The COVID-19 crisis is changing the way many Americans work, spend, and think about the future -- and not necessarily for the better. In fact, 23% of workers say they're less confident in their ability to retire comfortably due to the pandemic, according to a new Transamerica survey.
Not surprisingly, retirement confidence wanes increasingly with age. While 20% of millennials have less retirement confidence than they did pre-pandemic, the same holds true for 25% of Gen Xers and 32% of baby boomers. If you're feeling insecure about retirement in light of the economic crisis our country is facing, you're clearly not alone, but there are some steps you can take to improve your outlook and increase your chances of getting to enjoy your senior years without financial worry.
1. Run the numbers
One thing that makes retirement so daunting is not having an idea of how much it will cost. If you're younger, you may not be in a great position to start crunching numbers, but if you're in your 50s or 60s, you can start thinking about what your lifestyle might look like in retirement, and doing some research to see how much money it will take to pay for it. For example, last year, HealthView Services, a cost-projection software provider, found that the average healthy 65-year-old couple will spend an estimated $387,644 on healthcare in retirement, not including long-term care. While that number shouldn't be taken as gospel, it's certainly a starting point.
Similarly, try to narrow down other numbers, like your housing costs. If you're planning to move, research home prices and property taxes in your target city. And also, think about what you'll do with your time, and try to estimate what it will cost you. Even having a rough idea will put you in a stronger position to plan and save well.
2. Assess your savings
Right now, a lot of retirement portfolios are down due to the stock market crash fueled by COVID-19 earlier in the year. If your 401(k) or IRA has taken a major dip, and you're at least a few years away from retirement, try not to let that get to you -- there's a good chance your savings will recoup those losses in time, provided you leave them alone and don't make any drastic changes. But one thing you should do is see how well you were doing on retirement savings before the pandemic hit.
As a general rule, it's good to retire with 10 times your ending salary in savings, so if you're 50 years old with a pre-pandemic IRA balance of $400,000, and you earn $60,000 a year, you're in pretty good shape. On the other hand, if your pre-COVID IRA balance was just $100,000, it means you have some work to do.
3. Plan to save more if needed
You may not be in a position to increase your retirement plan contributions right now, as a lot of people have lost their jobs or seen their income fall during the COVID-19 crisis. But once things normalize, make a plan to start increasing those contributions if you're behind savings-wise. Cutting back on expenses will free up more cash for your 401(k) or IRA, as will getting a side job (which is much easier when we're not grappling with a pandemic). At the same time, keep investing your long-term savings in stocks despite the recent volatility that's ensued. That's a great way to grow your contributions into a healthy sum that allows you to enjoy retirement rather than struggle through it.
At a time when there's so much economic uncertainty, it's easy to see why retirement confidence may be down across the board. If your long-term outlook has changed for the worse, arm yourself with information about what retirement might cost, review your savings, and aim to ramp up once it's feasible to do so. At the same time, remind yourself that the current situation won't last forever, and once life is able to return to its previous state, it'll be easier to have a more positive view of all things financial, retirement included.