Many people know that African-Americans are often not as financially stable as other ethnic groups, but just how bad is the problem? According to census data compiled by the FDIC, it's far worse than you've probably imagined.
NBC news writes, "[a]t a time when the majority of Americans use online banking, and some even deposit checks using their cellphone cameras, roughly 8 percent of America’s 115 million households don’t have a checking or savings account." And when you look solely at African-Americans, the number of people without a bank account leaps to more than 20 percent, or one out of every five Black Americans.
This lack of even basic financial literacy makes building wealth for future generations very difficult. One man NBC interviewed about not having a bank account stored all of his money around his home, not in even a simple savings account, where it could have accrued interest. When his wife fell ill, their savings was soon wiped out. Another woman, who was homeless at periods in her life, noted that "cash in hand is cash spent," meaning that when money is in a bank it's far easier to save up than when it's in your pocket, tempting you.
Despite their difficult circumstances, however, a whole different study shows that African-Americans are still optimistic about their financial futures, as well as the country's general economic outlook. Reports the Atlanta Daily World, "Three in five Black investors express confidence in their own financial future while half report they are better off now than they were three years ago." A different 2011 study noted "that two-thirds of African-American households with incomes greater than $50,000 have a strong desire to find financial solutions to meet their goals."
Of course, investors and people making more than $50,000 a year, while part of the Black community, are not necessarily representative of what you will find in many Black households, where money is too tight to invest. For those people, the future looks much less rosy. As BET told you this month, 36 percent of non-retired African-American investors surveyed for a poll said that simply paying their monthly bills is their biggest money concern.
When just being able to afford rent and food is the main concern of even the Black investor class, it's clear that there is still much work to be done. And for far too many, even getting the basics can be a struggle: In December of last year, there were nearly 48 million people on the government's food-stamp program. Considering those statistics, so many poor people not having basic bank accounts makes a bit more sense: Who can think about a savings account when they’re struggling to even eke out enough money to feed themselves?
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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