Women have got to take personal finance seriously. According to Vital Health and Statistics a Latina’s life expectancy at birth is 83. During those years, Latinas fall financially short, whether single or married. In 2010 the Insight Center for Community Economic Development published a report that noted that single Latinas have a median wealth of $120 compared to $41,500 for white women! That same study concluded that married Latino families have a median wealth of $18,000 while white families have a median wealth of $167,500.
A partial explanation for these disparities may be that the average woman spends 15% of her career not working, according to the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement and National Center for Women’s Retirement Research. This time may be spent taking care of children, parents, or other family members. Due to this absence, and the fact that women earn 78.2 percent of what men earn, women collect fewer dollars from Social Security during retirement. And women are increasingly reliant on social security. In 2010, women aged 65 or older, received 67 percent of their income from social security, according to the Social Security Administration. With lower wages and fewer dollars paid into the system that means smaller checks for Latinas receiving Social Security benefits.
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The reasons that Latinas have such a low median wealth are varied. But one major finding revealed in the Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women, a 2010−2011 Prudential Research Study, showed that less than two women in ten feel prepared to make financial decisions. In fact, half of the women said that they “need some help” making financial decisions and one-third of the women said that they “need a lot of help.” And, it’s worth noting that all of the 1,250 women surveyed earn more than $50,000 a year.
HOW DO YOU GET STARTED?
Make up your mind that you want to learn more about personal finance. One of the most important things that you can do is to decide that taking care of your money is a priority. Start by writing down some financial goals and posting them where you can see them. If you want to buy a home, contribute more to your retirement account, or start putting money away for your Emergency Account you’ll have to begin by choosing to do some things differently.
Educate yourself about personal finance. Since you have a few, meta-goals you’ll have to figure out how to reach them. There are several good, free resources on the Internet including:
Another wonderful place to start is your local library. Books on everything from creating a spending plan to real estate investing and mutual funds are easily available. A few great reads are:
Find small opportunities that make a big difference. The key to building a foundation for wealth is not to let the process overwhelm you. There is a lot of information, and it’s easy to start feeling like it’s all too hard. Start by taking a look at your current situation and find little things that you can start doing now to save or invest more money. For example, you could choose to buy a case of your favorite drink and take a few to work each day instead of buying from vending machines. That small change could save you hundreds of dollars per year.
Get professional help if you’d like it. If you would like to speak with someone else about where to begin or to get a second opinion on your plan, The National Association of Personal Finance Advisors is a great place to start. Search for a fee-only advisor near your home or office.
Advisors get paid in one of three ways: a percentage of assets under management, commission based on sales of products and services, or flat fee. When you meet with a fee-only advisor you know that the advisor isn’t giving you biased advice. Also, you don’t have to worry about not having enough assets to make it worth the advisor’s time to speak with you. It will cost you upwards of $200, but the benefit of having a professional help you create a plan is invaluable.
It’s important for Latinas to take responsibility for their financial lives. Though it can be scary, it’s much scarier to have no idea what outcomes are possible. Take a moment to look at where you are financially and think about where you’d like to be. Educate yourself about the basics of personal finance, find opportunities to make a few changes, and seek out help if you’d like it. Tomorrow belongs to those that plan for it today.