The coronavirus pandemic has already forced many Americans to put their plans on hold. A second wave of COVID-19 could seriously impact your future.

Many older adults are being forced to rethink their retirement plans thanks to the pandemic, with 43% of Americans saying they plan to postpone and continue working past their planned retirement date, according to a survey from nonprofit organization Life Happens.

Working longer could be a smart move that potentially saves you a lot of money during your senior years. But delaying retirement also poses major risks that you'll need to consider.

Senior couple standing in the kitchen drinking from white mugs.

Image source: Getty Images.

Delaying retirement could help your savings last longer

Retiring right now could be a risky proposition because the number of COVID-19 infections has been skyrocketing across the country. Businesses could close their doors once more -- which could affect the stock market.

A second stock market crash could devastate your retirement savings, making it harder to enjoy your senior years comfortably. In addition, withdrawing your savings during a market downturn can be dangerous because you're selling your investments when stock prices are at rock bottom. That means you're essentially locking in your losses, and your savings may not last as long as you'd hoped.

By delaying retirement even a year or two, you'll not only have more time to save, but you can also avoid withdrawing your investments while the stock market is down. That could result in a larger nest egg by the time you're ready to retire. 

The serious risks of working longer

Working longer than expected isn't necessarily bad, but assuming you'll be able to delay retirement can be risky.

Nearly 40% of current retirees say they retired earlier than they expected, according to a survey from the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement. Two of the top reasons for early retirement included job loss and health issues.

While older adults are always vulnerable to job loss and health problems, the risk is even greater right now. If businesses close as a result of the second wave of COVID-19, another round of mass layoffs could be looming. As the number of coronavirus infections rises, it's more likely you could get sick by continuing to work -- especially considering only 47% of workers age 65 and older have a job that can be performed remotely, according to a report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Banking on being able to work as long as you like but then being forced into early retirement could negatively affect your savings. You won't have as much time to save for retirement, and may need to make some serious financial sacrifices to make ends meet.

How to prepare for retirement in the age of COVID-19

Saving for the future is tough right now. You might have to work longer if your savings have taken a hit, and you'll simultaneously need to prepare for the possibility of retiring early whether you want to or not.

It's impossible to know exactly what the future holds, but do your best to save as much as you can right now. You may need to make some budget cuts to put more in your retirement fund, but that's better than holding off on saving and then being forced to live on less if you have to retire early.

Consider picking up a side gig or a source of passive income. It's not always easy to find these jobs, but adding another source of income can help significantly if you're laid off or unable to work due to health problems.

COVID-19 may have thrown off your retirement plans, but that doesn't mean you can't still retire comfortably. Working longer can be a great way to save more and build a healthier nest egg, but make sure you've thought about the drawbacks. By understanding the risks and rewards of delaying retirement, you can make the best decision for your situation.