Blacks have known for a long time now that they are far less wealthy than their white counterparts. The disparity between Black and white household wealth quadrupled between 1984 and 2007, according to a study by Brandeis University: “The gap between Black and white households ballooned during the 23-year study period, as white families went from a median of about $22,000 in wealth to $100,000—a gain of $78,000. In the same period, Black household wealth inched up from a base of $2,000 per family to only $5,000.”
Part of the problem, of course, is that Blacks have long toiled in jobs that don’t pay very well. Since slavery, racism—both social and institutional—has kept Blacks out of higher-paying positions, so you don’t often see very many as heads of Fortune 500 companies or running law firms. The opportunities simply aren’t there. It turns out, however, that there may be more to the story than simply not having money.
A new study from Prudential Financial Inc. called “The African-American Financial Experience” has discovered that Blacks are far less trusting of financial planners than whites, making them far more apprehensive when it comes to investing their money. When asked, “Has any financial services company effectively engaged and shown support for the Black community?” a full 78 percent of respondents said no.
The survey also found that six in 10 African-Americans have less than $50,000 saved in company retirement plans, while only 23 percent have more than $100,000 in these plans. Comparatively, 34 percent of Americans in general have $100,000 in those plans. Interestingly, though they have far less money than their white counterparts, Blacks surveyed were far more likely than the general population to list charitable donations as an important financial goal (68 percent as opposed to 55 percent).
One of the reasons Prudential polled African-Americans was to mark that April is financial literacy month. Unfortunately, few Blacks know that. Says Mark Hug, Prudential’s vice president, “I thought we were making progress, but this survey shows we are not.”
(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)