A recent survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies looks at the impact of COVID-19 on retirement security for three generations of workers — millennial, Generation X and baby boomer. The survey highlights several generational differences in how the great suppression has affected their livelihood and outlook. Yet the striking takeaway is the reality of shared experiences.

“One thing workers of all generations share is that many are at risk of not achieving a financially secure retirement, an area of concern long before the onset of the pandemic,” notes the report. “With an unprecedented public health crisis, a major economic downturn, steep declines in the financial markets, and widespread unemployment, the retirement risks faced by workers are now greater than ever before.”

That said, retirement remains an abstract concept for workers in their 20s and 30s, while it’s a looming reality for those in their 50s and 60s. Many near-retirees now know odds are they’ll need to plan on working well into the traditional retirement years, while saving more and focusing on eliminating debts. All three are far easier said than done.

Those 50 years and older should consider this period a trial retirement run. For one thing, it’s an opportunity to understand better our household budgets and financial trade-offs.

For another, the joke that stay-at-home has made every day feel like they’re living “Groundhog Day” may have become a cliché, but like all clichés, it’s built on a real foundation. A challenge many retirees face is the loss of a set work schedule. What rhythm to the days and weeks will work for you? What do you want to do during your encore?

Thinking about a schedule highlights a realization about retirement. I’ve kept an e-mail sent to me years ago by an 80-year-old asking about safe withdrawal strategies for savings. He went on to say:

“There are studies conducted by trained psychologists where they interviewed seniors living in assisted care facilities. One of the areas explored was what do you most regret not having done? The most common answer was ‘not taking enough risks,’ ” he wrote. “Perhaps the right question to ask is not ‘What is a safe spending meter?’ but ‘What do I want from my remaining life?’ ”

Pursuing retirement planning decisions through the framing of “risks worth taking” is a powerful approach for arriving at answers that add to your quality of life.


Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor for “Marketplace” and a Minne­sota Public Radio commentator.