The coronavirus pandemic has caused financial stress for many American households, but it is putting special pressures on older Americans who are nearing retirement.

More than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March, and millions more expected to do so over the coming weeks.

And one-third of the U.S. labor force is 50 or older and 5 million people in that demographic work in retail, an industry that was hit hard by lockdown measures, according to data from the AARP. Another 1 million work in food services.

It is unclear how many of these jobs will return once the economy starts to recover, or when the economy will begin to rebound. For some older Americans, that means they may be forced out of the labor force years earlier than they had anticipated.


So what should you do if you think you may be forced into early retirement? Here’s a look at some of your options:

Evaluate your employment opportunities

If you don’t believe you have enough currently saved for a comfortable retirement, it is worthwhile to consider your opportunities to return to work – even if it is part-time.

“When we get to the other side of the tunnel, do they have the ability to come back to work?” Taylor Hammons, head of retirement plans at Kestra Financial, asked. “Or do they have an option to find another job or work part-time? This is all about filling the gap.”

The gap Hammons is referring to is the couple of years an individual had expected to be working, earning income and accumulating money in their retirement savings account, which will be absent in unemployment.

As previously reported by FOX Business, older Americans could consider using their unique skillsets to take up jobs in the gig economy, including offering services on websites like TaskRabbit.

Evaluate your financial situation

One of the first things you should do if you think you will be forced into early retirement is to take inventory of your entire financial situation.

“We want to start looking at all sources of income and assets that you have because, you might be surprised, if you put it all together you may not have a terrible situation,” Chad Parks, founder and CEO of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings, told FOX Business.

That includes everything from what you have saved in your 401(k) or 403(b) accounts to pension plans from former or current employers and IRA accounts.

Parks noted that 401(k) accounts were not particularly popular when this demographic entered the labor force, and that many may have opened an IRA that could have been forgotten.

“It could be a small amount but everything counts,” Parks said.


Make adjustments to your plans if necessary

When considering those retirement accounts, it may be worthwhile to make adjustments to allocations if your positions have been more aggressive and vulnerable to recent whipsaw market volatility.

“You clearly – now being unemployed and going into retiring – don’t want to have uncertainty with money moving up and down,” Parks said.

Hammons added that people need to transition their mindset from the accumulation phase to the harvest phase. That also includes be wary of the downsides of drawing on retirement account balances when the market is down.

Consider taking Social Security early

Social Security is a tool that is available to people who have worked for a sufficient number of years beginning at age 62.

Both Parks and Hammons added that individuals need to be aware of how claiming benefits at different ages will impact their overall retirement strategies.

For example, claiming before your full retirement age will result in reduced benefits.

For people whose full retirement age is 66, the reduction of benefits for those who claim at 62 is 25 percent, 20 percent for those that claim at 63, 13.3 percent at age 64 and 6.7 percent at 65.

Delaying when you collect, if possible, can actually increase your benefit by as much as 32 percent.

Hammons added that electing to take benefits early should be considered as a piece of a comprehensive overall retirement strategy and not a “knee-jerk reaction.”

Parks said it is worth noting that – at its current pace – Social Security will only be able to pay benefits in full through 2035. After that, only 79 percentof scheduled benefits will be covered.


Health care considerations

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 55 percent of people had employer-based health care coverage in 2018. Another 8.5 percent of people had no health insurance at all during the timeframe.

Without a job, many older Americans may be faced with a coverage gap from their forced retirement – since they are not eligible for Medicare until age 65, Parks pointed out.

Here’s a look at some options people may want to consider if they find themselves in this scenario.

Consult a professional

If you need help or guidance through your financial distress, consult a professional.

Is COVID-19 Forcing Your Early Retirement?