Most baby boomers fear they’ll never be able to retire thanks to pandemic

NEW YORK — From stimulus checks to eviction moratoriums to child tax credits to extended unemployment benefits, many Americans have needed all the help they can get to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic. Older adults who once dreamed of unlocking their 401Ks and enjoying life after work now find themselves pushing that dream back several years.  In fact, according to a new survey, over half of American baby boomers worry they’ll never be able to retire because of the financial turmoil from the pandemic.

The survey of 2,567 baby boomers (about 2,200 of whom are not retired) finds 52 percent of those still working fear COVID-19 has made such an impact on their lives that they’ll never be able to fully retire. The poll analyzed boomers’ retirement plans as well as their “non-negotiables” for when the time comes to call it quits.

Baby boomer priorities

Prior to COVID, 56 percent of all boomers said their top non-negotiable for retirement was maintaining their financial stability and independence. This has now dropped to just 35 percent with the impact of the pandemic.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of CNO Financial Group’s Center for a Secure Retirement, the survey also reveals saving money is taking a backseat to family after 2020. The new top priority for retirement after COVID-19 is spending lots of time with family and grandchildren (43%).

Next in line for non-negotiables includes maintaining an active lifestyle (34%) and being able to travel (30%). A quarter of respondents feel living close to family and friends is another retirement must-have.

It’s no wonder over four in 10 respondents want to spend more time with their families and 25 percent want to live closer to them — over half (53%) of boomers in the poll say the biggest impact the pandemic had on them was not being able to spend as much time with their loved ones.

Pandemic dependence

Despite not being able to see each other, 41 percent of respondents had to financially support other members of their family. This has greatly impacted their retirement plans. For those financially supporting their family during COVID, 75 percent add their own retirement savings have taken a hit in order to make ends meet for their families. For all those still working, 61 percent admit the pandemic made them realize they will need more money to actually live comfortably in retirement.

“Determining what to prioritize financially as you prepare for and enter retirement can be challenging. And the strains retirees and pre-retirees have experienced as a result of the pandemic have shone a spotlight on this reality,” says Scott Goldberg, President, Consumer Division at CNO Financial Group, in a statement. “Amid these newly defined retirement non-negotiables, boomers need to regain control to plan a secure retirement that they deserve.”

Reaching into the rainy day fund

Over half (53%) of non-retired boomers surveyed also had to tap into their retirement savings to pay for daily expenses during the pandemic. Another 53 percent of respondents who aren’t retired say they’ve had to completely reevaluate their overall retirement plan. Their new top concern now is figuring out how much money they need to retire comfortably (63%).

Other reevaluations for these respondents include making changes to their lifestyle, improving their health, and even thinking about future caregiving needs (44%). In terms of overall impact on their retirement, the survey shows that women have fared better financially than men during the health crisis. In fact, 61 percent of women have been able to save more for retirement than expected as a result of COVID, while 26 percent of men said the same.

“The vision of what constitutes a happy retirement may have shifted for many following the experience of the pandemic. But this reassessment can be the first and most important step in progressing toward an understanding of what retirement plan to pursue, and setting achievable goals for a rewarding retirement,” Goldberg adds. “Amid these changes in retirement expectations, it’s important to have real-world insights and guidance.”

Researchers note that all 2,567 American baby boomers (between 57 and 75 years-old) were in the middle income range ($30,000-$100,000 annually) with less than $1 million in investable assets.

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