Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. adults are feeling regret over their lack of emergency and retirement savings and are concerned about their retirement, according to two recent surveys of older adults.

Bankrate’s survey found that older adults see paying down debt as a top priority going forward, whereas a survey from American Advisors Group indicated seniors are open to alternative solutions to bump up their retirement portfolios.

Bankrate’s online survey of 1,343 adults was conducted by YouGov Plc. More than half of survey respondents said they feel regret over their emergency savings (55%) and retirement savings (54%).

Fifty percent also said they regret their income stability, 49% have some level of regret over their debt and 46% regret living beyond their means.

The top financial regret for Americans concerning COVID-19 is not having saved enough for emergencies (23%), followed by not having enough retirement savings (20%), too much debt (17%) and lack of income stability (14%). Only 7% cited living beyond their means as a top regret. Not enough retirement savings was the top regret for those aged more than 55 years.

A May Bankrate survey showed more than one in four Americans have taken or anticipate taking money from their retirement accounts to cover expenses during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Due to the pandemic, people at all income levels have found themselves out of work and relying on their savings — making it all too clear how important it is to have money set aside,” the survey states.  

Looking forward, Americans’ top financial priority is paying down debt (22%) and saving more for emergencies (17%). Other top priorities include saving more for retirement (12%), living within their means (11%) and stabilizing income (10%). Paying down debt was the top financial priority among older millennials (which the survey defines as ages 31 to 39), Gen X and baby boomers (which the survey defines as ages 56 to 74).

“At first blush, the regret about lack of emergency savings and the prioritization of debt repayment may seem at odds with each other, but not so,” said Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride. “Consumers can actually make meaningful progress on both fronts at the same time by setting up a direct deposit form the paycheck into a dedicated savings account and earmarking more discretionary dollars toward debt repayment.”

AAG survey finds older adults open to alternative solutions

Meanwhile, a survey from American Advisor Group found that more than 85% of seniors are concerned about their retirement due to coronavirus.

The AAG COVID Market Survey Series was conducted with more than 1,400 participants aged 60 or more years. The digital survey was conducted in two stages — March 17, the day after the Dow fell by nearly 13%, and April 15. 

As of April, key findings reveal that 87.5% of participants had some level of concern about their portfolios — up from 83% in March — and 79.5% believe their retirement lifestyles will be affected to some degree, compared with 81% in March.

“The results of these surveys clearly show that seniors are worried about their financial future due to the effect that COVID-19 has had on the stock market,” said AAG Chief Marketing Officer Martin Lenoir. “The market volatility has had a huge impact on American retirement portfolios, which has led to increased interest in alternative solutions, such as utilizing home equity. We’re seeing more seniors using products, like a reverse mortgage line of credit, to access their home equity and give their other retirement assets time to recover.”

In March, 26% of participants said they had less than $100,000 in their retirement portfolio, but in April that number grew to 43%. In March, 36% of respondents said they had more than $499,000 in their retirement portfolios. That number dropped to 19.66% in April. 

Despite the number of seniors concerned about their futures, 89% said in April they were confident they had enough funds available to ride out the market downturn.

When looking at ways to maintain lifestyle, almost 95% said they are not considering selling any of their assets to fund their retirement needs. Instead, they are looking at alternative funding sources; 13% stated in March that they would consider a reverse mortgage if it would allow their portfolio to recover. In April, that number grew to 19.5%. And 48.8% said they planned to “booster their emergency fund” to improve their finances during retirement.

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • Some senior living residents are skeptical about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic so aren’t taking precautions as seriously as they should, given conflicting information from health experts and politicians, according to a Kaiser Health News article that quotes representatives of Summit Hills and Hebrew SeniorLife. Residents, says Rachel Lerner, Hebrew SeniorLife general counsel, “are targets of misinformation and online scams at a much higher rate than regular folks are.”
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), a former candidate for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, announced Friday that her father, who lives in an assisted living community, had received a COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • A collaboration developed at UVA Health to work with long-term care facilities to control COVID-19 is saving lives and offers a model for communities across the country, according to those involved.
  • The Minnesota Department of Health issued new guidance Thursday for long-term care facilities looking for safe ways to allow friends and family members to visit residents during the coronavirus pandemic. The new guidance includes recommendations for outdoor vitis and window visits.
  • There have been more than 3,000 coronavirus-related deaths in Florida and, according to state data, 52.66% of all of Florida’s deaths are linked to long-term care facilities statewide.
  • As of 2018, there is only one full-time paid long-term care ombudsman for approximately every 3,600 beds in assisted living communities, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in New York state, according to a new report from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. The number is below the recommendation of one full-time ombudsman for every 2,000 long-term care residents. Stringer issued a set of recommendations to address the substantial lack of state and city funding for this critical program. The ombudsmen are especially important during crises such as pandemics, because visitors are restricted, the office said.
  • Meridian Senior Living has launched its “Table Talks” program in some communities to try to support resident and family engagement. The visits take place outdoors in an area set up at the community to provide comfort and privacy. All surfaces in the area will be disinfected between visits.
  • Living Care Retirement Community in Wakima, WA, built an addition onto one of its buildings to allow residents to speak to their family members through a window. The “Chatter box” is a small room with a window and a cord phone connected to two wireless phones outside next to a bench.