The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

The Impact of COVID-19 on Retirement Readiness for the Higher Ed Workforce

Editor’s note: Be sure to join Paul Yakoboski, senior economist at TIAA Institute, and Melissa Fuesting, survey researcher at CUPA-HR, on Wednesday, May 26 at 2:00 p.m. (ET) for the webinar, Faculty Retirement Patterns and COVID-19: Impacts, Challenges and Opportunities.” In addition to their findings on changes to the expected retirement age for faculty, Paul and Melissa will discuss evidence-based suggestions to promote faculty retirement, such as phased retirement programs.

The 2020 Higher Education Financial Wellness Survey — conducted by the TIAA Institute and CUPA-HR and fielded in the fall of 2020 — surveyed full-time higher education employees’ attitudes and concerns about their financial well-being and retirement readiness.

The first report based on the survey examined how the economic consequences of COVID-19 have altered the expected retirement age for full-time faculty (one-third of full-time faculty age 50 or older changed their expected retirement age). The latest report, Retirement readiness among the higher education workforce: Impact of COVID-19, provides insights on the economic consequences of the pandemic on retirement readiness for the higher ed workforce.

According to the report, while the vast majority of college and university employees participate in an employment-based retirement plan, confidence among many regarding various aspects of retirement income security has been shaken. In addition, many full-time employees in higher education have made changes to their retirement saving and investments since the onset of COVID-19.

Key findings:

  • Twenty-two percent of the full-time higher education workforce have become less confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement. At the same time, 9 percent have become more confident.
  • Twenty-five percent of retirement savers increased the amount they are saving, while 22 percent decreased their saving, including 4 percent who stopped saving.
  • Forty percent of retirement savers changed the investment of their savings, with essentially equal shares decreasing (19 percent) and increasing (21 percent) their equity exposure.
  • On net, 54 percent of retirement savers changed the amount they are saving and/or the investment of their savings.

Read the full report for more insights, and be sure to attend the conference session reviewing the report findings at CUPA-HR’s Virtual Spring Conference. The final report, Financial wellness among the higher education workforce, will be featured in the April 7 eNews.


The CUPA-HR office will be closed Fridays through August 19.