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College-Educated Hispanics Struggle with Financial Literacy Despite Financial Competence: Report

First Posted: May 22, 2015 05:00 AM EDT
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Nearly 60 percent of college-educated Hispanics surveyed in a new report indicated that it's difficult for them to save for the future and cover personal expenses.

College-educated Latinos demonstrated that they lacked basic levels of financial literacy when questioned about mortgages, bond prices, risk diversification, inflation and numeracy. Yet, a large portion of college-educated Latinos (76 percent) claimed to have a high level of overall financial knowledge.

"Hispanic Personal Finances: Financial Literacy and Decision-making Among College-Educated Hispanics," a study produced by TIAA-CREF Institute and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, analyzed the liabilities, assets and planning behaviors of young Latinos. Their research effort revealed that only 12 percent of college-educated Latinos displayed advanced financial knowledge and only 32 percent demonstrated basic financial literacy. The percentage points were lower among Latinos than other groups.

Fifty-nine percent of college-educated Latinos experience financial instability, and they're unable to afford bills and basic expenses. Forty-eighty percent communicated feelings of financial vulnerability, stating that they'd taken on too much debt. Additionally, half of individuals surveyed said they'd participated in expensive credit card behavior, 35 percent engaged in high-cost borrowing methods and more than half (56 percent) have failed to consider retirement savings. That said, 30 percent expressed confidence that they'd be able to save enough in case of emergency.

"It is crucial that we understand the challenges Hispanic families face financially as their share of and impact on the economy increase," said Stephanie Bell-Rose, Senior Managing Director and Head of the TIAA-CREF Institute, in a statement.

With the Latino population growing, along with their communal wealth, it's important that Latinos are financially competent and confident, and able to address financial concerns head-on. Nonetheless, Latinos continue to struggle due to low-levels of financial literacy -- even college-educated Latinos. The level of financial security communicated in the report should provoke Latinos to take a look at personal savings, investing and spending. According to the report, Latinos are far less likely to seek financial advice than their non-Latino white counterparts (33 percent compared to 38 percent). Yet, Latinos are 4 percent more likely to seek debt counseling (12 percent compared to 8 percent).

More than 1,500 respondents were surveyed, and the research presented systematic analysis of college-educated Latino's assets, liabilities, planning behavior, financial fragility and financial literacy. The research also found that college-educated Latinos were twice as like to use a pawn shop, to use high-cost borrowing methods, and to take a payday loan. Fifty percent of credit card holders participated in practices that would likely increase interest rates. Also, 25 percent have taken loans or hardship withdrawals from retirement funds. Additionally, just 30 percent indicated that they'd be able to come up with $2,000 if unexpected need arose, compared to 50 percent of whites.

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