Notes on U.S. Infrastructure

The American Society of Civil Engineers has given the U.S. an overall infrastructure grade of D+. Throughout the next decade, it will take more than $4.5 trillion to fix our aging infrastructure — including upgrades to roads, mass transit, wastewater treatment plants and the electrical grid.1

We’ve reached the mission-critical stage. One industry analyst observed, “We’re at the point where our infrastructure is becoming an impediment to productivity and long-term economic growth.”2

The idea of national infrastructure may remind us of personal retirement preparation. If you are still working and thinking about retirement options, consider your own “infrastructure” situation. First, are you considering relocating or downsizing, or are you committed to aging in your own home? If you prefer the latter, it’s a good idea to check out your home from top to bottom to see whether you need any major repairs or maintenance while you’re still earning a paycheck.

This inspection should include considering a new roof, checking for mold buildup in your crawl space and researching new windows or other energy-efficient features that can help lower your utility bills. Even replacing older appliances could impact your household budget once you’re living on a fixed income.

Given our dramatic weather pattern swings, we should also prepare for the possibility of a natural disaster that could affect our daily living. Consider how you might plan for a long-term disruption in power or clean water supplies, such as installing a generator, solar panels, tiles and/or a battery pack. While it may seem farfetched, remember that the citizens of Puerto Rico probably never thought they would have to adapt for long-term power outages, as seen after Hurricane Maria.3

One way the U.S. is trying to address some of these issues is by incorporating green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) in sewer overflow control and integrated wet-weather plans. The idea is to evaluate the performance of GSI systems for future development.4

With all the discussion about funding at the federal level, one little-known fact is how much infrastructure is controlled at the local level. In fact, 40 percent of the nation’s bridges and 46 percent of all public roads are owned and maintained by counties. Furthermore, counties help fund one-third of the nation’s airports and 78 percent of public transportation programs.5

The news isn’t all bad. According to the World Economic Forum, the U.S. international ranking for overall infrastructure quality improved from 25th to 12th place last year out of 138 countries. However, when it comes to specific categories, we show mixed results — the U.S. ranks second in road infrastructure spending but ranks 60th for road safety. The U.S. also lags behind other developed countries when it comes to infrastructure resilience and future sustainability.6

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Merrill Lynch. 2018. “Getting a Bigger Bang for the Infrastructure Buck.” Accessed April 20, 2018.

2 Ibid.

3 Camilla Domonoske. NPR. April 18, 2018. “Puerto Rico Loses Power — Again.” Accessed April 20, 2018.

4 Water Environment Federation. April 4, 2018. “Data analyses confirm GSI value in overflow control.” Accessed April 20, 2018.

5 Mary Scott Nabers. Infrastructure USA. April 9, 2018. “County government — a critical component of America’s greatness.” Accessed April 20, 2018.

6 Hiba Baroud. PBS News Hour. Feb. 18, 2018. “Measuring up U.S. infrastructure against other countries.” Accessed April 20, 2018.

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