An estimated excess of 2.6 million people retired during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Miguel Faria-E-Castro, a research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Faria-E-Castro predicted that the extreme increase in retirement numbers stemmed from a variety of reasons:
- Older people were more susceptible to severe illness
- Some had to take care of loved ones
- Increasing asset values may have influenced pension and retirement values
Whatever the reason, retirement throughout the last few years was very different from those who had made the transition before them. Giant retirement parties were few and far between and rather than receive accolades for their years in the workforce, many retirees were lumped in with everyone else who joined the “Great Resignation.”
We spoke with three women who retired within the last 3 years who are Smarter Nutrition customers, just like you. While they are all enjoying their retirement, they were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in different ways. They explain why they retired when they did and the fulfilling ways they’re spending their days.
Debbi retired from a career as a flight attendant with a major airline when she was 62 years old.
Located in New York, she didn't think she was going to be able to retire as early as she did, but COVID pushed her into it.
“Retirement is absolutely wonderful. It's more wonderful than I thought it could be,” said Debbi.
For many people, retirement is when they can finally have the time and financial stability to travel to places they’ve dreamed about. While Debbi had already been to a lot of places, traveling was a part of her job that she wanted to remain consistent in her life during retirement. Unfortunately, COVID put a damper on retirees' plans because of restrictions and health concerns.
“I do miss the traveling. It’s been really hard because of COVID; I haven't been able to do much. It was hard…just being housebound. I'm used to going to Europe four times a month. Now, I was lucky if I went to the grocery store four times,” said Debbi.
Until she can return to frequent travel, Debbi fills her time with yard work, crafts, outdoor activities, and taking care of her body.
“I started taking supplements and trying to take care of my body from the inside out; I wasn't religious about taking vitamins all the time. I've been doing that more because the older you get, the more you worry about yourself.
“I'm excited to see when I go back to the doctor for my next blood work how much better things are. Right now, I'm on 2 blood pressure pills, so I'm hoping supplements will help with that,” said Debbi. “Then, talking to my neighbors…they take collagen as well and their doctor was so excited to hear that they were taking it.”
Amy was a 3rd grade teacher in New Jersey for 37 years before she retired at 59 years old in December 2019.
During the onset of COVID and even now, teachers are still dealing with challenges they didn’t have previously; Amy is thankful that she retired when she did.
“I'm so grateful that I was able to retire when I did. I can't imagine having to try and teach third graders remotely. It was a good time to go and I didn't even know it,” said Amy.
Now, she spends her days gardening, practicing yoga, and hanging out with friends and family, particularly her father for whom she has taken on the role of caretaker.
“I just feel like I went from one full-time job to another full-time job. But, I try and whittle out more me-time. I get massages–I never used to get massages–and I go to the chiropractor more often,” said Amy.
While Amy is keeping busy by caring for her dad and also taking time for self-care, there were ideas she had about retirement that had to be changed because of COVID.
“When I first thought about retirement, I thought, ‘I want to volunteer at the hospital and rock babies. I wanted to go to the library and read to kids,’ and then COVID hit and that idea just went by the wayside,” said Amy. “Now that things seem to be calming down again, I would like to reach out to the hospital and get in there and volunteer. I have been going down to the farmer's market on Saturdays and reading to children and that brings back a lot of the joys that teaching gave me without all the lesson plans and administrative observation stress that goes along with teaching.”
After being a neuroscientist for most of her career, Robin transitioned to a job as a behavioral health specialist in schools and enrolled in a program to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
Located in Connecticut, Robin elected to retire at 60 after COVID began.
“I had gotten through two semesters of classes, but it required a lot of hours of one-on-one contact with kids, and when COVID hit, I couldn't have contact like that. There was no school, and so I was not able to complete the program in the time frame that was allotted and had to stop,” said Robin.
Although Robin’s plans to become a BCBA were dashed, she was fortunate to have the financial means and health insurance to retire without those concerns.
“I like retirement; I'm perfectly happy being retired. I don't think I would've changed it,” said Robin.
Despite being pleased with her decision, retirement is slightly different than she imagined and she has missed things about her career that she doesn’t get from her life now.
“I expected to travel a lot and that's been kind of postponed. I did find that I missed the feeling when I worked with kids, I was able to help them…it gives you a great feeling. You feel useful and needed and there's meaning, I missed all that. I don't have that, but we have other things, we did a lot of house renovations. That gave purpose to that time when we couldn’t go and travel,” said Robin.
Robin worked on her bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen. Retirement is a great time to work on renovations because you’re finally home to enjoy it! Robin’s home had been a haven of sorts throughout the coronavirus pandemic. She built a quarantine patio, dubbed “The QP,” where she and her partner enjoyed happy hour every day. It gave her something to look forward to and a place to go, even if it was just in the backyard.
Additionally, Robin finally took the time to learn something new that she didn’t have time for when she had a career.
“I had never done it before; I just started acrylic painting. I think that gave me a lot of focus for a while, especially in the winter when you can't do outside stuff. I started this new hobby, and I would never have done that when I was working because there was just never time,” said Robin.
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“Retirements Increased During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Who Retired and Why?” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. 2022.