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5 Ways COVID-19 Has Increased Women’s Retirement Worries

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Women seem to shoulder much of the worry when it comes to how COVID-19 is affecting the economy — and the impact on their finances, thus their future and retirement — according to a 2020 study by Nationwide.

“For several consecutive years, our Advisor Authority study has revealed the disconnect between women’s growing concerns about their ability to retire and their level of preparation — and the pandemic has taken this to new levels,” said Ann Bair, senior vice president of marketing for Nationwide Financial, said in a statement. “While women are acutely aware of the challenges they face, it’s critical that they take steps now to address gaps in their retirement plan, especially as we start a new year.”

The sixth annual study polled 2,500 women and men, including 1,768 advisors and financial professionals and 817 investors. The investors included 520 men and 297 women. The online survey was conducted by Harris Poll from May 27 through June 25, 2020.

Here are five key finding of the study:

1. Women were more concerned in 2020 about a recession and a bear market than they were in 2019.

Findings showed that 82% of women polled were concerned about a U.S. economic recession over the next 12 months versus 60% in 2019. Again, this poll was done in May and June 2020, with the March stock plunge still vivid. Also, 74% of women worried about an ongoing U.S. bear market in the next 12 months versus 57% in 2019.

2. Women said portfolio losses were their top financial concern.

It’s no surprise that one of the two largest financial concerns in 2020 was losses in their portfolio due to COVID-19. However, the same share of respondents, 36%, said protecting their assets was a top concern, versus 26% in 2019.

In 2019, the cost of health care was a major concern of 36%, which fell to 21% in 2020. Also key in 2019 was saving enough for retirement, 24%, which dropped to 16% in 2020. Generating reliable income during retirement was concerning to 18% in 2020, slightly higher than 15% in 2019. Managing volatility was a top concern for 16% in 2020 versus 11% in 2019.

3. The pandemic is driving women’s need to find more guaranteed solutions for the future.

According to the study, annuities made inroads, with 59% of women stating they would feel more secure if a portion of portfolio was invested in an annuity to help protect against market risks. Also, 55% stated they would feel more secure if they had invested a portion of their portfolio in an annuity to help “protect against outliving their savings.”

4. Diversification is the main strategy both women and men use to protect assets against market risk.

A majority of those surveyed — 52% of women and 59% of men — stated that diversification was the main strategy they used to protect assets.

Fixed annuities were more popular with women, 39%, versus 34% for men. Fixed indexed annuities were used by 26% of women versus 15% of men.

Men (27%) used liquid alternatives more than women (16%) to protect assets, while 22% of men and 10% of women used market-linked CDs.

5. The pandemic hurt the retirement savings of most women.

Taking into account the timing of the study, it’s not surprising that 72% of women said the pandemic had a negative impact on how long they will be able to live off their current retirement savings. Eighteen percent said there was no negative impact, and 10% said they didn’t know.

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