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Surprisingly Few Americans Have Postponed Retirement Due to COVID-19

By Christy Bieber – Jun 22, 2020 at 8:45AM

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New research finally offers some good news in what has been a rough few months for the economy and personal finance.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic havoc, driving the country into a recession and leading to a record number of people becoming unemployed in a very short time frame. Amid this chaos, it may seem as though postponing retirement is a smart choice if you still have a job.

Surprisingly, though, very few workers have decided to do that. In fact, research from Northwestern Mutual released this month revealed that only 5% of workers have decided to leave the workforce later than planned.

While there's no reason the pandemic should force you to alter your plans if you're prepared for retirement, the fact is that the economic impact of the virus might affect retirement readiness for some. If that happens to you, you don't want to go forward with your plans and put your future security at risk.

To determine if you should become one of the small number of workers who postpones their exit date, ask yourself these key questions.

Man and woman sitting at table with calculator and financial papers.

Image source: Getty Images.

How are your retirement account balances doing?

If your retirement account balances have taken a big hit due to the coronavirus market crash, there's a few reasons you may want to work a little bit longer.

First and foremost, you'll want time for those accounts to recover -- which they likely will, but not if you have to sell and lock in losses. Working longer could buy you more time for the market to rally and your account balance to climb. And on the off chance some of the investments you owned don't come back in full, putting in a few extra years on-the-job would give you time to save more. 

A smaller retirement nest egg would also mean your income from investments would be lower, assuming you maintain a safe withdrawal rate. Since you don't want to withdraw more than you should early on and end up with nothing late in life, you could find your quality of life severely diminished by your low income. 

Do you have plans for healthcare coverage as a retiree?

The coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the importance of maintaining good health, as underlying conditions make you more susceptible to serious illness. For most seniors, that means getting regular preventative care and effectively managing any chronic conditions. The coronavirus has also shown how precarious your health status can be, as new threats could arise at any time.

Seniors need to be prepared to cover whatever medical expenses come their way. This isn't always easy when Medicare has many coverage gaps and the price tag of services can be very high for seniors.

Unless you've researched your Medicare options and have some dedicated money earmarked for healthcare needs, you may want to consider working a bit longer. 

How much liquid cash do you have available? 

Now that the country is officially in a recession, the stock market may fall further. And even if it doesn't, it's inevitable there will be an extended bear market at some time during the course of your retirement.

You never want to be forced to sell losing investments just to produce essential income, so it's a good idea to make sure you have 24 months of liquid cash available to support you through tough times. If you don't, consider postponing retirement and getting serious about saving. 

Make sure COVID-19 doesn't hurt your retirement plan

Hopefully you'll find that the coronavirus hasn't affected your retirement schedule and you can join the majority of Americans going forward as planned.

But if you've seen your retirement account balances fall, you aren't prepared to cover your healthcare costs, or you have no savings to see you through a recession, you may want to join the small minority of Americans planning to delay. Although postponing retirement may not seem fun, it's a lot better than going forward on schedule and ending up with too little money as a retiree. 

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