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African Americans Believe In The American Dream Although Their Finances Are A Struggle In Reality

New MassMutual study shows the disconnect between African Americans' financial situations and hopefulness towards the future.

Most African Americans believe the American Dream means financial security (84 percent), not living paycheck to paycheck (78 percent) and owning a home (77 percent).  However, according to the new State of the American Family Study released by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), many African Americans lack tangible assets necessary to accomplish those goals currently.

While the American Dream is still attainable, the survey calls attention to high debt, low savings and a lower likelihood of wide financial product ownership amongst African Americans.  Financial disparities and the wealth gap can possibly explain why 31 percent believe it is disappearing. Among the dynamics:

  • Outside of retirement accounts, only 37 percent of African Americans own wealth-building products such as stocks and mutual funds
  • 35 percent believe they are doing a good job at preparing for retirement
  • 33 percent have less than one month of funds saved for a crisis and less than 25 percent have amassed more than six months of emergency savings

The survey also reveals the importance of family influences on financial decisions:

  • 58 percent are actively involved in educating their children on finances (as compared to 48 percent of Caucasians)
  • 40 percent rely on family members for information
  • 50 percent include extended family and friends in their definition of family

"The study shows African Americans want to improve their financial situations and are hopeful about the future," said Evan Taylor, African American market director, MassMutual. "At the same time, it sheds light on the financial struggles and inequities that the African American community continues to battle. Those contradictions indicate a need for greater financial education and discipline for the whole family to achieve economic success. In fact, the biggest financial regret expressed by respondents was that they wished they had started saving and investing sooner."

To help bridge the gap, MassMutual has teamed up with Tarra Jackson, who runs the Madam Money blog, to help African Americans improve their finances. Jackson is a personal finance expert, TV/radio personality, author and speaker with over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry. She is an experienced financial contributor for numerous newspapers, magazines, blogs, podcasts and radio shows.

"Most African Americans are not taught about or involved with household finances," said Jackson. "They also are not educated about personal financial strategies in school. This lack of financial education increases the use of credit, which results in higher debt burden, and minimum or nonexistent savings and investing behaviors. This perfect storm of high debt, low or no savings or investing, as well as lack of life insurance, stifles the attainment of the American Dream of financial security."

"The American Dream is possible with simple financial steps," Jackson added. "It is never too late to start taking ownership of and investing in your financial future."

Her top five recommendations:

1.     Begin with the end in mind.  Thinking about a desired lifestyle will help to determine potential financial needs and wants. Whether it's traveling the world, being debt free or having enough money to meet basic living standards and health needs, understanding preferred outcomes helps determine the right financial plan.

2.     Create a spending & savings plan.  Overspending and debt are destructive to financial stability. Creating a budget helps to determine expenses, income gaps or ways to save more money and pay down debt. A budget gives you the power to make informed decisions necessary to meet your short, mid and long-term financial goals.

3.     Start saving something sooner.  Most people don't start saving for their later years in life because they seem so far away.  They think they have enough time or they may believe that they don't have enough money. Saving a percentage of your paycheck now will help build savings by taking advantage of the power of compound interest.

4.     Set it and forget it.  Set a specific amount or percentage of your paycheck to automatically deposit into your retirement savings or investment accounts monthly or every pay period. This will help create consistency in savings. Automatic deposits will also limit access to the money and avoid the temptation to spend it.

5.     Consult with a financial professional.  Seeking advice from family members may be tempting, but when it comes to financial advice, it is often best to consult with a financial professional. They can guide you through options right for your financial situation and income while making the process less intimidating and overwhelming.  

Additionally, consumers are encouraged to visit for more financial tips and an overview of the research findings.


The State of the American Family survey was conducted for MassMutual by Isobar between January 19 and February 7, 2018 via a 20-minute online questionnaire. The survey comprised 3,235 total interviews with Americans, including 482 African American respondents. The vast majority of these interviews (2,730) were conducted with men and women aged 25-64 with incomes equal to or greater than $50,000  and with dependents under age 26 for whom they are financially responsible.  Respondents had to contribute at least 40% to decisions regarding financial matters in their household to qualify. Results were weighted in the March 2017 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey for age, income, gender, ethnicity, region, and weighted to the 2016 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample for same sex married/partnered couples, to be representative of American families in this age and income bracket. This study includes trending data for the previous survey wave conducted in 2013. The sampling margin of error for this study is +/- 1.88 percentage points at the 95% confidence level when looking at the results for the 2,730 interviews at a total level.

About MassMutual

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit

Media Contact:
Tracey Bowen
PRecise Communications

SOURCE Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual)


SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Oct. 2, 2018 /PRNewswire/ --

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