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Most Americans Terrified a Health Care Crisis Will Affect Retirement: Survey

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What You Need to Know

  • A Nationwide survey found 69% of participants see another pandemic in their lifetime.
  • The vast majority of respondents say they didn't change their retirement plans due to the pandemic.
  • Higher inflation and Social Security depletion were two key concerns.

A majority of U.S. adults — 69% — think there will be another pandemic in their lifetime, and think that prioritizing self-care and mental health now will help them save on health care in the future, according to a new survey by Nationwide, which looked at the health, financial and retirement factors that most worry millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers.

In addition, 60% said they were “terrified” of what a global health care crisis might do to their retirement plans, and 68% believed there would be a market crash in the next five years, according to the online survey of 1,817 adults 25 and older. The Harris Poll conducted the survey between Aug. 5 and Aug. 24.

Also, 89% of those surveyed believed that health and wellness were their top priority. Indeed, 65% agreed with the statement that “years from now, I’ll be saying that I wish I would have taken better care of my health.”

A majority of those surveyed, 71%, have received the COVID-19 vaccine, while another 9% plan to get one. However, 20% do not plan on getting one, and their reasons include concern about the vaccine’s safety (47%), lack of trust in government (28%) and lack of trust in the vaccine manufacturers (26%). Fifteen percent said they were not concerned about the risk of contracting COVID-19.

The survey focused on health factors, however several questions looked at the state of retirement savings and how it’s related to health factors. For example, 53% of participants stated they worry more about their financial stability now than they did before the pandemic. This was especially prevalent among millennials, of whom 67% stated they were more worried versus 40% of baby boomers.

Other findings include:

  • As a result of the pandemic, 14% dipped into an emergency fund, 26% paid off debt faster, and 31% slowed down or paused payments on student loans.
  • Of those surveyed, 35% participated in a health savings account plan. Most of those, 61%, plan to use it for current health expenses.

Respondents also said situations that most worried them when it came to retirement planning were inflation (36%) while Social Security running out of funds was second (28%.)

Women were more concerned about Social Security running out of funds (25% vs. 31%) and less likely than men to worry about paying higher taxes (16% vs. 22%).

Of current retirees, 39% wished they would have saved more for retirement, although women were less likely to say this than men (33% vs. 45%).

Other things they would have done differently include: taken better care of their health (21%), worked longer (16%), taken on less debt (15%) and delayed taking Social Security for a larger payout (14%). Only 5% stated they would have retired earlier.

Changes Due to COVID

Although 70% of those surveyed stated they hadn’t adjusted their retirement timing or management as a result of COVID-19, 45% of millennials did make changes. For example, although only 8% overall stated they would increase life insurance coverage, 16% of millennials said they would do so.

Twelve percent of millennials said they had engaged a financial advisor for the first time, while 12% of millennials stated they no longer planned to retire due to pandemic-related expenses or debt.

Almost half of those surveyed also stated they were somewhat or not at all confident in having a successful financial strategy for retirement, including a majority of Gen Xers and boomers.

Family relationships and access to quality general medical care were two factors respondents said would help their mental health in retirement. Seventy-five percent of boomers and 71% of Gen Xers stated family relationships were important.

Retirement location seemed important to 65% overall participants, including 69% of boomers. Also, financial security was key to mental health for 64% of those surveyed.

Finally, rising health care costs in retirement were most worrisome to boomers (60% vs. 49% overall). Also, seventy percent stated they wish they understood Medicare coverage better.