Retirement in a Time of Covid
For the most part, feds aren’t letting the pandemic disrupt their plans.
In the recently released 2020 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, the Office of Personnel Management asked employees about a wide range of issues. Among them were several questions about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their plans for retirement.
Invitations to participate in the survey were sent to 1.4 million employees, and about 625,000 completed it.
A solid majority—72%—of those who responded said they were more than five years from retirement before the pandemic hit, and that figure only dropped to 71% after the pandemic started.
Employees planning to retire in less than one year represented 3% of respondents pre-pandemic, and that number increased to 4% after the coronavirus wreaked havoc with Americans’ working and personal lives.
Of those who reported that their retirement plans had changed since the pre-pandemic days, almost 40% said Covid-19 was the reason. Sixty-two percent said Covid wasn’t the motivation.
It certainly seems that the pandemic didn’t send employees rushing for the exits. Part of the reason may be that many of them apparently enjoyed the shift to maximum telework. During the peak of the pandemic, 59 percent of employees teleworked every day, compared to 3% who did so every day before the pandemic.
That may have led some people to delay, or at least not accelerate, plans to move on. According to OPM’s retirement processing statistics, the number of retirement claims the agency received dropped by 10% from 2019 to 2020, from 101,580 to 92,088.
In the first three months of 2021, the number of claims dropped again, from 32,973 during the same period in 2020 to 31,009 this year. Whether or not the drop is due to the pandemic, there’s certainly no long-expected “retirement tsunami” under way. But there has been a slow but steady increase in retirement claims in recent years.
Once federal employees are back in the office, the number of claims may swell again. Whether or not you’re just waiting out the pandemic’s effects to move on, it always pays to be prepared. Effective retirement planning involves a combination of financial and mental preparation. That takes a combination of education and strong decision-making skills—not just waking up one day and deciding it’s time to go.