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1 in 4 Retirees Say COVID-19 May Force Them to Go Back to Work. What This Could Mean for You

By Katie Brockman – Jun 19, 2020 at 6:34AM

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If you don't act now, COVID-19 could wreck your retirement plans.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected our society in countless ways, and it also has many older workers concerned about their retirement. In fact, a whopping 89% of those who plan to retire within the next 10 years say they're at least somewhat worried about how COVID-19 will affect their retirement, according to a survey from Personal Capital.

COVID-19 is also affecting those who are already retired. Nearly 37% of retirees say they've experienced financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, the survey found, and one in four retirees say it's at least somewhat likely they'll need to return to the workforce.

Whether you're already retired or are still planning for your senior years, there's a good chance COVID-19 will affect your retirement in some way. Here's how to prepare for it.

Older woman looking at documents and a laptop

Image source: Getty Images.

If you're nearing retirement age

If you have at least a few years before you plan to retire, that gives you more time to prepare your retirement for the impact of COVID-19.

You may have watched your retirement savings take a tumble over the past few months, and the stock market is still volatile -- so there could be another crash on the way. For that reason, it's a good idea to consider postponing retirement by a few years until the market stabilizes. It's not impossible to retire during a recession, but withdrawing money from your retirement fund during a market downturn can be risky because you're selling your investments when stock prices are at their lowest. That means your savings likely won't last as long as they should.

Not everyone can afford to postpone retirement, however. So in that case, it's wise to have a backup plan in place for if you lose your job or develop health problems and are forced to retire early. Start by rethinking your retirement budget to see if there are places you can cut back. This could involve minor tweaks like cutting cable or canceling subscription services you don't use, or major lifestyle changes like downsizing to a smaller house or moving to a more affordable neighborhood. No matter how you choose to revamp your budget, the more you can reduce your costs, the easier it will be to save more and live on less in retirement.

If you're already retired

Those who are already retired don't have as much flexibility as those who still have time to prepare for retirement, but that doesn't mean you can't make the best of your situation.

If you're able to pick up a part-time job or side gig, that could go a long way in building a more robust nest egg that will get you through the rest of retirement. Working during retirement may not be ideal, but picking up a job for even a year or two can help you save more while limiting how much you're withdrawing from your retirement savings.

As a bonus, working during retirement could potentially boost your Social Security checks. If you started claiming benefits before your full retirement age (FRA) and you're continuing to work, your monthly checks could be reduced depending on your income. In the years leading up to your FRA, your checks will be reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn above the 2020 limit of $18,240. Then during the year you reach your FRA, your benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $3 you earn above a different limit of $48,600.

Once you reach your FRA, though, your benefits will be recalculated and you'll start earning bigger checks. If your savings have taken a hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, these bigger checks can help make retirement more affordable.

How will your retirement be affected by COVID-19?

Whether you're nearing retirement or have already retired, it's wise to have a strategy for how to handle COVID-19's impact on your financial situation. The coronavirus pandemic could significantly affect your future, so by taking steps now to prepare the best you can, you can give yourself the best chance possible of enjoying a comfortable retirement.

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