Latinas Have Struggled to Build Savings, but a Younger Cohort Is Making Gains

Ms. Guzman has no savings and doesn’t expect to be able to start putting away money for her own retirement anytime soon. Her financial focus is instead on repaying a $28,000 government loan that kept her business from closing permanently during the worst of the pandemic. The interest rate is low, she said, but with that obligation she has trouble envisioning retirement at all. She does worry about paying for health care emergencies. “I don’t feel as good as when I was 20,” she said. “But I need to do something for my mother and myself. That’s my concern.”

Inspired by situations like Ms. Guzman’s, Cindy Hounsell, president of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, started the Latina Savings Project in 2017. AARP helped fund the program, which offers financial education workshops and encourages moderate- and low-income Latinas to save and invest with as little as $20. The first few years of the workshops, Ms. Hounsell said, showed positive results: Three-quarters of participants offered the chance to open a savings account at a local credit union signed up. Of those, the majority successfully saved during the six-month period after enrollment.

Despite the inroads, Latinas can feel a bit lonely in the finance space. In her 15-year career in financial services, Ms. Rivera said she had met only a handful of certified financial planners who are Latina. Before she started FirstGen Wealth, “at the very large wealth management firms I worked in, I was always the only one there who looked like me,” she said. “That’s a terrible thing.”

Because Latinas are still overrepresented in lower-paying jobs, Dr. Torres-Gil is trying to impress upon his 20-something students the importance of social programs meant to lift women out of poverty. “We have to reinforce for them the critical importance of keeping Social Security,” he said. “Because a lot of them know it’s important for their elders, but they don’t think they’ll ever see a check themselves.”

What’s encouraging, he said, is the growing number of national groups working to improve the prospects of Hispanic women of all ages. Awareness movements meant to call out discrimination give him hope, too: For example, Latina Equal Pay Day, sponsored by a consortium of advocacy groups to close the gender and racial pay gap, is Thursday.

Ms. Uribe, for her part, said she felt well compensated for her work. Earlier this year, she received a bonus that left her ‌torn over whether to invest the money or spend it on expanding a family-owned property in Mexico that is intended for the extended clan to use. She turned to Ms. Rivera for help.

“We decided to instead invest it in the market,” Ms. Uribe said. “Since it’s at such a low, it made more sense to do that right now for long-term gains.”