Poll Finds Blacks Not Prepared For Retirement: Don’t Fret. Finance Expert Lola West’s Got You!

A recent poll by The Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that older white Americans are nearly twice as likely as African Americans to say they’ve saved enough for retirement. the survey also revealed African Americans and Latinos have less financial security than whites and will rely on fewer sources of income during retirement, and white Americans are more likely to inherit money from their families or receive income from selling their home or other assets. Basically, the issues we face with higher unemployment rates and pay inequalities in the workplace carry on into retirement. There was a time when getting older meant finally catching a break, now it just seems like more of the same, with even less opportunities to care for ourselves.

Since we can’t stop the clock, what gives? Well, in this case, ignorance is definitely not bliss. The good news is we have financial expert Lola West, partner at a New York-based, African American-owned financial advisory firm, in our corner. For Lola, who started as a fundraiser for nonprofits and noticed that a lot of money was raised but little was saved or placed in endowments (because let’s face it, most of the programs were severely underfunded) making sure Black people understand the importance of investments, retirement planning, and our overall relationship to money, inspired her to become a financial advisor. So for the past 18 years, she’s been doing just that. If anyone can set us up powerfully for retirement, it’s Lola. Here she shares no-nonsense tips on what we can do now to assure our futures look bright!

Educate yourself and stay informed

One of the biggest issues we face is lack of information, and thinking it’s okay not to know. It’s not. This present generation can’t depend on the government being the same as it was under Obama. Social security benefits and pensions are not guaranteed, and they are trying to drop medicaid and medicare. We live in a world where information is available at our fingertips so take advantage and stay educated on financial matters at all times.

Participate in your employer’s 401K Savings Plan

Participate in the retirement plan offered by your employer, and commit to taking out the maximum percentage of your income. A trick to signing up for a 401K is to ask your HR department to tell you what your take-home pay will be if you take out $200-$250.00 a month because it could put you into a lower tax bracket. And since you only get taxed on the money you take home, by saving for retirement, you could be saving more.

Be responsibly self-employed

Being self-employed doesn’t exempt you from a retirement plan. It actually means you have to be more vigilant about it since it is your sole responsibility. Working for yourself means you don’t have taxes taken out of your 1099 and you are responsible for paying future taxes. Put at least 30% of what you earn away for taxes, and set up an IRA. You can look it up or ask an advisor. It is your responsibility.

Create a budget and stick to it

It is no secret that our community likes to spend and not save. Our history as slaves taught us to simply get by and figure it out as we go along. We weren’t taught to create a budget or develop a habit of spending within our means. So take into consideration that every month your bills are due and you need to bring home enough to pay them. If you can’t, you are living beyond your means. Develop good habits now instead of when you’re entering retirement and don’t have any money.

Stop being an ATM

A lot of middle class Blacks who went to college and got extraordinary jobs feel they have to take care of their whole family. I have a policy where I give money the first time, and the second time they ask I tell them when you pay back what you borrowed before I can lend you more. Giving all your money to family actually keeps everyone where they are. Don’t let people rob you of your future.

Stay optimistic

If we do these things we can change the statistics for African-American retirement. We are living longer lives and have a good 10 to 20 years ahead of us after retirement. Plan to have enough. Just regroup, refocus and get to planning and saving. Figure out how much it costs to be you and see if you can afford you? Make sense? You’ve got this!

If you’re interested in learning more about financial planning, visit WestFuller Advisors

Follow Erickka Sy Savané on Twitter and Instagram or ErickkaSySavane.com

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