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Insecure Retirement

Hanging By a Thread

African American, Latino seniors more likely to experience economic insecurity

En español |The image of a happy retiree basking in the Florida sun or traveling around the world seems to be a thing of the past, especially for the nation's ethnic minorities. Over 52 percent of retired African Americans and 56 percent of retired Hispanics feel economically insecure, according to a report released Sept. 26 by The Institute on Assets and Social Policy, a research center affiliated with the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, and the nonpartisan organization Dēmos.

See also: Social Security benefits crucial to African Americans.

By contrast, only 32 percent of retired non-Hispanic whites feel that way, an outcome that confirms a trend evident even before the recession that started in 2008.

"We know quite well that African Americans and Hispanic retirees face much greater challenges than non-Hispanic whites, but this study showed how significant the difference is," said Tatjana Meschede, research director at the institute, located in Waltham, Mass.

The report, titled "The Crisis of Economic Insecurity for African American and Latino Seniors," identifies housing and job discrimination as contributing factors to insecurity among those seniors. Such practices, the study notes, severely inhibited the ability of older minority adults to accumulate sufficient assets to achieve a secure retirement.

As a result, the study says, compared to 25 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 4 percent of Latino and 8 percent of African American seniors are economically secure, defined as enjoying sufficient resources to maintain an adequate standard of living throughout one's lifespan.

Woman with a Water Jug - African American, Latino seniors more likely to experience economic insecurity

Latino seniors more likely to experience economic insecurity. — David Bacon/REA/Redux

The study employed The Senior Financial Stability Index, developed by the institute in 2008, for its calculations. According to this index, an American retiree is considered financially secure when he or she spends less than 20 percent of pre-tax income on housing and less than 10 percent on health care. The base income level for these calculations is $22,000 a year, which is higher than the poverty level for a family of four.

The study also estimates that 62 percent of African American and Hispanic households spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing, 10 percent more than what it considers necessary to feel economically secure.

"What can they do? They're retired. If they can work, even part time, that's an option, but beyond that, there are few choices available. So many of those retirees move in with their children," says Meschede.

That, the report warns, could have a multigenerational domino effect, as the children of such seniors must help support their parents at the same time that they raise their own children, which limits their ability to save for retirement or finish paying their mortgages.

Next: Get facts and recommendations about this report. >>

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