The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic crisis has thrown some of the nation’s retirement plans up in the air. As a result, a number of people over 50 and in work are set to delay their retirement (15%) by an average of three years, or keep working indefinitely (26%) as a direct result of COVID-19, according to new research.
The pandemic is forcing a widespread rethink of retirement plans. Currently 1.5 million workers aged over 50 are planning to delay their retirement as a direct result of the pandemic. The most recent data from the Office for National Statistics highlights the number of workers aged above 65 years is at a record high of 1.42 million. However, if people change their retirement plans in response to the pandemic, this could increase considerably.
Delaying retirement by five years or more
One in six people aged over 50 and in work (15%) believe that they will delay, while 26% anticipate having to keep working on a full or part-time basis indefinitely due to the impact of the virus. On average, those who plan to delay their retirement expect to spend an additional three years in work. However, 10% admit they could delay their plans by five years or more.
These figures are significantly higher for the 26% of over-50s workers who have been furloughed or seen a pay decrease as a result of the pandemic. One in five of these workers will delay (19%), and 38% expect to work indefinitely.
Forced to rethink retirement plans
The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be particularly pronounced for people aged over 50 who are still in work. While some people will choose to work for longer, or indefinitely, the key consideration when it comes to this research is that it seems this decision has been driven by the financial impact of the pandemic, rather than personal choice.
One in five (18%) plan a change to their target retirement age, and 20% of over-55s who hadn’t accessed their pension prior to the crisis have since taken out money from their pension (12%) or are considering doing so (8%) because of the pandemic. The self-employed have been particularly affected, with two in five (40%) forced to rethink retirement plans, and 22% now expecting to delay their retirement.
Impact on people’s ability to retire
This is a key stage in people’s retirement planning, so seeing a material impact on household income will naturally lead to pessimism about achieving retirement goals. While it would be naive to say that these financial issues will not have an impact on people’s ability to retire, it’s important for people to have a strong understanding of the options available to them before concluding that their retirement needs to be delayed or forgotten indefinitely.
That employment uncertainty, in combination with volatility in the financial markets, is understandably concerning to some people approaching retirement age. Those who have been furloughed or seen a pay decrease could benefit from a financial review to assess their options before changing their plans.
 Opinium Research ran a series of online interviews for Legal & General Retail Retirement among a nationally representative panel of 2,004 over-50s from 15–18 May 2020.
 Office for National Statistics, Labour market overview, UK: May 2020
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