By Cyril Tuohy
It has often been said that the way to a woman’s heart is through her children. For financial advisors, the way to the heart of the Hispanic market lies through women, the household’s de facto gatekeepers, according to experts in the Hispanic insurance and retirement market.
The best way for advisors to engage Hispanic women is to talk to them about their children’s education, and about how mothers and daughters plan to care for their parents and grandparents, who often live in the same extended household, the experts said.
Granted, any important financial decision should involve both adults, and sometimes more if other family members stand to benefit, but financial advisors who ignore or exclude matriarchs from any discussion do so at their peril.
“You have to have the woman, the gatekeeper, in the equation at all times,” said George Castineiras, senior vice president of Total Retirement Solutions for Prudential Retirement. “That’s the individual that connects multiple generations, not just her own family. You get that gatekeeper and you gain their trust. It opens up a network far bigger than just their own family.”
Castineiras was one of four panelists to speak at a forum announcing the release of Prudential Financial’s 2013 Hispanic American Financial Experience study.
The study found that Hispanics are more likely to focus on short-term financial goals such as paying off debt than they are to execute on long-term priorities such as funding a retirement. Hispanics have less access to workplace retirement plans than the general population, and even when they do, they are not very active in contributing to the plans, the study also found.
The experts discussed unique aspects of this market, and offered pointers for advisors on how best to approach this booming yet risk-averse demographic, one that prefers paying off debt before investing and growing an asset base through compounding.
Josie Bacallao, president and chief executive officer of Hispanic Unity of Florida, which works to educate Hispanics about finances, said Hispanic immigrants came to the U.S. to offer a better life for their children. “They’ve already invested in their children and that is a focus for them,” she said.
The obligation parents have to children is reversed years later. Hispanics are five times more likely than the general population to support their parents, the Prudential study found.
Advisors should explain that ignoring small investment steps today could mean parents turning into a retirement burden for children later on, “then they’ll begin to think about it differently,” said Anna Cabral, unit chief for strategic communications in the External Relations Division of the Inter-American Development Bank.
The moment the matriarch realizes her children may suffer if she becomes a burden, the light bulb will go off and she will embrace investing, as “this new pattern is very consistent with the family values,” of caring for elders, she said.
One of the major themes to emerge from the survey was the importance of women as financial decision makers in Hispanic households. The influence women have on the dozens of immediate and extended family members surrounding them is immeasurable.
“When you think about a gender role, she really is the one who takes on the obligation to solve for that generation before her and for that generation behind her, and not just for her family but for her husband,” said Alexandra Galindez, vice president of multicultural marketing for Prudential Financial.
Hispanic women provide the fulcrum around which the very old and the young gravitate. In that regard Hispanic women share similarities with African-American women.
African-Americans are more likely to live in female-headed households, according to Prudential’s 2013 African American Financial Experience study, and multigenerational households with parents, adult children and grandparents are more common among African-Americans compared with the rest of the general population.
Asian-Americans, however, are not relying on their children or other family members to take care of them when they lose their earning power, and nearly 66 percent “disagree that their family is their retirement security,” according to Asian Americans on the Road to Retirement, a report issued by Prudential in 2010.
“Think about the influence that this woman is driving,” Galindez said. “She is solving for two generations, for two families, never mind the aunts and the uncles, so if you can get to her in a way that she can relate, the impact is just tremendous.”
As are the explosive growth projections for the Hispanic market. U.S. Census data shows there were an estimated 53 million Hispanics as of July 1, 2012, making up 17 percent of the U.S. population. The number is projected to grow to more than 128 million by 2060, when Hispanics will make up 31 percent of the population, data show.
Never leave Latinas out of the financial discussions even if she isn’t the last one to sign off on the life insurance policy, Cabral said.
“I recall being approached several times by different folks in the financial industry who would refuse to speak with me until my husband was present,” Cabral said. “I found that extremely offensive,” and it cost those advisors dearly.
Cabral ended up working with an advisor who “understood and was willing to invite us all to gather, and yes, these decisions in these homes are multigenerational so you do ultimately want to enter the home and speak with the family, but respect the woman who's making that decision,” she said.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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