Retirement Planning

Did Covid Change Retirement for a Generation?

The world has changed since March 2020. Some of these changes have been small (have we ever cared so much about the supply chain of toilet paper?), while others have been monumental (perpetual anxiety over the wellbeing of the oldest and youngest members of our families). In fact, you may be hard-pressed to name an area of your life that hasn’t been impacted in some way, and your retirement plans are likely no exception.

Timing Your Exit

Covid-19’s ripple effects on when you decide to retire vary depending on your unique situation. For many, the pressures of Covid have acted as an accelerant for decisions that were already in process. Rather than changing trajectory, we find ourselves rocketing towards choices that we thought could be put off for a bit longer.

In some cases, workers who have been planning to continue in their job for several more years have found themselves unexpectedly out of the job or unable to work comfortably due their own lingering Covid symptoms or caregiving responsibilities. Market volatility has motivated others to plan on extending their careers by several years to hedge against initiating portfolio withdrawals during what they feared would become an extended period of suppressed market growth.

On the other side of the same coin, the stock market’s impressive resilience in both 2020 and 2021 drove investment accounts up into a range where many suddenly find themselves confident in their ability to retire comfortably, and sooner than previously anticipated. Further, the broad adoption of remote work has expanded options in the gig economy as professionals can maintain part-time consultant roles from any location, even after they officially retire.

Home (and Work) is Where the Wi-Fi is

Technology has come through as the shining light over the past 20+ months. It’s allowing many of us to shift to remote work schedules, inspiring us to learn how to socialize with our relatives and friends virtually, and providing hope for the future through impressive medical advancements. As a result, we may see more flexibility going forward about where people choose to live and how they access their medical care over time.

Even before the rise of Covid, many prospective retirees have preferred to age in their homes as long as possible, rather than moving into a continuing care retirement community (CCRC). As technology offers us increasing opportunities for remote health monitoring and care (such as access to telehealth appointments and insulin pumps that communicate with our smartphones), the likelihood of being able to remain in the home you’ve known and loved over the years increases significantly. Additionally, the positive communal aspects of care facilities had the negative side effect of becoming Covid hotspots in some regions, forcing the impacted communities to drastically restrict the movement of their residents and shut their doors to visitors.

Reevaluating Your Priorities

It’s no surprise that the societal trauma over the last two years provokes a reevaluation of what we devote our time to. There are practical applications—heightened awareness of personal mortality should prompt a review of estate documents, beneficiaries named on accounts, and final wish planning. There are also intangible implications—weeks spent in isolation spark a hunger for evenings spent in conversation with dear friends or playing board games with your kids and grandkids.

By taking a moment to step out of the normal flow of our lives, we are given an opportunity to confirm (or reject) the larger path laid out by the small decisions made throughout each day that may lack intentionality. The effects of this clarity are as varied as the individuals making the choices. Perhaps your experience leads you to retire sooner than planned so you can live closer to your grandkids, travel more, and finally work your way through that stack of books you’ve been meaning to read. Or, perhaps you crave a return to the office routine and face-to-face collaboration with colleagues and clients on long-delayed projects you’re passionate about. Whatever your story, there’s no time like the present to check in with yourself on how you’re spending your time and making sure it aligns with your intended priorities.