Question: With the average 401(k) balance down nearly 20 percent this year largely becuase of stock market declines, many have lost a chunk of their retirement nest eggs. Will this force people to delay retirement?

Answer: Overall, the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a crushing blow to the national economy and has disrupted many retirement plans. A new TD Ameritrade survey found seven in ten Americans expect the economic impact of COVID-19 has hurt their retirement savings and nearly a third said they may not be able to retire at all.

“Unfortunately, this is not surprising. Even before this economic fallout, Americans were already ill-prepared for financial emergencies,” said Steven Sexton, CEO of Sexton Advisory Group, a financial services corporation. “Living paycheck-to-paycheck and incurring unmanageable debt was already the reality for many Americans before the virus hit ... the pandemic only magnified these financial issues,” he added.

The cumulative impact of the 2008 recession, mounting student debt and now historic unemployment have put severe financial strains on many middle- and lower-income families.

While the federal stimulus package provided $2.2 trillion to help families and small businesses recover, it also makes it easier for Americans to tap into their 401(k)s.

However, early withdrawals likely are to send retirement balances lower in months ahead, even if the market stabilizes.

After hitting an all-time high in mid-February, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted nearly 26 percent by the end of March, according to U.S. News & World Report magazine.

In that article, many pre-retirees said they “continue to be concerned about how the economic environment and global pandemic may impact not only their health, but their financial futures as well.”

“What this virus has exposed is the lack of emergency savings and basic financial planning,” according to Cathy Clauson, senior vice president of retirement services at AssetMark, an investment management firm. “Basic financial planning is essential in good and bad times (but) we just feel the pain of it in the bad times.”

In fact, 56 percent of Ameri­cans are more concerned about their retirement today than they were a year ago, according to a recent Simplywise Retirement Confidence Index.

If you’re still early in your working career, you should have time to ride out the COVID-19 crisis and recover from it financially. If you’re nearing retirement, it’s understandable to be concerned.

So to keep retirement plans on track and minimize financial impact, pre-retirees should try to leave IRA or 401(k) accounts alone unless absolutely necessary to take early withdrawals to cover immediate expenses, according to investment website

Unfortunately, the reality is this pandemic may force some senior workers to postpone retirement by years. However, there’s a big difference between retiring later than you’d like and not retiring at all. Right now, it’s important to be flexible with your plans. suggests do your best to roll with the punches as the current crisis plays out and an overall economic recovery begins to occur.

While admittedly difficult, financial advisers recommend trying to stay positive during these tough times, because the right outlook could prevent you from making poor decisions that could make a tough situation even worse.

Michael Bateman is a retiree who previously worked in marketing and corporate communications.