In the picturesque town of Warren in Vermont’s Mad River Valley, there were seven houses for sale on Main Street before the pandemic started. Now all are sold, most to professionals working remotely, according to town resident Jack Sharry, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of LifeYield.

Suddenly, people are making major life transitions in the blink of an eye. An advisor relates the tale of a Connecticut money manager she knows who recently bought a 300-acre corn farm in Kansas after a brief visit.

Some decisions, like buying houses sight unseen, seem impulsive. But living quarters are everything during an epidemic, and record low mortgage rates can spike the punch bowl.

It’s too early to tell whether the changes are temporary or permanent. Still, as Americans are being forced to alter their lifestyles, some are going a step further, uprooting their careers and, in a few cases, retiring outright.

Ten years ago, as the Great Recession started to recede in the rearview mirror, a silver lining surfaced for Americans who remained employed. The driving force for higher-earning workers was a shifting demographic picture. As bleak as the job market was in 2010, it was clear that with an aging population America would begin to face a labor market shortage that would accelerate by the end of the decade.

For younger baby boomers who failed to save enough for retirement, this turned into a reprieve, a last chance to keep working and invest their 401(k) plans in a cheap stock market. Survey after survey found that many people wanted to work past traditional retirement age for a variety of reasons. Earning an income and remaining active topped the list.

As late as this past February, that scenario appeared to play out. Workers over 55 years old were the only age group to enjoy increased participation in the labor force during the last expansion.

Today, planning for the next two years, if possible, has dwarfed long-term goals.

Early retirement offers a new appeal. When Delta Air Lines made the offer to its own employees, 17,000 jumped at the chance. More are expected to sign up.

Most clients of financial advisors possess a higher degree of control over when they retire than the average American. That doesn’t mean they are immune to the fallout from the pandemic or that they aren’t rethinking their careers.

The economy may have hit bottom, but many companies are likely to re-evaluate high-paid employees’ contributions as the recovery unfolds. This could bring another wave of downsizing to white-collar professionals in affluent communities. Some, like Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi, have also warned of a new round of salary cuts at many businesses.

Michelle Connell, owner of Portia Capital Management in Fort Worth, Texas, fears that older workers could become a casualty of the pandemic. She notes that in May the combined unemployment and under-employment rate for workers over 65 was 26%, or 5% higher than that of workers age 25 to 54. Older workers face new questions during an epidemic like health issues, as well as old ones like silent age discrimination, and possible job displacement as employers move to digital services. Their health concerns are real, and so are employers’ fears of liability if their employees get sick. Companies in many industries, including financial services, are struggling hard to find next-generation workers, and older employees could become collateral damage for that reason as well.

It’s a two-way street. More than a few professionals in their late 50s or early 60s are close to reaching their retirement goals, and a new focus on quality of life may start to supersede the desire to attain some financial number on a financial plan.

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