Filed Under:

Latinos Live Longer But Struggle To Save Enough For Retirement

Play associated audio

Many American workers find themselves financially unprepared for retirement. Among racial and ethnic groups, Latinos are the least prepared.

They're one of the fastest-growing racial or ethnic groups, and they have a longer life expectancy than whites and blacks — at about 81 years old.

But four out of five Hispanic households have less than $10,000 in retirement savings, according to a recent report by the National Institute on Retirement Security.

Compare that to three out of four black households and one out of two for whites. (The report does not break down the data for Native Americans or Asian Americans.)

"This is a national crisis," says Nari Rhee, manager of research at the National Institute on Retirement Security. "I think that there are serious racial dimensions to this."

Rhee found that Latino workers face two main hurdles to saving for retirement. Many Latino workers are in low-wage jobs in the private sector, and they're the group least likely to have access to retirement plans at work.

While 62 percent of white employees and 54 percent of black and Asian employees work for employers that sponsor retirement plans, that's true for only 38 percent of Latino workers.

"Without access to workplace retirement savings and with not a lot of other kinds of wealth, what's left really for most people is Social Security," Rhee says.

'Living Paycheck To Paycheck'

On a recent Saturday morning at the Latino Economic Development Center in Washington, D.C., Joseph Leitmann-Santa Cruz stood in front of a packed classroom. And he made a pitch.

One of the most important financial goals is saving for retirement, according to the former private wealth manager who now works with low- and moderate-income families in the D.C. area through the nonprofit Capital Area Asset Builders.

"We need to get into the mentality of relying less on what can be provided by others and fully relying on what I can provide for myself," says Leitmann-Santa Cruz, who emigrated from Guatemala as a teenager.

Saving for retirement can be especially difficult for Latino workers like Mary Ann Borer.

"Even though my family came to this country a long time ago, we still haven't gotten too far beyond living paycheck to paycheck," says Borer, the great granddaughter of Mexican immigrants.

Born in San Antonio, she now works at a nonprofit outside of Los Angeles. A small portion of her paycheck does go to her retirement plan. But the 38-year-old, single mother of two says she's worried about whether she'll have enough savings by the time she retires.

"I'll probably have to rely on my kids the way my mother does," Borer says. "My mother lived with me for many years, and she lives with my sister now. So I figure that's probably what I'll have to [live with my kids] as well."

Sonia Romo, a 51-year-old mother of three, works at vegetable packing plant. She attended a financial literacy course at the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, a nonprofit based in Montebello, Calif.

"I can't depend on [my children] entirely," says Romo, who was born in Mexico. "I know they're going to help me, but I want to prepare for my retirement. That's why I want to keep working."

'Don't Leave Anybody Behind'

Conversations between children and their aging parents about retirement can be tricky, says Edna Becerra, who coordinates marketing and communications at the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation.

"It's a source of tension and a source of friction," says Becerra, 34, the eldest daughter of immigrants from Mexico. "My father especially is still very proud and says that he doesn't want to be a burden on anybody and refuses to toy with the idea of moving in with either my sister or myself."

She adds that younger Latinos like herself often have to financially prepare for both their own and their parents' retirements. And even if immigrant elders don't want financial advice, she says it's still important to pass it on.

"Not everybody tends to listen, but you hope that they do," she says. "And you do it with the understanding that if they don't prepare, you, at the end of the day, don't leave anybody behind."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit


Chef Eddie Huang On Cultural Identity And 'Intestine Sticky Rice Hot Dog'

Huang and his brothers, Evan and Emery, headed to China to reconnect with their culture, to eat lots and lots of food — and to cook. He's documented his travels in his new book, Double Cup Love.

Chef Eddie Huang On Cultural Identity And 'Intestine Sticky Rice Hot Dog'

Huang and his brothers, Evan and Emery, headed to China to reconnect with their culture, to eat lots and lots of food — and to cook. He's documented his travels in his new book, Double Cup Love.

Late-Night Host Jimmy Kimmel Is Negotiating A Presidential Debate. It Makes Sense

Just after Bernie Sanders thanked Kimmel for possibly securing the debate last night, Kimmel made a Batman vs. Superman joke about Democratic superdelegates.

Hokule'a, The Hawaiian Canoe Traveling The World By A Map Of The Stars

A voyaging canoe built to revive the centuries-old tradition of Hawaiian exploration is circumnavigating the globe. Its crew has already traveled 26,000 miles navigating with the sun, stars and waves.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.