Study: Latinos confident about personal finances, country’s direction

Hispanic unemployment may have grown in the past month, but according to the results of a new study, Latinos are more happy about their personal finances than ever before.

A new Pew Hispanic Center study found that 33 percent of Latinos report that their finances are in “excellent” or “good” shape. This number is up by 24 percent since 2011. While Hispanics are more happy about their finances than last year, they still lag behind the rest of Americans. 43 percent of the general public say that their personal finances are in “excellent” or “good” condition.

The study also breaks down Latinos by native-born or foreign-born, showing that Latinos who were born in the United States have a better self-assessment of their finances. Four in ten U.S. born Latinos say that their finances fall in the “excellent” or “good” category compared to 27 percent of foreign-born.

The biggest difference, however, comes from educated Latinos. An overwhelming 85 percent of Latinos without a high school diploma say that their personal financial situation is “only fair” or “poor.” That number improves slightly to 64 percent for Hispanics who have a high school diploma but no college degree.

Mattias Kramer, Financial Capability Coordinator for the Latino Economic Development Corporation, helps Latinos with their credit and personal budget as part of a LEDC program called Mejorando Nuestro Credito. Kramer attributes the growing number of Latinos with “excellent” finances to a greater awareness of the economic crisis.

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“Latinos are very tenacious and industrious. They often have their proverbial ear really close to the ground, so they’re at the forefront of social fabric issues,” Kramer says.

One result of this greater awareness is an increase in all types of Latinos working to improve their financial situation. He says his clients have ranged from people looking for their first credit card to people who have too many credit cards to long-term business or home owners.

“If you have that instinct, that kind of entrepreneurial instinct and you combine that with a big public economic recession then you have a Latino constituency who has become very interested in financial health,” Kramer explains. “Once you take a serious approach to financial health the you begin to see results in wealth. All of us have probably taken a more serious look at our finances recently.”

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According to Kramer, once people realize the problems with their financial situations, they immediately begin looking for solutions.

“People feel more comfortable after they check their credit report. They say ‘okay now I know what the problem is. Financial health requires precision and I think Latinos like to be precise,” Kramer says.

While Latinos may not exceed the general population in self assessments of personal finances, they are far more content with the country’s direction. 51 percent of Latinos report that they are satisfied with the country’s direction compared to just 31 percent of all Americans.

The gap between Latinos and the rest of the general public has  grown since 2008. Then just 25 percent said they were happy with the country’s direction while 19 percent of the general public said the same.

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According to the new survey, Latinos are not just satisfied with the country’s direction but are also increasingly optimistic about the future of their own family’s finances for the next year. 73 percent expect improvement compared to 67 percent in 2011.

The results of the new Pew Hispanic Center survey comes as the Labor Department released the last unemployment numbers before Tuesday’s election. While the general unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, the number for Latinos ticked up to 10 percent. This was up from the four-year low of 9.9 percent last month.

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The Pew study also notes that not all economic indicators show an improvement for Hispanics. According to the Census Bureau, the median household income for Latinos remained unchanged between 2010 and 2011.

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