Seniors have been among those hardest hit by the pandemic, and even those lucky enough to avoid the disease itself still have to deal with the havoc it's wreaked on their retirement plans.
A recent Principal survey polled retirees and those transitioning into retirement about their biggest challenges in the current environment. Some issues, like the inability to travel and visit family, were more personal in nature, but the following three financial concerns were also common themes.
1. Planning for healthcare and retirement costs
The two most significant financial concerns retirees reported were how to manage healthcare costs and how to plan for retirement expenses more generally. This isn't surprising given that stock market volatility has hurt many retirees' nest eggs this year, and it's definitely worth giving some thought to if you haven't done so already.
You probably know how much you spend on monthly living expenses, or if you don't, it shouldn't be too difficult to figure out by looking back at your monthly bank and credit card statements. Then, you multiply that by 12 to get your estimated annual expenses. Look for areas where you can cut back spending if you're worried about running short, or consider a part-time job to supplement your personal savings. It doesn't have to be whatever you did for a living before.
As for healthcare, most retirees will rely on Medicare once they've turned 65, but if you retire before that, make sure you purchase an individual health insurance plan so you're not without coverage. Even once you've enrolled in Medicare, you may want to consider a Medicare supplement or Medicare Advantage plan to fill in some of the gaps that Original Medicare doesn't cover. If you have money in a health savings account (HSA), you can also call upon that to help you pay for medical care.
There's no way to predict every expense you could face in retirement, especially with a pandemic still going on. So the best thing to do is just be conservative with your money. If you'd planned to travel in retirement and now find yourself staying close to home, keep your travel funds as extra emergency savings. When things calm down and your retirement accounts recover, you can decide whether to reschedule your travel or hold on to your money to put toward living expenses.
2. Resisting the temptation to sell investments due to market volatility
It's difficult for anyone to watch their savings plummet, particularly retirees who count on their investments to pay for everything. The Principal survey found that roughly half of participants would make changes to their investment strategy if they lost less than $10,000, and many retirees reported moving their money to more-conservative investments, especially in the first quarter of 2020 when the pandemic was just starting to shut down the country.
The desire to staunch the bleeding from your retirement portfolio is natural, but selling your assets or even moving your money to more-conservative investments isn't always the wisest move. Though it may be difficult, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all. Just be patient and trust that the stock market will recover from this eventually, as it has from every other recession before.
If it helps, don't look at your retirement portfolio for a little while and try to limit how much you withdraw when your investments are down. By keeping as much money invested as possible, you can recover more quickly when your assets start performing well again.
There may be situations where you actually do need to make changes to your investment strategy, like if you have all of your money tied up in one or two stocks. This is never a good idea because it exposes you to too much risk, and there's a chance you could lose everything if those companies fail. But this isn't a scenario most people are likely to find themselves in. If you've made wise investments and kept your money diversified, the best thing you can do right now is to just stay the course.
3. Financially supporting others
Some retirees have chosen to use some of their savings to support family members struggling due to the pandemic. Though the gesture is noble, it could come back to haunt you and your family members later. If your relatives don't pay you back for the financial support you provide for them now, you could run out of savings prematurely. That could force you to seek your family's assistance to pay for your living expenses later on, possibly for decades.
Before you crack open your nest egg to help family, look for other ways to help them. That could mean letting them know about companies near them that are hiring or pointing them toward government and nonprofit aid programs that are helping those affected by the pandemic. This can get them the assistance they need without threatening your retirement security.
If you do decide to give money to a relative or friend, be clear about repayment terms, if you expect repayment, and get everything in writing so you can both refer back to it later. Only give them what they need for essentials, and don't give if doing so would compromise your own ability to pay your bills. Redo your retirement budget to account for your new, lower savings balance so you don't accidentally run out of money too soon.
The pandemic is likely going to continue for a while yet, so these issues will remain important as we move into 2021. We can't know exactly what's in store, so the most important thing is to be flexible and adapt as the situation changes. Keep the above tips in mind and when in doubt, be conservative and avoid sudden changes to your finances.