51% of older Americans believe the COVID-19 economic crisis is worse than the 2008 recession

New research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Edelman Financial Engines reveals how older Americans will be changing their future because of the current environment (Photo by Matthew Bennett on Unsplash).

Over half of Americans surveyed think the 2020 economic crisis — brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic — is worse than the 2008 recession, according to new research.

The study of 2,000 Americans 40–65 with a household income of $100k or more examined how the current environment will impact their decisions going forward.

Three in five (59%) said the presidential candidates’ COVID-19 response and plans are a vital factor weighing on their vote in 2020.

Seventy-two percent said their financial future will weigh heavily on their decision in the 2020 election with economic policies being a top platform that will sway their vote.

Other top candidate positions respondents are keeping an eye on include health care (51%), foreign policy (25%) and response to the Black Lives Matter movement (25%).

Nearly half of all respondents could be very disappointed and shocked by the outcome of the upcoming presidential election as only 3% of those surveyed believe their candidate won’t win.

The survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Edelman Financial Engines, revealed all these pressing concerns could have long-term effects on respondents’ futures.

While 88% are saving for retirement, a quarter (24%) have had to lessen their contributions since the pandemic began and more than one-third (35%) don’t have enough in cash reserves.

Of those saving for retirement, one in four have needed to dip into those funds during the pandemic and the average person estimates it will take them six years to remake that lost money.

Half of those who have withdrawn from their retirement savings did so to pay bills while 39% gave the money to a family member or friend in need.

A third used the money due to an emergency and one in four had medical bills that resulted in them reaching into their retirement funds to pay them off.

With so much uncertainty, some are reconsidering their financial decisions from their youth.

The average respondent began saving for retirement when they were 30 years old, but looking back it wasn’t soon enough, with the average respondent wishing they had begun saving nearly a decade earlier.

Beyond saving money for later, three in four respondents are also investing.

While 74% of respondents are investing for retirement, nearly half are not currently working with a financial advisor (47%).

“As we’ve seen this year, market volatility can hurt investment values in the short term,” said Ric Edelman, founder of Edelman Financial Engines. “Savvy investors recognize the importance of maintaining a long-term view.”

On the other hand, 80% of respondents who haven’t already started saving for retirement revealed it’s a major regret.

When asked why they had put off saving, two in five said their employer did not offer a retirement plan.

A third said they could not afford to contribute to one and 16% did not want to participate in a retirement plan.

One in two (49%) don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire given the state of the world.

“The biggest obstacle to saving for retirement for millions of hardworking Americans is lack of access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k),” Edelman added. “Those who have a retirement plan at work are more likely to save for retirement than those who don’t.”


  1. Economic 64%
  2. COVID-19 response/plan 59%
  3. Health care 51%
  4. Foreign policy 25%
  5. Reaction to BLM 25%
  6. Education 24%
  7. Environment 20%


  1. Retirement 74%
  2. Prepare for a “rainy day” 27%
  3. Pay for vacation 15%
  4. Buy a car 15%
  5. Pay for college 14%
  6. Buy a house 13%
  7. Start a business 11%
  8. Pay for a special event 9%
  9. Pay for a wedding 6%

>> Download the video and infographic for this research story <<
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