Black Households Try to Close the Wealth Gap by Chasing Higher Returns

I know, the entire premise of investing is to someday be like the Sage of Omaha himself, Warren Buffett. But even though you may fall short of that goal, you can still do pretty well for yourself.

I often have to explain to clients why it’s not actually the best idea to increase your risk tolerance to overcompensate for a retirement savings shortfall. And although the retirement crisis affects everyone, I tend to see the scenario even more commonly amongst African Americans between 40 and 55.

I commonly have to answer clients playing catch-up, who ask, “How aggressive can I be with my portfolio?” Although a stockbroker from the 80’s would be licking their chops at a potential sale, to a fiduciary financial planner, this is a big no-no — and more importantly, a teachable moment.

SO HOW DID WE GET HERE?

The most important thing for African Americans in this scenario to remember: you’re not alone. The average black household has around $19,000 in liquid retirement assets, where as a white family’s nest egg is closer to $130,000. In addition, according to the Social Security and the Racial Gap report by the National Academy of Social Insurance, homeownership is not any better.

The typical white household aged 47 to 64 has housing wealth of $67,000, whereas the typical black household in this age group has zero home equity.

(By the way, although we’re focusing on the retirement shortfalls within the black community, the tools we’re talking about today can empower anybody who needs to catch up!)

CLOSING THE GAP

Increasing your risk tolerance to overcompensate for a savings shortfall is a very dangerous game to play. While we are enjoying what might potentially be the longest bull market our country has ever seen, we can’t forget the hardships so many faced in 2008.

That’s why getting professional financial help is more important than ever. It’s all too easy to make an emotional decision based on headline news or market volatility. A Certified Financial Planner™ can help you build an allocation by focusing on your cash flow needs over the next 5-8 years.

RISKING IT ALL

As counterintuitive as it seems, when someone is behind in their retirement savings, they’re often tempted to risk it all.

You may not have much saved for retirement… but that makes what you do have even more vitally important!

So instead of going all in on the latest investment fad (whether it’s Bitcoin or marijuana), it’s still imperative to have a properly diversified portfolio.

IT’S ABOUT THE SAVINGS RATE

Instead of being a casualty of taking on more risk than you can bear, try increasing your household savings rate instead. Because the fact is, most of us aren’t saving very much at all. Ideally, we like to see our clients begin by saving 10% – 15% of their gross income in their 20’s and 30’s and work their way up incrementally as time progresses, but if you’re behind, you could try jump-starting the process at 20% or even 30% if you can.

So when you get the urge to chase higher returns and risk your portfolio to overcompensate for not saving, take a step back — and a deep breath. Sometimes, staying within your comfort zone is a good thing.

If you would like to find out if you are on the right track with your retirement savings, we invite you to contact us. We’ll be happy to chat with you about your saving options!

This post was originally published by CNBC as part of a regular column by Malik S. Lee, CFP®, CAP® that focuses on investing within the black community.
Malik S. Lee, CFP®, CAP®
Malik Lee is the Managing Principal of Felton & Peel Wealth Management. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with more than 15 years of financial services experience, he is a Guest Lecturer at Morehouse College, serves on the CFP Board Council of Examinations, and is a Board Member for the FPA of GA.
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