COVID-19 Impacts Retirement Prospects for Each Workforce Generation

The pandemic’s fallout on retirement prospects has been fairly evenly distributed among generations in today’s workforce. But there are things plan sponsors can do to help, and a recent report provides some ideas.

Let’s play a little fill-in-the-blank game. Complete the following sentence:

Those poor _____________________ (Millennials, GenXers, Boomers)! They really got the short end of the retirement stick, especially in light of the pandemic.

Which is the correct answer? Brace yourself for a difficult truth: all of them did. Here’s how.

Millennials started out behind in some respects, coming of age as they did during the Great Recession. They watched their parents struggle through the financial challenges of that time, then entered the workforce well-educated but with a huge amount of student loan debt. Many among this group believe Social Security will be bankrupt long before they can get it, and worry they won’t be able to save enough to retire comfortably on their own. Still, those Millennials who began investing early have enjoyed one of the longest bull market cycles in history.

Generation X was present in the workforce during the decline and fall of the pension empire — and the concurrent rise of the 401(k) plan. As such, many started saving for their own retirement early in their careers, although they took a significant hit to their savings during the Great Recession. Now that these “sandwich generation” folks are caring for both children and parents, many have been unable to recover the losses in spite of the bull market. And now, along comes a pandemic that further impacts their jobs and thus, their ability to save for the future.

Baby Boomers were well-established in their pension-earning careers when the shift to 401(k) plans began. While they were in the midst of their peak earning years, many did begin to save on their own. The Great Recession affected their balances, of course, and unlike their younger colleagues, they have less time left to recover. Simply because of age, they are more likely to be laid off or let go when the economy shifts as it did in 2020; members of this generation have lost jobs at almost the same rate as the Millennials.

The pandemic’s impact on jobs and savings is undeniable, yet workers across all generations continue to have an optimistic viewpoint of how retirement will look for them. The data, from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, report that 70% of people who responded to their recent survey say they are looking forward to retirement. Sixty-five percent say they want to travel, 57% want to spend time with their family, and 46% want to pursue a hobby.

While saving enough continues to be a source of worry for all generations, 60% believe they are saving enough. Millennials either “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” with that sentiment, with 59% of Generation Xers and 60% of Baby Boomers sharing a similar belief.

Employers have a key role to play in helping employees achieve retirement security. Many employers already sponsor a 401(k) plan, and that alone helps employees save. But there is more employers can do. For example, the Transamerica report suggests workplace financial wellness programs and phased retirements, among other suggestions. The report is available online at

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Heartland Retirement Plan Services are offered through Dubuque Bank and Trust Company. The information provided herein is general in nature and is not intended to be nor should be construed as specific investment, legal or tax advice. The factual information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed as to accuracy or completeness. Heartland Retirement Plan Services makes no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use and disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or reliance on, it. Products offered through Heartland Retirement Plan Services are not FDIC insured, are not bank guaranteed and may lose value, unless otherwise noted.

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© 2020 Kmotion, Inc. This newsletter is a publication of Kmotion, Inc., whose role is solely that of publisher. The articles and opinions in this publication are for general information only and are not intended to provide tax or legal advice or recommendations for any particular situation or type of retirement plan. Nothing in this publication should be construed as legal or tax guidance, nor as the sole authority on any regulation, law, or ruling as it applies to a specific plan or situation. Plan sponsors should always consult the plan’s legal counsel or tax advisor for advice regarding plan-specific issues.