Hispanics Face Unique Financial Challenges

April 8, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - With more than a third of the Hispanic population in the United States having to support their parents and half having never set up a financial plan, this community presents challenges to plan sponsors trying to provide targeted benefit programs.

Unique to the Hispanic population is the high number (34%) living in the U.S. with parents that are financially dependent on them, compared with 5% of workers overall. Further, 51% of Hispanic workers worry about having enough money to care for elderly parents/in-laws, compared with 29% of non-Hispanic workers, yet this group is behind the general employee population in financial and retirement planning, according to the latest release of data from MetLife’s 2003 Employee Benefits Trend Study.

While survey results show that 25% of employees overall have done no specific financial planning, the number climbs to 37% for Hispanic workers. Similarly, only 4% of Hispanic employees have completed a financial plan, compared with 17% of the general workforce. It follows then that 54% of Hispanic employees have not started planning for retirement, compared with 26% of the workforce overall. As a result, they are less able than their peers to estimate what their annual income needs will be during retirement – a challenge met by 57% of Hispanic employees, versus 39% of employees overall.

Further clouding the picture, MetLife says, is the high percentage of Hispanic employees struggling to make ends meet. Survey results show that more than three-quarters (78%) of Hispanic workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, compared with 52% of employees overall. Yet, much like retirement planning, few Hispanic employees have taken measures to protect the income stream on which they rely. While 75% of the Hispanic employees surveyed described themselves as concerned about the impact of a disability, versus 53% of employees overall, only 6% have more than $60,000 of disability insurance, compared with 16% of their peers. In fact, two-thirds (68%) of Hispanic workers have done no planning in case of a disability, compared with 49% of the workforce as a whole.

Caring for a financially dependent parent can be extraordinarily expensive, leaving little room for general savings, college funding and retirement planning, ” Beth Hirschhorn , chief marketing officer for MetLife’s U.S. Insurance and Financial Services businesses said in a news release. “Yet, for employees charged with providing for an extended family, careful planning can mean the difference between security and financial hardship. There is a myth that financial planning only makes sense for high-net-worth employees with significant discretionary assets. The truth is that financial planning makes sense for everyone, especially for employees with one or more dependents.”

Plan providers need to do more to reach this diverse community. One in ten employer respondents cite the need for multi-lingual benefits communication materials and among this group, 77% indicate a need for Spanish-language materials. Employers also note the importance of receiving multi-lingual benefits support in the way of communications (63%), enrollment (62%), call service support (51%) and online service (49%).

The MetLife Employee Benefits Trend Study was conducted during the third quarter of 2003 and consisted of two distinct surveys. A copy of the full MetLifeEmployee Benefits Trend Study for 2003 can be found athttp://www.metlife.com/researchcenter.