Despite Pandemic, Most Older Americans Are Not Delaying Retirement

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Despite speculation that the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic fallout might cause many older Americans to delay retirement, a new study by the Pew Trusts found that more than four-fifths have not changed their retirement plans.

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The survey was conducted from May 12 to June 5, 2020, when the pandemic was still on its upsurge. Pew polled 1,125 near and recent retirees from 55 to 75 years old, with at least $30,000 in retirement savings. Of these, 589 were working full time and 536 had already retired.

Results were released on Wednesday. Among the findings:

  • Only 16% of those currently working said they planned to retire later than expected because of COVID-19. Those who did plan to delay retirement tended to fall into older age brackets.
    Respondents with employers that offered financial counseling on transitioning to retirement were less likely to have changed their plans due to the pandemic.
  • Nearly 2 in 5 recent retirees — those who left the workforce before the onset of the pandemic — say they retired earlier than planned. Most cited layoffs or health as the most significant reasons.
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  • Among both retirees and those still working, just over 10% said they had withdrawn more than usual from their retirement accounts since the start of the pandemic. Most did so because they needed the additional money to cover unexpected expenses. Only 14% said their additional withdrawals were directly related to the pandemic.
  • Only 12% of those ages 55 to 58, and 17% of those ages 59 to 62, said they planned to delay their retirement as a result of COVID-19. For those 63 to 67, nearly three in 10 (28%) said they planned to delay their retirements. Those percentages peaked among respondents ages 68 to 70, with 34% saying they planned to retire later as a result of COVID-19.

As noted in a recent article on Bloomberg, the pandemic caused many baby boomers — about 2.7 million — to think about retiring early rather than later. These people tend to be white and have large retirement savings. Many cite COVID-19 fatigue as one of the reasons they want to leave the workforce early.

Craig DiLorenzo, 58, retired at the end of March following a long career with 3M Co. in the Minneapolis area. He did so partly because he got tired of early morning teleconferences, and partly to pursue outside passions.

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“It makes you think, ‘Does all this matter as much as you think it does?'” DiLorenzo told Bloomberg.

Melissa Marteney, also 58, retired this year, about five years earlier than expected, from her job with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. Her husband also retired from his job in financial services. The couple plan to spend their winters sailing to the Caribbean.

“I’ve seen so many people who have decided to wait too long to retire — many of my colleagues or older family members — and they get one year of retirement and get sick and pass on,” Marteney told Bloomberg. “I don’t want that.”

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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