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How Retirees Are Financially Faring Amid the Pandemic

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The pandemic and recession has upended almost every aspect of our everyday lives from layoffs & furloughs……to home schooling children. However….one group that we don’t talk enough about are the older adults who are in retirement.  

Today, we have Catherine Collinson, president of the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies to share with us findings from a recent survey of retirees.

Well Catherine…. I suspect many retirees are feeling the impact of the economic downturn in one way or another. So…how are retirees contending these days?

Catherine Collinson:

Surprisingly, retirees, in some ways, may be more resilient in this economic downturn than employed workers. Most retirees have guaranteed income in the form of Social Security and access to health insurance coverage through Medicare. Unlike employed workers, most retirees do not have a job to lose.

Our survey finds that three in four retirees say their retirement confidence has stayed the same, which sounds like good news. However, we need to keep it in perspective that only 29 percent are “very confident” in their ability to maintain a comfortable lifestyle throughout the duration of their retirement.

Al Waller:

Well….I can report that contemporaries I know who have voluntarily opted and been fortunate enough to retire are feeling pretty secure & comfortable in their financial futures too.

Then again, I’m reminded of the old saying: “You can’t take it with you!”  To which my friend Lucy would add: “Yeah but you want to have enough to get there!”  And when you think about it, that makes a lot of sense too.

So any additional insights regarding what the survey offers concerning retirees’ financial status?

Catherine Collinson:

We asked about their current financial priorities. Many retirees – in fact 45 percent – cited paying off some form of debt as a priority, which is concerning. It’s one thing to carry debt during our working years when we have potential career and salary growth, but it’s another when we’re retired and living on a fixed income. The bottom line is that if you are retired and are carrying debt, if you haven’t done so already, take some time to do your homework and put together a plan for paying it down.

Al Waller:

And, I also noticed the survey reported only 9 percent of retirees frequently discuss their retirement savings, investments, and financial situation with family and close friends. Now why is that so important that they do so?

Catherine Collinson:

Especially now, for many, our families and close friends are our most important support system. It’s better to have proactive conversations up front, then scramble to make decisions during a crisis when emotions are running high.

Our survey finds that four in ten retirees say they would rely on family and friends, if their health declines and they need assistance with daily activities. Even fewer have established financial and health care powers of attorney. How can people support each other or come up with a plan, if they don’t share a common understanding?

Al Waller:

Well Catherine….those are some pretty compelling points…So thanks again for your research & perspective today.

And while unrelated, I want to once again remind listeners to be aware of scams.

Please remember…..if you’re ever contacted by someone claiming to be a COVID contact tracer, know that they’ll never ask for financial information, such as your Social Security credit card number.

And that’s it for this week’s edition of ClearPath – Your Roadmap to Health and Wealth.

This is Al Waller on WYPR….your NPR News Station.

Stay safe…stay vigilent & thanks for listening.

Al Waller is a long time native of the Baltimore area. He entered the field of Human Resources Management starting as an HR Generalist with PwC (Pricewaterhouse-Coopers). This marked the beginning of a 30 year career that advanced into the management level for locally and globally based corporations. His primary area of expertise has focused on but not limited to: Talent Acquisition /Retention, Employee Relations as well as Training & Development.
Catherine Collinson serves as President of the Transamerica Institute and Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, and is a retirement and market trends expert and champion for Americans who are at risk for not achieving a financially secure retirement. Catherine oversees all research and outreach initiatives, including the Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey.