Most Believe the 2020 COVID-19 Economy is Worse than the 2008 Great Recession

Fairfax, VA – October 20, 2020 — More than half of U.S. adults (51%) believe the COVID-19 economy is worse than the 2008 Great Recession, according to a study released today by Edelman Financial Engines, the nation’s largest independent financial planning and investment advisor.

The Edelman Financial Engines 2020 Financial Insights study was designed to obtain consumer views of COVID-19’s financial implications. The poll by OnePoll was conducted online August 27-September 1 of 2,000 U.S. adults ages 40-65 with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more.

More than a quarter of respondents (26%) have withdrawn money from their retirement or savings accounts during the pandemic, the study found. Of those, more than one third (39%) gave money to help a family member or friend in need, and more than half (51%) paid their own bills. On average, those who withdrew money say it will take almost six years to replenish their savings.

“Months into the pandemic, it’s clear that Americans are still struggling with the financial impact,” said Ric Edelman, founder of Edelman Financial Engines. “It is likely that Americans will continue to struggle for some time.”

The Election and the Markets

The upcoming election is top of mind for Americans. When asked about the candidates’ policy plans the top three were the economy (64%), the pandemic (59%) and healthcare (51%). Nearly three in four respondents (72%) say the presidential candidates’ economic policies will sway their vote.

While the presidential vote is split among respondents, nearly all (97%) believe their preferred candidate will win, meaning half will be disappointed, and a great many shocked, after a winner is confirmed.

“It is likely that many people will be tempted to change their investment strategy as a result of the election,” Edelman said. “However, history shows that the financial markets tend to perform well regardless of what political party is in office.”


According to “2020 Financial Insights”, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Edelman Financial Engines

  1. Economic (64%)
  2. COVID-19 response/plan (59%)
  3. Healthcare (51%)
  4. Foreign policy (25%)
  5. Reaction to BLM (25%)
  6. Education (24%)
  7. Environment (20%)


The Edelman Financial Engines “2020 Financial Insights” survey was completed online by OnePoll in between August 27 and September 1, 2020, among 2000 U.S. adults ranging from ages 40-65, with an annual household income of over $100,000.

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Edelman Financial Engines
2020 Financial Insights Study
Key Data Highlights


  • 51% say the 2020 economic crisis is worse than the 2008 recession; only 26% say 2008 was worse


  • 72% say the presidential candidates’ economic and tax policies will sway their vote
  • Other top candidate positions respondents are keeping an eye on include healthcare (51%), foreign policy (25%) and response to the Black Lives Matter movement (25%)
  • While the presidential vote is split, most will be disappointed and shocked as only 3% say their candidate won’t win


  • Pandemic hurting the savings ability and retirement capabilities of all workers, regardless of age
  • Many don’t have enough in cash reserves
    • 34% of 40-49 don’t have enough
    • 43% of 50-59
    • 25% of 60-65
  • 80% wish they’d started saving years earlier
    • Most wish they’d started 10+ years earlier than they did
      • 41% of 40-49
      • 42% of 50-59
      • 41% of 60-65


  • Many have shifted to lower-risk investments due to COVID-19
    • 34% of 40-49
    • 22% of 50-59
    • 21% of 60-65
  • Most would panic if their accounts lost 30% to 50% in value
    • 57% of 40-49
    • 56% of 50-59
    • 55% of 60-65
  • Half (53%) have a financial advisor
    • Only a third of them have a fee-based RIA
    • Those who have an advisor:
      • Are 25% more likely to have sufficient cash reserves (70% v 56%)
      • Are 45% more likely to save and invest (87% v 60%)
  • 36% own bitcoin
    • 30% of 40-49
    • 10% of 50-59
    • 9% of 60-65


  • Boomers, Gen X and older Millennials are all reducing how much they’re saving for retirement, all worried about their ability to retire
    • Fewer are saving like they were: 24% drop on average
      • 27% of 40-49
      • 22% of 50-59
      • 16% of 60-65
    • Half (49%) don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire
      • 57% of 40-49
      • 41% of 50-59
      • 28% of 60-65
  • Of those saving for retirement, 26% have had to make early withdrawals. They say it will take six years to regain the lost money
    • 34% of 40-49
    • 17% of 50-59
    • 12% of 60-65
    • Average:
      • 40-49: 6.8 years on average
      • 50-59: 5.5 years on average
      • 60-65: 3.7 years on average
  • Most tapped their retirement savings to help a family member or friend in need
    • 39% gave money to a family member or friend
      • 40-49: 72%
      • 50-59: 39%
      • 60-65: 14%
  • To work to be able to retire, most (18%) said more than 11 years while the average respondent thinks that they will need to work at least six years longer than they had initially planned
    • By age group at 11+ years
      • Between 40-49: 11.40%
      • Between 50-59: 10%
      • Between 60-65: 4.55%

About Edelman Financial Engines

Since 1986, Edelman Financial Engines has been committed to always acting in the best interest of our clients. We were founded on the belief that all American investors – not just the wealthy – deserve access to personalized, comprehensive financial planning and investment advice. Today, we are America’s top independent financial planning and investment advisor, recognized by both InvestmentNews1 and Barron’s2 with 150+ offices across the country and entrusted by more than 1.2 million clients to manage more than $220 billion in assets.3 Our unique approach to serving clients combines our advanced methodology and proprietary technology with the attention of a dedicated personal financial planner. Every client’s situation and goals are unique, and the powerful fusion of high-tech and high-touch allows Edelman Financial Engines to deliver the personal plan and financial confidence that everyone deserves.

[1] Ranking and status for 2020. For independence methodology and ranking, see InvestmentNews Center (

[2] The 2020 America’s Best RIA Firms Independent Advisory Firm Ranking issued by Barron’s is qualitative and quantitative, including assets managed, technology spending, staff diversity, succession planning, the size and experience of teams, and the regulatory records of the advisors and firms. Firms elect to participate but do not pay to be included in the ranking. Investor experience and returns are not considered.

[3] As of June 30, 2020.

© 2020 Edelman Financial Engines, LLC. Edelman Financial Engines® is a registered trademark of Edelman Financial Engines, LLC. All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1367709