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How the financial impact of coronavirus could haunt consumers for a long time

September 29, 2020, 10:09 PM UTC

While the U.S. stock market bounced back quickly amid global lockdown orders, the pandemic will undoubtedly have a lasting economic impact that could change the way investors save for retirement.

 “This is going to have a longer lasting effect as people rebuild retirement and frankly rethink retirement,” said Penny Pennington who leads financial advisory giant Edward Jones as its managing partner, during Fortune‘s virtual Most Powerful Women Summit on Tuesday.

In theory, many 401(k) and retirement account have benefitted from the quick bounce back in the stock market, with the S&P 500 now back to pre-pandemic levels in part thanks to aggressive moves from the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates and early stimulus from Congress. But as the executives on the panel pointed out, there are still many red flags for investors, including underlying economic weaknesses, an unemployment rate of 8.4% and a still uncertain number of small businesses that have closed or are in peril.

All this has had an impact on retirement accounts, said Pennington, who was joined on the panel by Thasunda Brown Duckett, the CEO of JPMorgan’s Chase Consumer Banking division, and Michelle Seitz, the CEO of Russell Investments.

Citing a recent study by Edward Jones, Pennington observed that 68 million Americans say their retirement savings have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, noting that 24 million say they have provided financial support to their adult children as a result of the pandemic. Some 71% of the study’s participants said they would help their children financially—even if it could jeopardize their own financial future.

Wealth inequality is also exacerbating the retirement crisis, the panelists noted. One in three Americans, according to a 2018 study, have just $5,000 set aside for retirement. One in five have nothing at all.

That said all three panelists were relatively optimistic about the recovery continuing, and accelerating into 2021.