Large Numbers of Older Latinos Have Tapped into Retirement Accounts


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A recent poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that older Latinos are more likely than whites or African Americans to borrow money from a retirement account.

Whether do to a pressing financial concern or a medical emergency, 34% of all Latinos surveyed (compared to 24% of whites and 25% of African Americans) have at least partially “tapped into” a retirement account.

Nearly 1/3 of all the respondents reported withdrawing money to pay monthly bills such as rent and utilities. Many Latinos, especially those born outside of the United States, have little to no savings. In these cases, an emergency of any kind can be devastating financially.

“Latinos are using retirement accounts for emergencies,” said Ernest Gonzales, sociology professor at Boston University in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News.

One problem that exacerbates the situation is the pay disparity between Latinos and other racial and ethnic groups. Because many Latinos live paycheck to paycheck, they do not have the means to create a savings.

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According to Pew Research Center, Latino men earned 69% of white men’s earnings in 2015. Also, only 1 in 3 native-born and immigrant Latinos have a retirement plan through their employers. This is largely the case as many work in low-wage service or manual labor jobs where retirement plans are not offered.

However, even when retirement plans are offered, large numbers of Latinos do not utilized them. A 2008 report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that only 44% of Latinos take advantage of retirement plans compared to 60% white and African American employees.

“We can have an argument about personal responsibility, but it has societal repercussions,” Gonzalez said. “Financial hardships lead to a great deal of stress, especially among women. That stress has significant health consequences.”

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