The ongoing economic shock of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with the financial plans of many Americans, but seniors and those at or near retirement seem to be hardest hit. Strained financial resources have become stressed even further, with the pandemic exacerbating the already shaky stature of many seeking to put their working lives behind them to enjoy a well-earned retirement.
That’s not to say things are entirely without hope, but that hope is at least tempered by some of the necessary decisions that must be made because of economic instability, according to a recent story in the Seattle Times.
“The coronavirus pandemic has left the retired (and those who soon hope to be) in limbo, with major pressures coming from every direction — financial, medical and emotional,” writes the Times’ Chris Talbott. “And, as it has in so many parts of our society, the pandemic has exposed the seams in a system that already felt pretty shaky for all but the richest retirees.”
Some of the stories shared by Seattle-area retirees in particular include the necessity of taking odd jobs to make ends meet, and increasingly tight budgets on fixed-incomes that have caused many seniors to fear for the potential loss of their quality of life. Seattle-area small business owner Glenda West confided in Talbott about the new difficulties she faces as a result of the pandemic, which has thrown a meticulously-planned retirement into doubt.
“Even at the beginning of the year, I would have been saying, ‘Yeah, I have a steady plan for my retirement. I know how much I’m going to put away a year. I’m going to be fine,’” West describes. “And now there’s no foreseeing that we’ll even be able to save anything this year. And what will the years coming look like? I may never be able to put that much away again. I mean, you kind of worry that your future could be tanked.”
Still, history has at least indicated that recovery is possible and could be on the horizon, even if that recovery may not necessarily be easy.
“History shows that in a downturn, and even a really serious downturn, that the market does recover, right?” said David C. John, a senior strategic policy adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute to the Seattle Times. “It usually takes some time, and just like watching the market from hour to hour, there are going to be ups and downs. It’s not going to be a smooth recovery up or a precipitous elevator drop down. Over time, your retirement savings will build back up.”
Still, retirees are often advised to tread with caution. A study released by the New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis — as cited by Talbott in the Seattle Times — indicates that if the overall unemployment rate reaches 25% then it will result in roughly 10.5 million older American workers losing their jobs.
“And those who don’t lose their jobs are at risk of losing their retirement coverage, which was already at a historic low of 41% in 2019,” Talbott writes.
Read the article at the Seattle Times.