A new survey by ING Retirement Research Institute, by Forbes, revealed that Latinos aren't saving for their golden years.
Fifty-four percent of Latinos said that they felt "not very" or "not at all" financially prepared for retirement, a percentage that was higher than that of all other ethnic groups surveyed including African-Americans, whites and Asians.
The question now is why Latinos are not saving more money toward their retirement. While the ING survey reported that about a third of Latinos blamed insufficient income and a quarter pointed to debt as reasons why they haven't been able put more money aside, I think that the Forbes report on the survey was correct to mention that culture also plays a part.
My purely anecdotal evidence has come from discussions I've had multiple times with my Salvadoran in-laws, and friends with parents from all over Latin America. It seems that many Latinos, particularly those that have immigrated to the United States from Latin America, see their life as an "abuelo" or "abuela" as the responsibility of their children; when one holds this expectation, it becomes unnecessary to save for retirement because one assumes all their needs will be taken care of.
For American Latinos, or for those who immigrated here but have since acculturated, their perspective on the issue has a slight twist. Although this group doesn't usually expect their own children to care for them, they take very seriously their responsibility and obligation to care for their own parents. Here is where I see a problem arising.
This group is investing money in their children – sending them to college at an increasing rate, but not expecting those children to financially take care of them someday. Meanwhile, this same group are sending money to their aging parents, (who are living longer than previous generations) – and supporting them through their retirement. Doing both, taking care of elderly parents and college-bound children, while paying one's regular living expenses, leaves nothing left to save.
Despite the apparent money troubles, according to Forbes, "67 percent of Latinos say they expect their financial situation to improve over the next year." But what about 30 or 40 years from now, when our parents have passed, our children have their own families, and it's time for our generation to retire?
I worry that many of us who identify with this group I described above will fall short when the need arises to support ourselves on our own savings. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that Latinos seem to have a positive attitude and that they believe that things will get better, but hopefulness and optimism alone don't put money in the bank.
Tracy López is a bilingual writer living outside the Washington DC metro area. She is the founder of Latinaish.com.