The pandemic has changed when Americans expect to retire

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A retirement savings crisis may be looming in the United States but it doesn’t appear to be forcing people to consider working full-time into their old age.

By the end of the decade, about 21% of the population will be 65 or older, up from 15% in 2016, according to forecasts by the Census Bureau. Most non-retired adults have some type of retirement savings, but only 36% think their savings are on track.

New research from economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that this retirement savings deficit hasn’t made a dent in when Americans plan to exit, or partially exit, the workforce.

In fact, researchers found that since the pandemic, workers have reported much lower expectations of working full-time beyond ages 62 and 67 (the latter is the retirement age for full Social Security benefits). Surprisingly, they found that the decline is particularly notable for lower-income and female workers.

What’s happening: The pandemic ushered in the great resignation. Almost 50 million people quit their job in the two years following the worst of Covid-19, citing pressures such as burnout, general job dissatisfaction or child care or elder care needs. Amid a tight labor market, many were also able to find a better job, with better pay.

The trend was so prevalent that Beyoncé even released a song about it.

But even though the pandemic is over, and the US economy has recovered quickly from the 2020 recession, the labor force is still experiencing unprecedented changes, report New York Fed economists Felix Aidala, Gizem Kosar and Wilbert van der Klaauw.

Looking at the Survey of Consumer Expectations’ (SCE) triannual Labor Market Survey, the economists found that beginning in March 2020, retirement-age full-time employment expectations began to plunge and have persistently declined since. The survey hit an all-time low in March 2024, when just 45.8% of respondents said that they planned to work full-time beyond the age of 62. Those expectations averaged 54.6% in the six years before the pandemic.

“The decline is broad-based across age, education, and income groups, with workers under age 45, without a college degree, and with annual household incomes below $60,000 showing slightly larger declines than their peers,” wrote the researchers.

What it means: While the great resignation has ended and wage growth is easing, the New York Fed’s survey responses still “reveal a persistent decline in expectations of working full-time beyond ages 62 and 67,” said the economists.

They’re not sure what’s behind the phenomenon and they said they were surprised by the results given increases in life expectancy.

There could be a litany of explanations, many due to post-pandemic cultural shifts about the value of work and an increase in savings during the pandemic. Either way, it could be significant for the economy.

“The pandemic-induced change in retirement expectations may continue to affect the labor market in years to come,” they wrote. “It also can have important macroeconomic implications when consumers act on their expectations in making consumption and saving decisions.”

It could also have serious implications for the timing of claims for Social Security benefits.

Social Security payments still provide about 90% of income for 12% of older men and 15% of older women, according to Social Security Agency surveys.

But without intervention, the Social Security trust fund will be depleted by the mid-2030s, meaning that only a portion of retirees’ expected benefits will be paid out. Lawmakers have faced a decades-long political stalemate on how to fix it.

Yes, but: This is a survey of expectations, researchers at the New York Fed are quick to point out. Just because Americans say they plan to shift to part-time work or retire early, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be able to.

Debt — and delinquencies — are on the rise for Americans

The economy has been resilient, the job market healthy and consumers keep spending, but more Americans are becoming financially overextended — especially on their credit cards, reports my colleague Alicia Wallace.

New data released Tuesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that as household debt balances grew during the first quarter, delinquencies also marched higher. Notably, the percentage of credit card balances in serious delinquency (90 days or more late) climbed to its highest level since 2012.

“In the first quarter of 2024, credit card and auto loan transition rates into serious delinquency continued to rise across all age groups,” Joelle Scally, regional economic principal within the Household and Public Policy Research Division at the New York Fed, said in a statement. “An increasing number of borrowers missed credit card payments, revealing worsening financial distress among some households.”

Aggregate delinquency rates increased during the first quarter to 3.2% of outstanding debt in some stage of delinquency, the highest since the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the New York Fed’s latest Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. The transitions into delinquency — especially serious delinquency — increased across all debt types, according to the report.

Walmart said Tuesday it is eliminating several hundred corporate jobs and will relocate most of its remaining remote office staff to its Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters, reports CNN’s Parija Kavilanz.

Walmart confirmed the move in a memo sent by Donna Morris, its chief people officer, to employees on Tuesday and obtained by CNN.

Morris, in the memo, said the decision to relocate employees and ask other remote staff to come back into the office was made to facilitate better collaboration, innovation “and move even faster.”

“We also believe it helps strengthen our culture as well as grow and develop our associates,” she said in the memo.

The relocation will impact the majority of workers in Walmart’s Dallas, Atlanta and Toronto offices. While most relocations will be to its Bentonville headquarters, some workers will be relocated to Walmart offices in the San Francisco Bay Area or to Hoboken, New Jersey, and the New York area.

“In addition, some parts of our business have made changes that will result in a reduction of several hundred campus roles,” Morris said in the memo. “While the overall numbers are small in percentage, we are focused on supporting each of our associates affected by these changes.”

Walmart is expected to report its latest quarterly earnings on Thursday. The latest round of layoffs at the world’s largest retailer comes close on the heels of Walmart’s announcement last month that it was exiting its virtual healthcare services and was shuttering all 51 of its healthcare centers in six states.

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