Most people are not prepared for retirement. And most people are not prepared for a natural disaster. Is there a connection?

• More than 20 million houses in the U.S. are at risk from serious flooding. Fewer than five million have flood insurance.
• One in 10 Americans age 65 or older suffers from Alzheimer’s, and more than 20% have some form of dementia. Yet only 3.3% of the population has long-term-care insurance.

Retirement stress and natural disasters both pounce on people who think they might be OK, but aren’t really sure and haven’t really taken precautions. And besides, the “forecast” is never right … right?

Our Brains Don’t Plan
Blame our brains. The human brain is not wired for long-term planning—of any kind. We have trouble with abstract concepts. We can’t process “odds.” We process only what we can see or feel or deposit or fear. Clients get in big trouble with retirement planning because they hear the numbers but don’t really “see” themselves forward.

Really good advisors close the gap.

It is ironic that the designer of our planning-deficient brains is the same Mother Nature who is most often the culprit when we fail the worst. The real risk in retirement is not running out of money, it’s running out of options.

But There’s Never Been A Big Storm Before
Take my mom’s neighbor, who we’ll call Marcie. Marcie and her husband moved to Florida for retirement and had all their bases covered. He died a couple of years ago with their home fully paid for and modest but adequate savings.

Mom, Dad, Marcie and her husband made it through Hurricane Charley in 2004, which slammed into Sanibel Island, where they lived, and completely deforested the historic canopy along Periwinkle Way. Charley was mostly wind, so the damage was minimal at both homes. Hurricane Irma in 2017 was different and more threatening. My mom evacuated to the mainland and spent a couple nights sitting in a folding chair in a school gym with no air conditioning. At age 83.

Again, the storm was forecast to be worse than it turned out. Local preparation for the evacuation was uneven and led to public recriminations.

When Hurricane Ian hit Sanibel Island on September 28 last year, a wavering forecast and last-minute evacuation orders confused many residents. Too many recalled the pure discomfort and inconvenience of Irma and didn’t gird themselves for the disaster to follow. A thousand people stayed on the island and were hit with winds at 150 miles per hour and a storm surge as high as 18 feet—on an island that is an average of 3 feet above sea level.

Mom was slammed. Four months later we are still working with the insurance companies to determine her compensation. The auto insurance company was awesome—paying cash for her car and removing it fast. The flood company lowballed an offer.

One Storm, Two Levels Of Preparation
Nearby, Marcie has no flood insurance. With her home free and clear, Marcie let the homeowner’s insurance lapse, “reasoning” that it wasn’t required anymore by a lender.

Mom has both flood and wind coverage. But not Marcie. She cannot afford to rebuild. She has two adult children who both live modest lives in modest homes with kids. Neither the kids nor Marcie want to live with each other in those conditions.

My wife and I are empty nesters with extra bedrooms. Mom was able to stay with us for weeks and grind through the endless paperwork with help.

Hey You, It’s Me—I Mean, You
One of my favorite advisors over the years was focused on life insurance and retirement income “protection” strategies. He greeted every new client with “bad news.” “I know what is ahead for you; it’s my job,” he would start, “And I will have advice from you that you will wish you accepted. To make it easier, I’m going to be someone you don’t know but who knows you very well. That person is you, at age 75. And every time we have a disagreement about the steps I suggest for your plan, you will be arguing not with me, but with you.” He always got a kick out of saying it that way.

Simple but effective. Makes it real.

The last Powerball winner beat odds of 292 million to one. Why does the scratch-off have more traction than the 401(k)? It’s real. In your hand. And those three golden crowns just might be hiding there. Why not, right?

Maybe you’re going to go ahead and play Powerball anyway, but maybe you want to ask your older self for the two bucks.

Steve Gresham is on a mission to improve longevity and “retirement.” He leads an industry initiative, Next Chapter, and is CEO of the Execution Project LLC, a consulting firm. He is also senior educational advisor to the Alliance for Lifetime Income.