Submitted by NAD on Tue, 07/22/2008 - 18:24
Following up on the racial bias in mortgage lending comes this story
. According to the National Foundation of Credit Counseling, blacks and Latinos in low income communities are hurt just as much by financial advice and long-held financial habits as by predatory lenders.
Blacks tend to be let down by the quality and scarcity of debt counseling services according to Emanuel Ridgeway, chief financial officer of the Urban League of Palm Beach County.
"You have a lot of single mothers who live paycheck to paycheck," said Ridgeway, whose agency offers debt management counseling, particularly for first-time homeowners. "Many of them just don't know how to save and put away for a rainy day. There's a lack of resources and education out there."
Many Hispanics are pushed to the brink of financial ruin, the story says, by mistrust of financial institutions and the tendency to rely on friends for financial advice.
Suarez, a Colombian native, said she and her husband quickly built a solid, middle-class existence when they moved to the U.S. five years ago. She got a job in the marketing department of a company that sells health products and he found work as an electrician. They had all the measuring sticks of success: a comfortable, two-bedroom home, two cars and two children assimilating well in school.
But after refinancing their mortgage, spending more money than they had and maxing out their credit cards, the family will likely lose their greatest asset, their home, to a short sale. Suarez said her husband's hours were reduced while gas and food prices rose, worsening their predicament. But she emphasized that irresponsible spending, acquiring four credit cards they didn't need and listening to the advice of friends put her family in a bind.
"We didn't educate ourselves. We simply went to friends who said, 'Refinance your home. It'll give you the power to buy things.' That's true of many people in my community. We're not getting organized and going to a professional for help," she said.
Though the story doesn't say it, spending and borrowing to finance the good life and not seeking out contrary advice are rather generic American habits, not just Latino and black habits. Americans of all races have been borrowing up a storm in recent years, to the point that the U.S. had a negative savings rate
for the first time since the 1930s. Though blacks and Latinos may not be well served by financial institutions in their communities, living beyond one's means has become as American as apple pie, regardless of race.