We have become complacent.
Hurricane Ivan was 15 years ago. Many of you who are now resident in the Cayman Islands were not here for that storm. We weren’t here. We arrived in Cayman in 2006. The scars from the Cat 5 monster were still very visible.
People say Ivan was a once in a lifetime storm. Perhaps once in someone’s lifetime but not ours.
The scientific link between the strength of a hurricane and climate change is getting clearer. Meteorologists say that Hurricane Dorian “bears hallmarks of what hurricanes will increasingly look like as the climate warms.”
If you are thinking that you don’t need to worry about a Cat 5 hurricane striking our island again soon because ‘we have already had ours’, think again.
It’s not just that hurricanes are getting stronger and the stronger storms are increasing in frequency but they are also intensifying more rapidly, more likely to stall over land (just as Dorian did) and they are becoming more difficult to predict.
Never before has a hurricane as strong as Dorian intensified so quickly.
Scientists predict that Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes in the North Atlantic could become nearly twice as common over the next century as a result of climate change. Atmospheric winds in the subtropics are slowing down which are making storms more likely to “stagnate” the way Dorian did. And storms that stall are very difficult to track.
Look, I am normally the optimistic voice of reason. The world is getting better in most ways. But Cayman needs to wake up to this risk. It’s a risk that is higher today than ever in the past and it will continue to grow each year. This isn’t ‘woo-woo’ stuff, it’s science.
Financial planning is about managing risk. In his book ‘The Geometry of Wealth’ (I highly recommend reading it) Brian Portnoy talks about how controlling risk is the first priority in any financial plan. It’s the winning by not losing mindset. And as he said, starting here can be hard because the rewards for controlling risk are not normally visible. “You don’t get a shiny new car in the driveway for exercising prudence and making sure you are adequately insured.”
As a resident of the Cayman Islands, any other Caribbean island, or any country that gets impacted by hurricanes you need to think hard about how financially prepared you are for a Dorian.
1) Check your insurance documents. What is your excess? Although you don’t have to stump up that cash, if your house suffers $100,000 worth of damage and your excess is $25,000, you will only receive $75,000 from the insurance provider.
2) Are you adequately insured? Insurance should cover the replacement value of your home. That has almost certainly increased in recent years.
3) Do you have contents insurance?
4) Does your insurance policy cover temporary accommodation if your house is destroyed?
5) Think about your cash balances. If a hurricane hits do you have sufficient cash on hand to travel and to cover living costs somewhere else?
6) How secure is your income in the event of a hurricane destroying Cayman?
7) What about your cars? Are they covered by insurance?
There is a lot at stake here.
My advice is to look at your family balance sheet.
How much of your net worth is tied to Cayman in the way of Cayman property or Cayman businesses? What happens if we have a Dorian or two in quick succession? How is the property market impacted? How many people leave and never come back? What happens if insurance premiums double, triple or we become un-insurable?
I just don’t hear people asking these questions.
It worries me. We have become complacent.