Retirement timelines and COVID19: Which workers are able to work remotely?

I’ve been researching an article on how COVID19 is disrupting retirement timelines for American workers. This is an important retirement planning topic - the timing of retirement is a key factor driving retirement security, as noted in my recent guide to timing your retirement. But the pandemic has thrown millions of people out of their jobs prematurely, and many will have trouble getting new jobs as the economy remains depressed for years to come.

People who can work remotely have a leg up in some situations. The Centers for Disease Control tells us that workers over age 65 are at greater risk of serious illness and death from COVID19 - and the risks also are higher for some groups in their fifties and sixties - especially those with underlying health conditions.

So work-from-home options can be a job saver for some. But how many older workers hold jobs that can be performed from home - and are these workers able to actually do those jobs?

The good news can be seen in the above chart from a recent Center for Retirement Research at Boston College study [PDF]. It finds that older workers are just as likely as younger groups to hold jobs that can be done remotely.

The study also busts the myth that older workers are not computer savvy - a claim that has contributed to age discrimination over the years. Computer literacy may have been a problem 10 years ago, but it has diminished as boomers move into the older age bands. The boomer generation was in its prime careers years when computers, email and the like came into work environments in the 1990s, and technology is second nature to them - perhaps not so much as it is for so-called younger “digital natives.” But still . . .

However, older workers are somewhat less likely than younger groups to use the internet or have broadband internet access, according to the Pew Research Center.

Not surprisingly, remote work capacity is most concentrated among higher-income and more educated workers, CRR found.

Also check out this Rand Corp. analysis of remote work capability by industry.

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Customer service at the Social Security Administration has changed during the coronavirus crisis - the agency closed its network of more than 1,200 field offices to the public in March.

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