COVID-19 has changed the day-to-day lives of millions of people and the vast majority of Americans are affected by social distancing measures to stop the spread of the disease. At the same time, equity markets have been volatile, and many people are out of work, at least temporarily.
One of the most pressing questions that many are asking is “What will this do to my retirement?” Others are asking “Do I need to do anything now?”
A recent Society of Actuaries report, Impact of COVID-19 on Retirement Risks, provides an overview of many of the issues related to retirement risks. This article is based on that report and provides some tips for American working families and retirees.
What we need to do now
Retirement is a long-term proposition and hopefully COVID-19 is a temporary event, but one that may have longer term consequences. The most important immediate action is to follow the advice of health professionals. But depending on your financial situation, the next step that may need to be done is to assess your financial situation and minimize spending. Start by determining whether adjustments are needed in spending and what expenses should be targeted.
If spending is an issue, for retirees who have investment accounts, it would be best to try to avoid selling equities at depressed prices to support current spending needs.
For those nearing expected retirement, this will be a time to assess whether plans can go forward and consider what adjustments may be needed.
For those not nearing retirement, there are a variety of challenges and scenarios. And even though the CARES act waives early withdrawal penalties, ideally, people should try not to withdraw retirement savings and, if possible, continue saving and building assets for retirement.
There are many factors to think about related to retirement, but most do not require immediate action. As a general rule, it is much better to be deliberate and thoughtful and not make significant changes in direction all of sudden.
Some people have financial advisors, but many do not. A big question is where to turn, so only look to trusted advisors or reputable organizations for advice. Be careful, because there are many scammers posing as people to help us, while they are really out there looking to take advantage at this difficult time.