Retirement and COVID-19
The onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. We are constantly warned that the world as we know it will never be the same. As this book was written well before the pandemic began, I must address the relevance of my approach to retirement in the context of a fast-changing world. I also feel compelled to respond to a comment by a friend who said, “one thing quarantining has taught me is that I never want to retire – I miss mixing with people too much.” Before you learn about lifestyle planning for retirement, it is necessary to set the stage, so to speak, and address these issues.
Let’s start by looking at research on attitudes towards retirement during the pandemic. One would assume that given the economic fallout of the pandemic, people would be inclined to postpone retirement, to work longer to make up for financial losses. However, at this point in the crisis (May 2020), it appears that expectations for retirement remain relatively stable compared to one year ago. For instance, research commissioned by Forbes(1) found that, “Americans are not responding to the crisis by changing expectations about when they plan to retire. By and large, our panel answered “no” to the question of whether they thought the COVID-19 crisis would force them to retire earlier than expected. Even for those 55 years old and older, only 1% answered in the affirmative.” A recent Gallop Poll(2) confirms the finding that Americans don’t yet foresee delaying retirement. That is, “Another indication that the COVID-19 economy isn’t rattling consumers’ long-term financial outlook comes from non-retirees’ estimate of the age at which they expect to retire, currently averaging 66. This is similar to the average expected age of retirement recorded each year since 2009”.
If people do not yet foresee delaying retirement for economic reasons, what about delaying it for non-financial reasons? What about my friend who equated the shutdown of his work experience to retirement? The answer is you can’t compare life in a pandemic to life in retirement. The former involves staying home, venturing out cautiously only to buy groceries, in his case working from home, avoiding mixing with people, entertainment limited to watching TV, and everything that sitting out a pandemic involves. And if you factor in the overriding fear of sickness or possibly death if you leave your home, clearly experiencing a pandemic should not serve as an introduction to retirement.
Retirement in fact, is the complete opposite. It is the opportunity to pursue alternative interests, travel, mix with and meet new friends, and everything that freedom from work entails. It can be anything you want it to be in your pursuit to satisfy your needs. This theme will be explained more fully, and you will learn a few simple practical exercises to help you transition into or improve your current retirement.
The pandemic will eventually end, and I look forward to deleting this note. In the meantime, look on the bright side. You can use your ‘forced freedom’ to think about and plan your retirement to ensure that it will be worthwhile and enjoyable under your terms.
1. How COVID-19 Has Changed Retirement Planning, Bob Berger, May 11 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2020/05/11/
2. Americans’ Retirement Outlook Largely Intact, Lydia Saad, April 28, 2020, https://news.gallup.com/poll/309470