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New survey: 1 in 5 Americans have been forced to delay or cancel their retirement due to the pandemic

Nationwide Retirement Institute® survey also finds three in five Americans say it's more important than ever to plan for taxes in retirement to achieve their long-term goals

Columbus, OH – The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken many U.S. adults’ confidence in retiring comfortably or on time, with one-in-five (19%) reporting it has forced them to delay their retirement or no longer retire at all, according to the new 2021 Tax-Efficient Retirement Income survey.

Conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Nationwide Retirement Institute®, the study also found one-fourth (27%) of Americans have saved less or stopped saving for retirement because they lost their job or for other reasons. In result, almost two-in-five Americans (37%) have or are likely to withdraw money from their retirement plan early because of the pandemic, and this percentage is even higher for millennials at 58%.

Overall, the study reveals younger adults have struggled with navigating their finances the most, with 62% of millennials and 51% of Gen Xers saying the pandemic has made their finances more complicated, compared to 27% of boomers.

“COVID-19 has many Americans feeling financially insecure — especially younger ones,” said Eric Henderson, president of Nationwide’s Annuity business. “This presents an opportunity for financial professionals to not only get clients back on track, but ensure they have the right tools and education on topics like taxes in retirement, which can get them closer to their long-term goals.”

The Education Gap on Taxes in Retirement
COVID-19 has put a needed spotlight on the critical role tax planning plays in reaching those long-term goals. Almost half (47%) of Americans expect their taxes to go up significantly in the next four years and the majority (62%) agree it’s more important than ever to minimize taxes now than in retirement. They’re right to be vigilant — 42% of retirees say they didn’t consider how tax rates would affect their retirement income when planning for retirement and now 36% are terrified of what tax rates will do to their retirement income.

While most Americans agree they should minimize their taxes now, the challenge is many aren’t financially savvy enough to do this on their own — especially today. Forty-two percent of all respondents say their taxes have become more complicated as a result of COVID-19, and this percentage jumps to 58% for millennials. Only 58% of adults surveyed know how to use tax planning to get the desired outcome they want from the IRS during tax season.

“The worries retirees have about taxes in retirement should serve as a warning to non-retirees. Too many Americans aren’t considering or knowledgeable about building flexibility into a retirement income plan and this can have costly repercussions down the road,” said Henderson. “There’s an opportunity to bridge the education gap on how different investment and retirement vehicles, such as taxable, tax-deferred and tax-free accounts, can help effectively manage retirement income.”

The Opportunity for Financial Professionals
The good news is many Americans are eager to seek help from a financial professional on this topic, especially millennials. Nearly half of millennials (48%) and one-third of Gen Xers (32%) engaged a financial planner for the first time due to the pandemic, compared to 12% of boomers.

However, the challenge is more than half of Americans (57%) rarely consider the taxes they will pay or are paying in retirement and 31% aren’t receiving the tax advice they need for retirement. There is an immediate opportunity for financial professionals to address this need, with half (50%) of Americans reporting they’d switch financial professionals for someone who could help them plan for taxes in retirement.

More specifically, Americans would like advice on how to receive a tax benefit from itemizing (46%) and how to adjust investments in case of potential increases in capital gains taxes (42%). Another two-in-five (42%) would also like to get professional advice on how to use annuities and life insurance products that may be less impacted by any increases in capital gains taxes.

“The survey shows consumers aren’t receiving the tax planning help they need for retirement, and as a result, they may be paying thousands of dollars more than needed,” said Henderson. “Financial professionals have a major gap to fill in educating clients on the best strategies to reduce unexpected taxes on combined income resources. By taking a holistic approach to financial planning, professionals can help more Americans save and achieve the retirement they want.”

To learn additional insights from Nationwide Retirement Institute’s Tax-Efficient Retirement Income survey, visit www.nationwide.com/lc/resources/investing-and-retirement/articles/tax-efficiency-survey-results.


Nationwide commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct a 4-question online survey among 3,002 U.S. residents ages 18 and over. Millennials are comprised of respondents 25-40, Gen Xers are respondents 41-56 and boomers are 57+. Online fieldwork was completed between March 9 — 11, 2021.

Respondents for these surveys were selected from among those who agreed to participate in surveys by The Harris Poll. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the online panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Data are weighted where necessary by age by gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, income, marital status, and propensity to be online to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population.

About The Harris Poll
The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys in the U.S. tracking public opinion, motivations and social sentiment since 1963 and is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that delivers social intelligence for transformational times. We work with clients in three primary areas; building twenty-first-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible. To learn more, please visit www.theharrispoll.com.

About Nationwide

Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States. Nationwide is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. An industry leader in driving customer-focused innovation, Nationwide provides a full range of insurance and financial services products including auto, business, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit www.nationwide.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

This material is not a recommendation to buy, sell, hold, or rollover any asset, adopt an investment strategy, retain a specific investment manager or use a particular account type. It does not take into account the specific investment objectives, tax and financial condition or particular needs of any specific person. Investors should work with their financial professional to discuss their specific situation.

This information is general in nature and is not intended to be tax, legal, accounting or other professional advice. The information provided is based on current laws, which are subject to change at any time, and has not been endorsed by any government agency.

Nationwide and The Harris Poll are separate and non-affiliated companies.

Nationwide Investment Services Corporation (NISC), member FINRA, Columbus, OH. Nationwide Retirement Institute is a division of NISC.

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