Health care workers have sacrificed their personal safety to serve on the front lines of the pandemic, and now many fear they may not be able to retire as planned.
More than a third of health care workers — 38% — said they feel less confident that they will have the funds they need to live comfortably when they retire, according to newly released data from research organization TIAA Institute. The organization’s 2020 Healthcare Sector Financial Wellness Survey specifically examined the economic outlook of nurses, physicians, surgeons and other medical professionals.
The survey revealed that not only are many in this group struggling to manage their current financial obligations, but some are bracing themselves for the possibility of working for longer than they’d thought.
A worsening financial outlook
Nearly half of health care workers — 46% — said their overall financial condition has gotten worse since the start of the pandemic. Of those workers, 27% expect their financial condition to continue deteriorating over the next year.
While three-quarters of health care workers surveyed had emergency savings before the pandemic, a third have since dipped into those savings, according to the TIAA Institute study. On top of that, more than 8 in 10 — 84% — carry some type of debt, and 45% of those with debt said they were “debt constrained.”
This aligns with the financial situation of the broader consumer base throughout the pandemic, which has reported raiding their retirement accounts, depleting their savings and incurring more debt.
Retirement savings taking a hit
Many health care workers worry that they are not saving enough for retirement. Nearly a quarter of retirement savers surveyed — 23% — said they are saving less for retirement now than before the pandemic. On top of that, 7% have stopped saving for retirement completely since the pandemic hit. Only 14% have increased their retirement savings since the onset of the pandemic.
Financial confidence is also on the decline, as 29% of respondents have become less confident they are saving enough for retirement since the pandemic began. Among those who have slowed their retirement savings contributions, 47% feel less confident they are saving enough.
Many health care workers expect to face long-term consequences due to their inadequate savings. Among health care workers aged 50 and older, 29% expect to retire later than they had planned prior to the pandemic. Nearly half — 45% — said they expect to work past the age of 67, which is the full retirement age for those born in 1960 or later. However, 43% of those respondents who expect to work past age 67 said they would prefer to retire by then.
Health care workers aren’t the only ones having to make tough decisions about retirement in light of the pandemic. An earlier survey found that 40% of those planning to retire in the next 10 years said they will delay retirement because of the pandemic.
Methodology: TIAA Institute surveyed 1,203 respondents from five occupational groups. Specifically, responses were collected from 300 registered nurses, 300 physicians and surgeons, 300 other medical professionals, 200 office and administrative staff and 103 non-medical professionals. The survey took place from May 21-June 11, 2020.