We're several months into the COVID-19 pandemic now, and it's clear the virus still has a firm grip on the country. While many Americans are most focused on their immediate financial needs, it's important to keep your long-term goals in mind, too.

Investing for retirement is crucial no matter your age, but it's a goal that often gets pushed to the back burner. And just a small fraction of Americans are making this smart investing move that will help them build a healthier retirement fund.

Young woman putting a dollar bill into a piggy bank

Image source: Getty Images.

Investing during uncertain times

Right now can be a daunting time to invest in the stock market. We're officially in a recession, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, and with the number of coronavirus cases spiking sharply in recent weeks, there's a chance businesses may need to shut down once again -- potentially resulting in a second stock market downturn.

However, despite these uncertain times, 1 in 5 Americans say they plan to invest more in the stock market, according to a recent survey from Simplywise. That's one of the smartest retirement moves you can make, especially considering most people don't have any time to waste when it comes to saving for the future.

One of Americans' biggest retirement concerns is outliving their savings, the Simplywise survey revealed, with 50% of survey respondents sharing this concern. Nearly 4 in 10 people also worry they won't be able to afford their daily living expenses in retirement, the survey found, and 37% are concerned they won't be able to retire at all.

By investing more for retirement, you can avoid most of these concerns and enjoy your senior years more comfortably. And because retirement could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not more than $1 million), it will likely take decades of consistent saving to build a robust nest egg. So if you're not saving much (or at all) right now, it's time to start investing.

Saving more when money is tight

It can be tough to find extra cash in your budget to put toward retirement during good economic times, so saving can be even more challenging right now.

The first step to saving for retirement is to ensure all your financial priorities are in order. If you don't have an emergency fund, that may be more important at the moment than saving for retirement. As important as it is to invest in the stock market, if you don't have some emergency savings stashed aside, you may end up withdrawing from your retirement fund early if you lose your job or are slammed with an unexpected expense.

Once you have enough saved to cover at least a few months' worth of living expenses, then you can start investing your spare cash. You can plug your information into a retirement calculator to see how much you should be saving, but don't get discouraged if your goals are out of reach. Saving even a little is better than saving nothing, so invest what you can afford even if it's not quite as much as the calculator says you need.

To get closer to reaching your savings goal, you may want to consider making budget cuts. Start tracking your spending to see where all your money is going, then cut any unnecessary expenses. Again, saving a little is better than nothing, so trimming your expenses by even a few dollars per week can make a difference.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy, but that doesn't mean you can't keep your financial goals on track. By investing more for retirement now, you'll be in a much better place financially once you reach your senior years.