Hispanic American Retirement Crisis

with Abigail Zapote of Latinos for a Secure Retirement

According to a recent report, 69% of Hispanic workers are not saving through a workplace retirement plan.

Abigail Zapote of Latinos for a Secure Retirement discusses tools and resources available to increase the economic outlook and financial independence of America’s Hispanic community.

Posted on:

Aug 29, 2019

Hosted by: Nathalia Ortiz
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Ortiz: Latinos are facing a deeper retirement crisis than other ethnic groups because of lower access to workplace savings plans and other job-related disadvantages in accumulating nest eggs. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Nathalia Ortiz. 70% of Latinos have no assets in retirement accounts. With me to talk about financial literacy and retirement readiness is Abigail Zapote, executive director of Latinos for a Secure Retirement. Abigail, welcome.

Zapote: Thank you so much for having me here.

Ortiz: So, 70%, that's a pretty big number. How do you think we got there? Why are Hispanics, especially I would say here in this country not preparing themselves for retirement? Zapote: Sure. I think there's a couple of different factors that have created this problem. One of them, specifically, that you mentioned was that there is no access to workplace retirement plans. So, this happens because our community -- a large percent of us -- are working low-wage income jobs, and so these places don't offer these retirement benefits. So if we don't offer them, then obviously, our community can't partake in them. The other thing is that lack of trust that our community has with big institutions. This may happen because of their history within past governments and how these institutions didn't work for them back home. And so when they're coming to the United States, it's almost that distress with these institutions, especially after the 2008 recession when a lot of our communities lost their wealth, and they lost their homes.

Ortiz: To big institutions.

Zapote: Exactly.

Ortiz: I also feel, coming from a Hispanic home myself, that because they're so unfamiliar with it, they just don't even know it exists or don't even know where to start. Right?

Zapote: Correct. And that's one of the challenges that we are actually working to start those conversations within our families. We just recently came out of a 10-city tour across the country with Latino communities -- or Latino cities across the country that have high Latino populations. Within these educational programs, we hosted these Cafecito town halls. We focused on "your family, your future, and your purpose." And our main goal within these Cafecitos was to just have the conversation with families and not just with elderly folks who are on the verge of retirement, but with middle-aged folks and especially younger Latinos. Right now, Latinos across the country have a median age of 28 years old. I am currently 28, and so this really affects Millennials. And so when we're having these conversations through these Cafecitos, we specifically emphasize on just having the plan to retire and not dealing with it as an oxymoron, [] knowing that there is a solution, and the solution is brought by Latinos for a Secure Retirement.

Ortiz: So, I know that you were recently a part of -- you testified, or you gave testimony, right, in front of the U.S. Congress Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee. You were the only Latina and the only Millennial. What did you talk about, and what did you accomplish there?

Zapote: Yeah. So, we were focusing on how to expand benefits -- social security benefits, at that. We know that right now the median benefit for a Latino male in the United States is about $1,600, and for a Latina, it's $1,300. So obviously, with that amount of money, no one can survive a month in the United States. And so within our efforts to expand these benefits, it would bring a little bit more money to these elderly beneficiaries, but also bringing other benefits that had been taken away in the past. In 1983, that was the only time that the Social Security Law was reformed, and one of these prevented or brought back the age of benefits for students that had a parent who was deceased or disabled. And so the benefits used to go up to the age of 24, and during the 1983 law, it was pushed back to 18 years old or 19 years old, depending if that student was still in high school. And this is obviously a problem because their thought process back then was that college was more affordable and accessible. Now we know that that obviously isn't true anymore. And so that was one of the things that we wanted to expand benefits to, students who are one of the most critical when it comes to college access and affordability. Latinos really are struggling to be able to pay for school and college, and so we wanted to extend those benefits to those folks as well.

Ortiz: Abigail Zapote, thank you so much for visiting us from Latinos for a Secure Retirement. And than you for joining us as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Nathalie Ortiz.

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