TORONTO -- There have always been wild cards surrounding retirement. The biggest fear for many has been outliving their money, and in an ironic sort of way, the fear of living too darn long. However, over the years concerns around inflation, volatility in the market and long-term extended care costs have also been top of mind for those focused on on the next stage of their life.

To be fair, no one has ever had all the answers to retire with absolute certainty and yet projections and decisions were made with the data available and reasonable expectations factored in.

And then we were hit with a pandemic.

The one wild card no one factored in. And the fear around health, lifestyle and wealth decisions has left many wondering if their past retirement assumptions will hold true going forward?

I reached out to my followers on Instagram and simply asked the questionm "Has COVID-19 changed your retirement plans?"The response was swift and precise. The conclusion, yes. Some are accelerating their plans and others want to delay for as long as possible. Not surprisingly COVID-19 has raised concerns and given people a heightened awareness of what they thought retirement might look like, seem less likely today.

Diane responded by saying, "I retired a year ago in the hopes of spending time with family, friends and travelling more often. What I have found during the past year and especially during the pandemic is less time with friends, virtually no travel and the fear intellectually I may be slipping and I now know I need to be challenged more.” Diane is now looking to get back into the workforce.

Tom is a small business owner who holds a lot of high priced inventory. Tom had hopes prior to the pandemic to sell his business and retire in cottage country. Given the uncertainty due to the pandemic there are no current potential buyers. So for now business is good and as he says, "he's forced to keep going and will.”

Steve has a corporate job and had hoped to travel and spend more time with his family but with the current market volatility, little travel and family living a distance away, he has decided to stay put until news of a vaccine changes the landscape.

Linda was in the airline industry until she was recently was laid off after travel came to a standstill due to COVID-19. She feels now she will be forced to retire much earlier than planned and is doing so kicking and screaming. "I loved my job and don't want to retire,” she said. Sadly, this decision wasn't in her hands.

Some have health concerns and are eager to retire while the vast majority, who in many cases have not saved for retirement, now worry that jobs will be lost when they hoped they could continue to work indefinitely.

However, it isn't all doom and gloom. Lifestyles have changed and people are coming to the realization they may need less money. Others are content with spending time with family and friends and have embraced a more modest lifestyle that they don't see changing anytime soon. Others have found working from home has proven to be less stressful than going to the office and have decided to hang on for as long as their employer will have them.

No doubt COVID-19 has thrown us a curveball when we least expected it. There have been so many changes in our lives but what hasn't changed is our ability to plan and alter our plan assumptions.

Retirement plans were never carved in stone and have always been based on assumptions. Knowing how much money you have coming in and from what sources whether it is income, TFSA, RRSPs, RRIFs, company pensions or government pensions hasn't changed. What's changed is what you will be spending your money on, how far your money will go and how long you might need it for.

It has always been important to know your retirement numbers. And just like prior to COVID-19, you make the assessment as best you can and make adjustments along the way. Today, portfolios may be down, yet so may be your discretionary spending. You may have been taking 4% out of your retirement money for living expenses and have now decided to pull that number back to 3% to allow time for your portfolio’s performance to recover. The point is, it is time to revise your plan given the facts you now know. It just makes sense.

Finally, retirement was never just about the money. To discount the emotional element around retirement would be a mistake at the best of times. However, COVID-19 has forced many to realize how important socialization and structure is to their day. These realities have been brought to forefront in the past few months and have now become key retirement factors that have many re-evaluvating how they will be spending their days in retirement.

Life can change in a heartbeat and what has become obvious to me are the number of people proactively reassessing where they are at, tweaking their plans given what they now know and and yet continuing to move forward in ways they never planned.