COVID Aftermath: Nearly 1-in-5 Women Say They Will Retire Later Than Expected

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Evidence mounting over the past two years suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic shutdowns set female workers and female-majority employment sectors back. However, the economic fallout from the pandemic is also wreaking havoc on women’s retirement plans per a new survey from the Nationwide Retirement Institute.

The organization surveyed participants in employer-sponsored retirement plans and sponsors, discovering that 45% are worried about retirement, 15% are “frustrated,” and another 16% are downright “panicked.” Additionally, 18% of those polled feel they are on the “wrong track” for retirement, while the same number of respondents said they expect to reach retirement later than they originally planned.

The Nationwide Retirement Institute survey also pinpointed a gender gap when it comes to retirement savings:

  • 50% of women and 58% of men contributed to their 401(k) or IRA last year.
  • 47% of women and 59% of men built an emergency fund.
  • 39% of women and 51% of men ramped up their retirement plan contributions.

The issues are, in part, caused by the added burden placed on women as caregivers during the pandemic, according to Nationwide analysts.

“Working through the pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone. This is particularly true for women, who are balancing child or elder care challenges and career burnout,” Amelia Dunlap, vice president of Retirement Solutions Marketing at Nationwide, said in a news release. “This only adds to the stress that women are facing, feeling off course from their overall financial and retirement goals.”

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In February 2021, reported that 2.6 million women left the workforce compared to pre-pandemic figures of February 2020. Another 33% said they had thought about leaving their jobs or downshifting careers in 2021, according to a separate McKinsey study published in September 2021.

However, the good news is that women are taking steps to improve their finances. Roughly half of all female respondents said they would want to learn about in-plan guaranteed lifetime investment income options, and 35% said they would be likely to roll their retirement savings into such a plan if they could.

For women concerned about their retirement, it may be wise to speak to the HR director — or benefits advisor — at work about available retirement options. Speaking to a financial planner about other retirement savings plans could also be very beneficial.

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