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Millions of Americans Plan to Retire Later Due to Pandemic: Age Wave Study

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What You Need to Know

  • The study is a partnership of Age Wave, Edward Jones and the Harris Poll.
  • Millions of Americans who stopped saving for retirement in 2020 have resumed doing so, according to the researchers.
  • Retirees said health, family, purpose and finances are key to optimal well-being.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused 32% of Americans who intend to retire to delay their plans, according to the latest Age Wave study, produced in partnership with Edward Jones and The Harris Poll.

Eleven percent said they expect to retire earlier due to the pandemic.

Researchers surveyed 2,042 U.S. adults ages 18 and older in late March, including 616 retirees and 335 pre-retirees who were 50 and older and planning to retire. The study follows two similar surveys conducted in 2020 — one done in May through early June and another in early December — and is designed to be a representative sample of the population. Results were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with actual proportions in the population.

Age Wave estimated that 69 million Americans plan on delaying their retirement, down from 80 million in December.

During the pandemic, millions of Americans stopped their monthly retirement savings contributions, but those numbers, too, declined between year-end 2020 and March 2021, from 22 million to 14 million, according to the Age Wave Report.

In addition, the pandemic, which has killed nearly 600,000 Americans, reduced the overall life expectancy of Americans by one year, from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.8 years, but the decline was close to two years for Latino Americans and three years for Black Americans, according to the study, which cites a February 2021 report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The pandemic also negatively impacted the mental health of about 40% of Americans, especially younger Americans. Fifty-five percent of those members of the Gen Z cohort, who are 18 to 23 years old, reported mental health issues, compared with 44% of baby boomers and 31% of the so-called silent generation, those 75 and older, according to the survey.

Silver Linings

But not all the financial effects of the pandemic have been negative.

The study found that 70% of Americans, especially millennials and Gen Z members, saw the pandemic as a financial wake-up call to pay more attention to long-term finances.

It also found that 76% of Americans credit the pandemic with causing them to focus on what’s important in life. For Gen Xers, Boomers and Americans 75 and older, what’s important is spending more time with family and friends, according to the report. For younger Americans, it’s good mental health and better financial decision-making. The majority of retirees said they wish they had done a better job planning for retirement, financially and otherwise.

Two-thirds of retirees reported that having a sense of purpose is necessary to achieve optimal well-being, and the majority of retirees said all four interdependent pillars of retirement — health, family, purpose and finances — are essential for optimal well-being in retirement.

Many retirees also said they would like to volunteer or work pro bono in retirement but they need more guidance and resources to help them connect with volunteer opportunities that leverage their experience, talents and interests.