Despite a drop in the unemployment rate to 6.9 percent in October, 11.1 million people remain out of work, according to the latest jobless figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of the long-term unemployed — people who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more — increased by 1.2 million to 3.6 million, accounting for 32.5 percent of the total unemployed, the bureau reported. The number of people employed part time for economic reasons increased by 383,000 to 6.7 million.
Unemployment claims are still staggeringly high.
“The pandemic has negatively impacted the income of nearly half of all U.S. households at some point since the outbreak, has greatly restricted travel and has unknown future health ramifications,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate.com. “This can dramatically alter the landscape for someone planning to retire this year or next.”
For example, withdrawing $10,000 this year rather than contributing $10,000 has a nearly $36,000 effect on your nest egg 10 years from now, McBride said.
“The pandemic recession has been dubbed a ‘she-session’ because it has hurt women far worse than men,” The Washington Post’s Heather Long reported recently. “The share of women working or looking for work has fallen to the lowest level since 1988, wiping out decades of hard-fought gains in the workplace.”
Some experts are concerned about more layoffs if the United States can’t control the spread of the coronavirus. On Saturday, the United States reported 134,051 new coronavirus cases, according to Post data, and the number of fatalities nationwide topped 1,000 each day between Tuesday and Saturday. At least 237,000 people in the United States have died of the coronavirus as of Sunday afternoon.
“There’s a lot of evidence that it’s still a limited recovery that is really uneven and has exacerbated a lot of inequality that existed before the crisis,” Kate Bahn, an economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, told The Post’s Eli Rosenberg following the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
In last week’s newsletter, I discussed how your 401(k) can survive the election. Let’s continue that discussion. McBride and Carolyn McClanahan, a physician turned certified financial planner who founded the fee-only Life Planning Partners based in Jacksonville, Fla., answered the following questions about dealing with the coronavirus-related recession.
Q: Should I change my retirement plans because of the economic uncertainty?
McClanahan: If we have a prolonged recession because of an uncontrolled pandemic, this may make it tough for people to retire. Keep your skills intact and learn new skills so you can stay in the workforce longer. Plan on staying engaged in some occupation as long as possible. Your ability to work is your safest financial asset. Working part time in retirement can provide a nice cushion or even some fun money.
McBride: Those still in the workforce can aim to work longer. One or two additional years gives your existing nest egg time to grow, more time for additional retirement contributions with higher catch-up limits for those age 50 and up, and less time that nest egg needs to support you in retirement.
Q: I’m going to be retiring soon, and I’m too scared to stay in stocks. What should I do?
McBride: Regardless of what happens in the short term, you can’t let that derail your long-term financial planning. The day you retire, it’s not like you’re going to withdraw all your money that one day. No, it still needs to last you another 25, 30, 35 years. So even then, the day you retire, you have an investment horizon still measured in decades.
Q: What financial moves should people be making?
McClanahan: This pandemic should be a wake-up call that savings needs to be focused on financial resiliency in the event of an emergency such as sickness and job loss. If a person is lucky, those savings will not be needed for emergencies and can be used for the day they no longer want to work.
The most important factor in obtaining financial security is to control spending. My advice is for people to make sure they are living the best life they can in the present, save what they can to weather the emergencies and call on our leaders to do more to get the pandemic under control.
Q: Should people be concerned about rising health-care costs?
McClanahan: Health-care costs are out of control, and we will probably see price escalations in health insurance prices. Even those on Medicare will have to contend with increased Medigap and Medicare D prices.
We need health reform focused on fixing our health-care system to reduce health-care costs, and with the ravages of the coronavirus on the system, that is unlikely to happen in the short term.
Q: What can people do to minimize the stress about their 401(k) or similar retirement plan?
McClanahan: Make sure your investment allocation is aligned with how you plan to use the money that is invested. For example, if you are at the point you need to use some of your savings within the next 10 years, you should have some allocated to fixed income instead of taking unnecessary risks in the stock market.
Reader Question of the Week
If you have a personal finance or retirement question, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line, put “Question of the Week.” Please note that questions may be edited for clarity.
Q: I filed my 2019 federal return in March. I received my state refund quickly. The IRS says my federal return is still being processed. I did not need to file a return in 2018, so there is not that information on file for me to receive a stimulus payment. What should I do to make sure I have qualified for the stimulus payment, no matter how long it takes before I actually receive it?
A: At this point, there isn’t much you can do other than checking the “Get My Payment” tool at irs.gov. The IRS says it’s still processing stimulus payments and will do so until the end of the year. If you don’t get your stimulus payment by Dec. 31, you can still claim it on your 2020 federal return that you’ll file next year.
Retirement Rants and Raves
I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. You can rant or rave. Send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line, put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”
Susan Gray of Terryville, Conn., doesn’t think the stock market is worth the worry.
“I was disabled from my position as a finance director at the age of 50, after a stroke 16 years ago,” she wrote. “In the subsequent years, I have become a beekeeper and a farmer of a small market garden. I will not put my money in the stock market. Personally, not having money to lose, I am fine with that decision.”
Dan Leithauser from Marysville, Wash., isn’t fearful of investing in stocks.
“I am about to retire,” Leithauser wrote. “I am only moving the amount of money I may need to live for 12 to 18 months into money market funds. A down market does not panic me, simply because I am not cashing out my entire retirement portfolio. I think people often view a downturn in light of the percentage and dollar loss in the entirety of retirement accounts. It is less stressful to think about in terms of smaller amounts being withdrawn.”