For the Hispanic American community, home ownership is commonly seen as one of the few ways to build wealth.
One reason may be the tangible nature of home ownership; a home is an asset you can both see and touch. Another reason may be the perception that owning a home ensures the wellbeing of your family. Yet, even with this focus on real estate assets, the Hispanic home ownership rate—at 50%—is still far from that of white Americans.
As of 2019, the wealth gap between Hispanic and white families stood at $0.21 per $1 of white American wealth. In this article, I’ll cover some reasons why Hispanic individuals may want to consider investing in the stock market alongside real estate as a path to building sustainable generational wealth.
Two reasons why investing in the stock market can help the Hispanic community.
I can relate to the instinct that home ownership should be “Item No. 1” on the financial checklist. I was 21 years old when my mother and I bought our first home. We needed at least $5,000 for a down payment, which might as well have been $50,000. After making some sacrifices, we finally saved enough to buy our first house for just under $150,000. It was all the money we had.
Reflecting back today as a financial planner with over 20 years of experience, I realize how risky our investment was. We achieved our goal of home ownership, but had no equity or savings with which to cover unexpected expenses.
Be prepared for emergencies.
What would have happened if one of us had gotten sick or injured? The expenses could have bankrupted us and cost us the house we had worked so hard to buy.
One of the most common tenets of financial stability is building an emergency fund. An emergency fund consists of your fixed expenses—like rent, food, childcare, etc.—saved in an account that you keep separate from your checking or savings account.
Typically, a robust emergency fund is three to six months of expenses, but starting off with a smaller goal that’s more motivating to you may help you reach it faster. You should also consider saving for your emergency fund in a low-risk investment account, since this will help your money’s value keep up with, or even surpass, inflation.
Build generational wealth.
Access to investments has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Companies like Betterment now offer low cost investment options with low minimums and fees, offering young families the ability to use the money they already have to build wealth—all while mitigating the kind of financial risk that my mother and I took by putting every penny we had into buying a house.
Investing even a small amount and adding to your investments over time can be a great way to build wealth. If and when you finally decide to purchase a home, a portfolio of diversified investments alongside real estate is an ideal foundation from which to build solid, sustainable wealth for future generations.
Don’t be afraid to get started.
Today, there are few houses available for under $150,000. Young Hispanic Americans are earning more on average than previous years, but they face new barriers to home ownership. Many are burdened by student loans, lack of affordable housing, and limited inventory, among other factors. This does not mean that young Hispanic people will never purchase a home or build wealth. It just means that we have to be open to planning, saving what we can consistently, and investing in the stock market.
Betterment strives to help its customers build wealth more sustainably, so that families can achieve their financial goals—including home ownership—while helping to account for financial risks.