The slog through the pandemic has taken an outsized toll on educators, some of whom feel worn thin by heavier workloads and are now planning early retirements.
But that’s only an option for teachers who on are solid financial footing. Others, particularly in the K-12 world, feel financially strained and worry about ever being able to retire, even if they want to now more than ever.
Compared with how they felt in 2019, college educators were more than twice as likely to say they felt stressed in 2020, at 69% versus 32%, according to a survey of 1,100 faculty members published today by Fidelity Investments and The Chronicle of Higher Education. A similar percentage said they felt fatigued, and more than a third said they were angry, up from 12% in 2019. That has important implications for the role of wellness programs that are part of employers’ benefits packages, the report noted.
More than half, 55%, said they were seriously considering leaving the profession or retiring early. More than a third of those thinking about leaving for other fields were tenured professors.
“Female faculty have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” Fidelity’s report read. More than 80% said their workloads went up over the past year, and 74% said their work-life balance has suffered because of it, compared with 63% of male colleagues who said the same.
That discrepancy could be the result of additional childcare and eldercare responsibilities shouldered by women, the report noted.
The survey shows that the “pandemic has pushed many faculty members to the verge of burnout,” Debra Frey, Fidelity’s head of tax-exempt marketing and analytics, said in the company’s report. “They’ve been asked to adapt to an uncertain and constantly changing work environment over the past year, while also dealing with personal challenges brought on by Covid. This has left many feeling overworked, fatigued and wondering if they even want to continue to be an educator.”
HARD TIMES IN K-12
Meanwhile, many teachers at the grade school and high school level are finding it more difficult to scrape by, and those educators reported similar levels of stress and burnout.
Sixty percent said they expect to be negatively financial affected by the pandemic, an October survey of about 500 teachers from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence at ICMA-RC found. Thirty-seven percent said they expect the coming year to be worse, according to that report, which was published today.
Many have had to spend down their reserves. Forty-four percent said they had to spend at least some of their emergency funds, and two-thirds said that debt is a problem for them. More than a third have had to take on additional debt due to the pandemic.
More than a quarter of K-12 educators said they are now saving less for retirement than they were before Covid, and 43% are saving less in general.
All those factors appear to be chipping away at their confidence in being able to someday retire.
Among teachers, 71% said they are concerned about being able to retire when they want to, compared with about two-thirds of people in the general U.S. population, the survey found. Nearly three-quarters of K-12 teachers said they are worried about being able to save enough to be financially secure in retirement.
Further, about half of teachers said they are unfamiliar with the investment options within their DC plans, and more than a quarter said they were overwhelmed by the options. Thirty-four percent said they disagreed with the statement, “My employer does a good job preparing me for retirement.”
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As our second lead editor, Cindy Hamilton covers health, fitness and other wellness topics. She is also instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. Cindy received a BA and an MA from NYU.