The costs to Americans from the coronavirus pandemic continue to emerge, casting a pall over the year-end holiday season.
Twenty-one percent of U.S. workers in a new survey say their confidence in their ability to retire comfortably has declined, and only 27% are highly confident they will be able to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle, according to Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, a nonprofit organization.
“Before the pandemic, the retirement prospects for many workers was iffy at best,” Catherine Collinson, chief executive and president of Transamerica Institute and TCRS, said in a statement.
“It will take years for many workers to financially recover — and some may never recover. Help from policymakers is needed to strengthen the U.S. retirement system,” Collinson added.
In the meantime, much-needed relief after months of congressional dithering appears imminent. The Senate and the House were scheduled to vote Monday on a $900 billion pandemic relief measure agreed over the weekend.
The Harris Poll conducted the survey in October among 1,173 workers who are currently employed, recently unemployed and/or furloughed amid the pandemic. It is a supplement to TCRS’ 20th Annual Retirement Survey conducted in late 2019 of 5,277 workers.
Asked what should be the priorities for the president and Congress, workers’ responses mainly involved strengthening safety nets and improving health care. Respondents also cited these priorities:
- Expanding access to employer-sponsored retirement plans, other savings programs – 36%
- Implementing financial literacy curriculum in schools – 34%
- Increasing access to affordable housing – 34%
- Expanding the Saver’s Credit – 32%
- Creating incentives for individuals to obtain training and education – 32%
- Allowing employers to match employees’ student loan payments as a contribution in their retirement accounts – 29%
Short- and Long-Term Toll
The October survey gauged the effect of the pandemic on workers’ employment and finances.
“Workers share many retirement-related risks; however, by increasing an understanding of the differences across demographic segments, we can identify solutions to help those in greatest need,” Collinson said.
Fifty-two percent of workers surveyed have experienced job loss, furloughs, reduced hours, reduced pay and/or early retirement early.
LGBTQ workers have been hit especially hard. Sixty-five percent have experienced one or more negative effects to their employment, compared with 50% of non-LGBTQ workers.
As a result of the pandemic, 33% of all workers have already taken a loan and/or a withdrawal from their qualified retirement account, or plan to do so, with 59% of LGBTQ workers, 50% of urbanites, 43% of millennials and 42% of men most likely to do so.