it’s easiest to save money and compare these with our Scorecards. The serious changes to a lifestyle that are needed to really boost savings are sometimes easier to make when moving to a more climate-proof hometown.