In Focus: Vulnerability  

How to retire early amid a pandemic

  • To understand why people are changing their retirement plans.
  • To be able to explain the potential benefits and pitfalls of dipping into the pension early.
  • To be aware of how different clients may react at retirement to global events such as Covid-19.
How to retire early amid a pandemic
Photo: Rodnae Productions via Pexels

Nearly a year on since the UK went into its first Covid-19 lockdown, how have clients' retirement plans been affected by the pandemic, and what sort of advice will they need in the months and years ahead?

Latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics, combined with a study from provider LV, have suggested thousands of people aged 55 and above have been leaving the full-time workforce since the coronavirus crisis began. 

Tim Morris, IFA for Russell & Co, comments: "I have had a couple of clients who were planning to retire next year bring forward their retirement. This is because they aren’t enjoying work in the world of Covid."

But while they are bringing forward their retirement, Mr Morris says other plans they had been making for the first few years of retirement have had to be pushed back thanks to the pandemic.

Mr Morris says: "They are putting back some plans, such as travel plans. I feel their pain."

And with early retirement, the world of work and its associated stresses may be behind your clients - but it is a big financial decision that will mean more than simply putting some plans on hold, as commentators have warned.

Latest figures from the ONS have revealed a rise in the numbers of older people leaving the workforce, marking a reversal of the trend for more older people to remain in employment after 65.

In January, the ONS figures showed:

  • Since February 2020, the number of payroll employees has fallen by 828,000.
  • The claimant count increased slightly in December 2020, to 2.6m; according to the ONS, this includes both those working with low income or hours and those who are not working.
  • Its labour market figures for the three months to November 2020 also found the biggest drop in unemployment after 65 was among women. 
  • The fall was approximately 11 per cent – equating to 71,000 women – and the largest drop for any age group aged 18 and over. 

Stephen Lowe, group communications director at Just Group, says: "This suggests that rather than continuing to seek jobs, women are more likely than men to slip into retirement with whatever pension savings they have."

As the ONS issued its statistics, life and pensions provider LV published the results of its quarterly Wealth and Wellbeing Monitor, which is a study of 4,000 UK adults. 

Its findings have indicated that more than 154,000 people aged 55-64 have opted for early retirement because of redundancy and reduced income, a desire to reduce their risk of exposure to Covid-19 or the pandemic has made them reassess their priorities in life.

The LV research (among those who were still working at the start of 2020) revealed:

  • 3 per cent (154,000) of those aged 55-64 have taken early retirement due to Covid.
  • 6 per cent (313,000) of those aged 55-64 say they will retire later than planned to save more for retirement.
  • 4 per cent (211,000) people aged 55-64 have accessed some of their pensions savings to supplement their income because they have been made redundant or their earnings are reduced.

Moreover, the vast majority of those surveyed have not researched how much they might need to live on in retirement, while few have checked the value of their pension pots in the past year, the study found.

A case study from LV puts the figures into perspective: redundancy or pressures arising from the pandemic might lure people into thinking early retirement is a sound financial decision, but they will need to make sure they really do have enough to live on (see info box).

According to Clive Bolton, managing director of savings and retirement at LV: "Early retirement is a dream for many people, but it can become a financial nightmare if it is forced on people without them having time to prepare.”

Changing plans

While not everyone will bring their retirement date forward, they will certainly have to change their plans. This is the view of Rachel Springall, finance expert at Moneyfacts.