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Gaining financial literacy can help Hispanics save and invest money

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Whether it is saving for retirement or building wealth, Hispanics are lagging behind. They may also be staying away from traditional bank accounts.

A number of reports highlight the disparities, including one from the St. Louis Federal Reserve that found Hispanic and Latino families had just $38,000 of median wealth in 2019, amounting to 21 cents for every dollar of white family wealth.

Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of Hispanic households aren't saving anything through employer-sponsored plans, like 401(k)s and only 8% report having an individual retirement account or similar plan, a report from Morningstar found. Over 12% of Hispanic households don't have bank accounts, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

While the issue of the wealth gap needs to be addressed, gaining financial literacy can go a long way towards financial stability, suggests Yanely Espinal, director of educational outreach at Next Gen Personal Finance.

By turning to cash, immigrants miss out on building wealth, says personal finance expert
By turning to cash, immigrants miss out on building wealth, says expert

Hispanics have lower levels of financial literacy than whites, according to the TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index. Hispanics correctly answered 41% of the questions, compared to 55% of whites.

"For my parents, and many other Spanish-speaking immigrants, a lack of financial literacy results in having thin credit files with poor/no credit scores, no knowledge or ownership of retirement accounts or brokerage accounts, and frustration with traditional banking," said Espinal, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic.

The Covid-19 pandemic made it clear that Latino and Hispanic workers are overrepresented in low-wage work environments, she noted. When limited funds are being split many ways, people are forced to prioritize short-term financial needs over long term goals, she said.

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"This results in repeating cycles of financial struggle," said Espinal, a member of the CNBC Invest in You Financial Wellness Council.

"Learning about custodial Roth IRAs and custodial brokerage accounts for Hispanic and Latinx youth, and helping families understand the benefits of starting early with 529 College Savings Plans are incredibly powerful ways to shift the narrative."

To that end, CNBC Invest in You is collaborating with Telemundo to bring Spanish-speaking Americans our Money 101 newsletter in Spanish. (Click here to sign up for Dinero 101.)

The newsletter, from CNBC Senior Personal Finance Correspondent Sharon Epperson, is an 8-week course to financial literacy, and includes help with making a budget, saving for retirement and creating an emergency fund. By signing up for the course, you will also receive bonus newsletters to help you navigate financial concerns throughout the pandemic.

Financial literacy isn't being taught to those most in need
Financial literacy isn't being taught to those most in need

Not only will you gain financial knowledge, you can use the information to open up conversations among family members.

"Culturally, money conversations are something most Latino families don't have," said Louis Barajas, a certified financial planner who works with the Latino community in East Los Angeles.

He urges people to read up and speak up if they don't understand something.

"It's about not being ashamed, not feeling guilty, not feeling embarrassed, not feeling shy to say, 'I don't understand, can you please explain it to me,'" he said.

SIGN UP: Dinero 101 is an 8-week learning course to financial freedom, delivered weekly to your inbox (Spanish version), or if you want to receive the English version Money 101, click here.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.