How climate change can affect your finances

A woman walks her dog along a flooded road
Scientific studies show that climate change probably will increase the frequency of extreme weather events, such as January’s storms in California that caused flooding in spots, including San Diego’s Mission Center Road, shown here. That trend could affect your finances through insurance and other costs.
(K.C. Alfred)

Kristy Jiayi Xu got an unwelcome surprise this New Year’s Eve: The roof of her garage was leaking during a severe rainstorm in San Francisco. Delays in getting a contractor to fix the roof have brought unexpected costs to keep things dry, including a dehumidifier.

“My husband and I are both from the East Coast, so we always think the rain here lasts for a day,” said Xu, certified financial planner and chief executive of the firm Global Wealth Harbor.

In September 2022, she and her husband faced a heat wave — another weather incident they weren’t expecting.


“We have air conditioning, but the bill was so high,” she said.

For more than a decade, scientific reports have shown how climate change will likely make extreme weather events more frequent. And this might affect your wallet.

Let’s break it down.

Flooding across California has damaged hundreds — if not thousands — of cars. Over the next month or so, some of those soggy cars will be sold at auctions, eventually making their way onto dealership lots. Here’s what to know about these water-damaged rides.

Jan. 20, 2023

Higher insurance costs, additional policies

More storms typically mean more risk of damage to your home or car. And getting enough home and other insurance — at a reasonable cost — can be its own challenge.

Competition among insurers is shrinking in areas most vulnerable to climate change, which means higher prices for consumers, especially higher deductibles, said Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a nonprofit that advocates for insurance consumers. A deductible is the amount you pay before an insurer covers damages.

In hurricane-prone states, some insurers offer home insurance policies with separate hurricane deductibles. And insurers’ policy language keeps changing to limit what they pay for, Bach said.

Climate change contributes to rising insurance costs, but pricing risks is what insurers are equipped to do, said Jeff Brewer, department vice president of public affairs for the American Property Casualty Insurance Assn. However, legal system abuse, claims fraud and regulatory interference contribute to growing market instability in several states, he said.

The storms hitting California threaten to blow a tree limb into your home or car. Who pays for the damage will depend on where the tree was located, what condition it was in and what kind of insurance you have.

Jan. 17, 2023

If you live in an area prone to floods or earthquakes, you’d want extra insurance because most homeowners and renters insurance policies don’t cover damage caused by those disasters.


“The toughest thing is, so many households now are on a tight budget. It’s hard to tell people to buy three separate insurance policies,” Bach said.

Higher food, energy costs

Extreme temperatures have become more frequent, which can affect crop production and household energy usage. In turn, your grocery and energy bills may increase.

“Higher temperatures over recent decades have played an increasingly non-negligible role in driving price developments,” according to a 2021 report by the European Central Bank that analyzed temperature data and price indicators in 48 countries, including the U.S. “Food price inflation could be explained by a negative effect of hot summers on food production, resulting in supply shortages.”

SoCalGas customers are paying sharply higher January bills because wholesale gas prices have jumped. Yet other parts of the U.S. are seeing prices fall.

Jan. 9, 2023

Home heating prices this winter are expected to reach the highest level in 10 years, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Assn. And last summer, the association found, cooling costs also increased.

Indirect hits on investments

“Climate change is going to impact the long-term valuations of both stocks and bonds,” said Zach Stein , co-founder of Carbon Collective, an investment advisory firm focused on creating portfolios that fight climate change.

Some industries’ performance may hurt your investment portfolio returns. Stein predicted that we’ll see the most volatility in upcoming decades in agriculture, insurance and real estate.


Rising sea levels will likely affect coastal real estate. For example, Florida homes exposed to flooding could lose 15% to 35% of their value by 2050, according to a 2020 report by the global consulting firm McKinsey.

In our final installment, we look at earthquake insurance, important documents and good, old-fashioned cash.

June 18, 2021

What you can do now

— Compare home insurance options. Get quotes from multiple insurers. In areas where insurance is hard to get, Bach recommended getting help from an independent agent or broker. She suggested the website as one option.

— Expand your emergency fund. Experts generally recommend setting aside three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a savings account. Because disasters can have more unpredictable costs than job loss, CFP Xu recommended aiming closer to the six months figure.

— Consider banking and investing to support environmental causes. A handful of banks and credit unions have third-party certifications to prove that their customers’ deposits don’t support the fossil fuel industry. For investing, look into mutual funds or robo-advisors that use environmental, social and governance factors.

— “Storm-proof” your property. Try reducing potential damage before the next big weather event. In case of flooding, have sandbags available and clear your gutters. In case of a wildfire, look into fire-resistant vents and roof materials.

Tierney is a writer at personal finance website NerdWallet. This article was distributed by the Associated Press.