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Investment expert Carlos Armando García is founder and CEO of Finhabits. (Courtesy Photo)
Investment expert Carlos Armando García is founder and CEO of Finhabits. (Mark Ladanan)

Closing the Latino retirement savings gap

Finhabits is a bilingual digital financial adviser that caters to the long-term investment needs of the Hispanic community.

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When investment expert Carlos Armando García was growing up in El Paso, something was missing from dinner table discussions with his family.

García said his parents ingrained in him the value of hard work. They also taught him how to generate income to pay his day-to-day expenses, but when it came to financial planning for the future, the conversation wasn’t there.

“We never really talked about the long-term,” García recalled.

After graduating from MIT, García began his first job out of college working for financial services company Merrill Lynch. When he started, he had never heard of the concept of a 401(k) plan. In fact, he didn’t sign up for one until his third year with the company after a friend mentioned to García that already had $25,000 in his own—and it was matched.

“These experiences are things that happen not just to me,” García said. “They are happening every day to more people, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to make it accessible and simpler for anyone to save for retirement.”

It’s one reason García founded Finhabits, a digital financial adviser that helps people develop the habit of saving for their long-term financial needs.

“It could be their retirement, or it could be a medium-term goal like a trip or a house or a car,” García said. “So we help them make it easy, and in the process, they develop the habit.”

Finhabits marks the third business García has built from the ground up, following investment-simplifying platform Fundspire and investment fund Madison QuantLabs. Led by García, who brings with him a passion for innovation, Finhabits aims to help close the retirement savings gap that exists among minority communities in the U.S.

With services in both English and Spanish, Finhabits is well-positioned to serve the nation’s growing Hispanic population.

Beyond Culture

Just as García personally experienced in his younger years, the founder of Finhabits said that a lack of information regarding saving for retirement is common throughout Latino culture, which is one reason why fewer Latinos tend to participate in retirement plans such as 401(k)s.

However, García has found that cultural reasons are not the only cause of this widespread lack of participation in long-term financial planning.

“The Latino community—or the Latino workforce, perhaps—tends to work in smaller businesses,” García explained. “And what we found out is the smaller the business gets, the harder it is for the business owner to offer retirement benefits to the employees.”

In December, Finhabits released a comprehensive study of small businesses across the country, titled “2017 Latino Small Business Workers Lack Retirement Savings.” The company’s research shows that an average of only 30 percent of small business employees are saving for retirement.

The Finhabits study also indicates that small business workers in states with the highest concentration of Hispanic residents — including Texas, Florida and Arizona — had the lowest participation rate in retirement savings.

Further, the study finds that metropolitan areas with higher Hispanic populations have fewer small business employees with a retirement plan.

For example, in the metropolitan area of Laredo, Texas which has a Hispanic population of 96 percent, only 8 percent of small business employees are saving for retirement. Meanwhile, in the metro of Minneapolis, Minnesota, 6 percent of the population is Hispanic but 39 percent of small business employees are saving for retirement.

According to Finhabits, the solution for this savings gap “is to provide these individuals with an alternative to the status quo approach to retirement savings.”

An Alternative Approach

Finhabits users can determine how much they want to contribute to their account every week, allowing them to achieve their financial goals in whatever way suits them best. For García, the key is creating simple-to-use, innovative products that benefit the consumers most, not the company offering the service.

García knows that the American economy is growing, and with it, the Latino population. While García founded Finhabits with the Hispanic market in mind, he said the company is serving more and more customers of different cultures, which is exactly what he likes to see.

For García and Finhabits, it's important to ensure that not only the wealthiest citizens enjoy the success of the U.S. economy, as has been the case in the past.  

“If you’re working class, (if you’re) middle class, you have to benefit from this as well,” García said.

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