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Pandemic is delaying retirement and Southerners are the most impacted

Nearly half of Southerners reported delaying retirement due to COVID, study says
A recent study suggests seniors in the South may be delaying retirement at higher rates than older adults in any other region of the county.
A recent study suggests seniors in the South may be delaying retirement at higher rates than older adults in any other region of the county. [ Shutterstock ]
Published Sep. 14

The pandemic is forcing some Americans to delay retirement, and older adults living in the South have felt the burden most acutely, one study suggests.

Nearly half of Baby Boomers in the South reported having to delay retirement to care for family members during the crisis, according to a recent study from CNO Financial Group, a health and life insurance company. Southern seniors put off retirement at a higher rate than older adults living in any other region.

“Families rely on each other, and you see more of that in the South historically,” said Scott Goldberg, consumer division president for the company. “And listen, that’s a good thing, but it impacted plans.”

The study polled about 2,500 adults nationally between the ages of 57 and 75, all of whom had a household income between $30,000 and $100,000, in April of this year. The poll did not parse out data on racial, ethnic or gender differences by region.

Fifty-five percent of older Southerners said they’ve financially supported family members due to COVID-19, as opposed to 41 percent of respondents nationally. An almost equal proportion reported needing to dip into their retirement savings to do so.

About half — 49 percent — said this aid impacted their retirement plans. In contrast, just 18 percent of Western Boomers, and roughly 25 percent of Northeastern and Midwestern older adults, delayed retiring due to the pandemic.

Beyond “southern hospitality,” there’s another possible factor at play, according to Goldberg.

Southerners reported believing they needed less money to retire —between $100,000 and $250,000 — than older adults in other regions.

“While that may cover their expenses, it may not provide as much cushion when things go the wrong way,” Goldberg said. “We’ve all seen ordinary Americans spend 10 days in the hospital due to COVID. If you think about what that does to you financially, given the gaps in insurance, lost income and potentially childcare needs, that can be pretty devastating.”

The pandemic has caused 60 percent of older adults in the South reevaluate how much money they need to save to retire comfortably, he said.

“I think it’s been a wakeup call for people,” Goldberg said.

Less than half of seniors living in other regions reported the same.