Commentary: Black Americans Not Ready for Retirement

A new study shows that many African-Americans are in a bad spot when it comes to retirement savings. But hope is not lost. 

Posted: 02/16/2012 10:37 AM EST
National News, retirement, black americans, debt, bills, economics

It’s not news that African-Americans are suffering in this recession. From joblessness to poverty, the nation’s Black community has taken a disproportional hit when it comes to the economic indicators relied on by most media sources and governments. But while millions of Americans are stuck worrying about how they’re going to make it through the present, the fact is that the future could be worrisome, too.

According to a new study from the bank ING, “Retirement Revealed,” Blacks are in a very precarious position when it comes to their retirement futures. Forbes reports that a full 50 percent of African-Americans in the study said they feel “not very” or “not at all” prepared for retirement. By contrast, only 48 percent of whites and 44 percent of Asians said they feel unprepared.

The large majority of Blacks — more than 60 percent — said that the major impediment to having a retirement nest egg saved up is the burden of debt. Paying off debt and its interest is devastating to some, and, depending on interest rates, it can put people one step forward and two steps back.

How bad is this failure to save going for African-Americans? So bad that half of those polled for “Retirement Revealed” don’t even have enough money saved up to get them through more than a month if they were to lose their revenue source. It’s this instability that finds more and more African-Americans homeless at the first sign of income trouble.

All is not lost, of course — it never is. Just last year, Wells Fargo partnered with the NAACP to open the Financial Freedom Center. There, underprivileged folks have the opportunity to check out classes on saving, investment, and opening retirement accounts. There are also government programs that can help people with little financial literacy learn more about how to make their money work for them. The government and the NAACP certainly can’t increase your salary if you’re not making much. But they can definitely help you make what little money you do have stretch further.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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