woman with piggy bank

The 6 Biggest Money Mistakes Black People Make

A major financial slipup can set you back for years. These tips will help you avoid or bounce back from meltdowns

by Kimberly Seals Allers, October 21, 2013

woman with piggy bank

disability insurance
According to LexisNexis, 68 percent of Blacks don’t have a will or estate plan versus 55 percent of Whites.  “Protect your dependents: your kids, spouse and parents. Remember that life insurance can also help defray costs and pay off any debt not discharged by death,” says Black. “And without a will you could be letting the state make one of your most important financial decisions for you.”
How to Avoid It:  Go for term life insurance. It is the cheapest and simplest. “Minimally, you should have enough to cover any debts, including your mortgage; enough to support your spouse and children until they reach adulthood; and enough for their college education,” says Sonn. You can set up a basic will very easily using an online service, such as rocketlawyer.com and legalzoom.com.  “Make sure to include a guardianship clause if you have kids to designate caretakers for your little ones,” says Black.
How to Recover: Start by checking with your employer to see if it provides life insurance and how much. “Some employers will provide up to eight times your salary. If you need additional coverage, contact the company that provides your home, renters or auto insurance for a multipolicy discount,” advises Black. Once your life insurance and will are in place, you can start thinking about long-term disability insurance. Be sure to get “Own-Occupation” policy, as opposed to “Any-Occupation” policy, Sonn advises. “That means, if you are a surgeon and break your wrist and can’t perform operations anymore, an insurance company would expect you to go flip burgers at McDonald’s if you have an “Any-Occupation” policy,” says Sonn.

Money Mistake: No. 6
Not saving for retirement
Many African-Americans are not taking full advantage of 401(k) plans. Some 26 percent of those with employer retirement savings plans are contributing less than the amount matched by the employer or not contributing at all, the Prudential survey found. As a result, Blacks had a median retirement savings of $9,000 compared to $20,000 among the general population.
How to Avoid It: Take advantage of an employer match if you have one offered through your workplace.  Often, employers will put in $1 for every $2 an employee puts in, up to a certain percentage, often 6 percent of the employee’s salary. Then automate those savings directly from your paycheck. Sonn also advises automatically increasing your savings with yearly raises.  
How to Recover: “If you can’t afford to contribute that much right now, start contributing $50 today, and in six months bump it up by 1 percent and another 1 percent a year from now. Keep increasing your contributions every six months until you max out your contributions,” says Black.

More great reads from Kimberly Seals Allers

All They Do Is Wine

by Kimberly Seals Allers

Planning for Life After Death

by Kimberly Seals Allers

Life After Death

by Kimberly Seals Allers

Stay in the Know
Sign up for the Ebony Newsletter