News, Syndicated Studies

Nearly 4 in 10 Say the Pandemic Has Permanently Shifted Their Vision of Retirement

New Research Study Reveals America’s Outlook on Retirement Amid COVID-19

Washington, DC, February 1, 2021 – Greenwald Research (Greenwald), a leading independent custom research firm and consulting partner to the health and wealth industries, released a new syndicated research study today, sharing data on Americans’ changing perceptions of employment and retirement in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With results gathered in December 2020, the Rethinking Retirement Survey—conducted with the advanced automated platform from response:AI—surveyed Americans ages 50–69 with at least $50K in household income to understand the population’s attitudes toward key employment and retirement trends as Americans rethink their plans while coping with the crisis. Pre-retirees and retirees responded with insights on how work and the workplace have changed, adjustments around when to retire, and lifestyle and financial goals during retirement.

The Impact on Retirement Timing Due to COVID-19

When to retire is a complex issue, and COVID-19 has complicated it further. One-quarter of American workers ages 50–69 now plan to retire later than they had originally intended. The biggest motivator for those pushing back retirement is the financial impact of the pandemic. Another 9% plan to retire sooner than intended, motivated by no longer wanting to work and a change in satisfaction derived from work. Additionally, many are worried about their health and safety when it comes to working in-person.

Lisa Greenwald, CEO of Greenwald Research, says pre-retirees are certainly reviewing their options. “Americans have experienced the impact of the global pandemic for almost a year now. Pre-retirees are reassessing their priorities, and while some are now seeing a financial need to work longer, others are fed up with the drastic changes to the workplace. These changing attitudes need to be considered, and what impacts they will have on the workforce long-term.”

Change in Retirement Lifestyle and Goals

The Rethinking Retirement Survey is helping piece together a clearer picture of how Americans envision their retirement years—including how they plan to spend their time and money after working. 38% of respondents in this study say the pandemic has permanently shifted what retirement looks like for them.

Many experts agree that the global pandemic will forever change the world of work and our decisions around traveling, volunteering, and spending time with family—activities that many look forward to during retirement. Additionally, 55% of pre-retirees see no point in retiring during the pandemic since they can’t do the things they hope for in retirement.

“COVID-19 has shifted the importance of retirement goals, with increased prioritization of time with family and friends, entertainment, leisure, and hobbies,” said Sharon Scanlon, head of customer experience, Retirement Plan Services, Lincoln Financial Group. “Taking time to set those retirement goals is critical, as is leveraging the help of a financial professional or available tools to help savers understand if they are on track to hit those goals.”

Preparing for Retirement

Just a quarter of pre-retirees believe they have saved enough for retirement, and over half are hesitant to retire because they are unsure how much money they will need in retirement. Additionally, many have not taken additional steps beyond saving to prepare for retirement. For instance, four in ten have not discussed when they plan to retire with anyone—including financial professionals or family members.

Pre-retirees have a drastically different view of transitioning into retirement than the experiences of retirees. “Pre-retirees are overestimating the likelihood of retiring gradually,” said Ali Ahmed, Director of Thought Leadership at Fidelity Investments. “They also have many worries not shared by retirees. These workers believe that managing finances will be difficult when they are retired, and that remaining in the workforce is the best way to stay happy. These views may be obstacles to taking the necessary steps to prepare for their future retirement lifestyle in a range of aspects.”

The research also reveals that 36% of pre-retirees say the pandemic has made caregiving a higher priority in retirement. “Caregiving is a growing issue for pre-retirees, who now believe they are now more likely to take on caregiving responsibilities due to the pandemic.” said Lisa Weber-Raley, Greenwald’s Chief Research Officer who leads caregiving research for the firm. “Even more interesting, pre-retirees see caregiving as both a reason to stay in the workforce longer and a reason to retire sooner.”

About the Rethinking Retirement Study

The survey of 1,019 individuals was conducted online between December 4 and 7, 2020. All respondents were between the ages of 50 and 69 and had at least $50,000 in household income. The national sample is weighted by gender and age to reflect the actual proportions in the population.

Complete findings from Rethinking Retirement are available for public purchase along with Greenwald’s recently released Millennial Attitudes Towards Life Insurance and Financial Security Study. To become a partner and gain early access to results in future studies, contact Greenwald.

About Greenwald Research

Greenwald Research is a leading independent custom research firm and consulting partner to the health and wealth industries that applies creative and quantitative and qualitative methods to produce knowledge that helps companies stay competitive and navigate industry change. By leveraging deep subject matter expertise and a trusted consultative approach, Greenwald offers comprehensive services for weaving rich research stories that answer strategic business questions. Visit to learn more.

Mike Mills