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Financial Security: Peace of mind. Do you have it?
By Lora Ary, Regional Volunteer Leader, AARP CA
While millions of Americans have experienced hard times during the economic recession, the environment for many African Americans age 45+ and their families has been particularly difficult, according to a recent survey by AARP. In fact, the impact of the recession on African American families has the potential to cripple their health and financial well-being into retirement.
The survey, which is part of AARP's continued look at how Americans age 45+ are faring in this economy, found that over the last 12 months, a third (33%) of African Americans 45+ had problems paying rent or mortgage, and 44% had problems paying for essential items, such as food and utilities. Nearly twice as many African Americans 45+ lost a job than the general population (18% vs. 10%), and almost one in four (23%) lost their employer-sponsored health insurance.
To shed light on this critical situation, AARP hosted last night's financial forum in Carson to educate and promote discussion among members, financial experts and community leaders so that older African Americans can navigate their way through the economy.
Many attendees understood firsthand the devastating impact that this economic recession has had on their community--lack of job prospects, problems paying for basic needs including medical care, and families struggling to make ends meet.
AFRICAN AMERICANS 45+ MITIGATING IMPACT OF RECESSION
African Americans have taken some positive steps to lessen the sting of the recession. Half of those surveyed postponed plans to travel and two-thirds (67%) cut entertainment expenses. Even in the tough employment environment, 12% of African Americans age 65+ returned to the workforce from retirement, while 19% of African Americans age 45 to 64 increased the number of hours worked and 12% took a second job.
Unfortunately, African Americans 45+ have been forced to make increasingly difficult decisions to cope with this economic downturn-decisions that could have serious long-term consequences. A third (34%) stopped putting money into a 401(k), IRA or other retirement account, and a quarter (26%) prematurely withdrew funds from their retirement nest eggs to pay for living expenses, including mortgage or rent, health care, education expenses, and for other reasons.
The recession has driven many African Americans to make hard choices now that may lead to serious problems down the road. Raiding your nest egg or ending contributions, even in the short-term, will have long-term consequences because you will have less time to make up the losses.
MANY TURN TO FAMILIES, COMMUNITIES FOR SUPPORT AND INFORMATION
Faced with the extraordinary impact of this economy, African Americans 45+ are more likely to turn to family or the community for assistance, and are more likely to help family members and friends cope with financial hardships.
About one in five African Americans 45+ (22%) consulted friends or family members about finances. Eighteen percent had a child move in for financial reasons, and 44% helped a child pay bills or expenses. Almost one in five (18%) helped a parent pay for basic necessities.
While some African Americans age 45+ are looking for resources and tools to provide financial information, many may not be aware or are not taking advantage of the accessible resources available to them. African Americans 45+ were half as likely as all Americans in that age group to seek out a financial planner (12% vs. 24%), and only one in ten (11%) consulted online resources about financial planning. Thirteen percent have taken training to get a different type of job, and 18% have attended a job fair to help with their career or job search.
What this survey shows is that people are managing as best they can in this economy and reaching out for assistance from family and friends. The good news is that there are many resources available to help people get back on track, and to help families make the best decisions for their health and economic future.
AARP offers free online resources, publications, and information on events to help Americans cope in this economy-available at www.aarp.org/realrelief. These include AARP Real Relief, which offers a wide range of tools to help people look for work, manage finances and find public benefits; and financial tip sheets that help people save and plan for retirement.
Or contact AARP California for information on upcoming consumer events in your area at www.aarp.org/ca. This empowerment is especially critical for African Americans. Undoing the statistics is a matter of awareness, education and action, now.