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The Chicago Urban League’s core mission is to economically empower African-Americans. But one thing is for certain – and I don’t care who you are or what you do – you’ll never be a player in the wealth creation game if you don’t save money.

The Chicago Urban League’s core mission is to economically empower African-Americans. But one thing is for certain – and I don’t care who you are or what you do – you’ll never be a player in the wealth creation game if you don’t save money.

This week, a study produced by Ariel Investments with global human resources firm Hewitt Associates helps to explain why African-Americans control so little of America’s wealth and scrape by in retirement. Folks, we’ve got a big problem when it comes to saving money.

401(k) Plans in Living Color: A Study of 401(k) Savings Disparities Across Racial and Ethnic Groups – The Ariel/Hewitt Study” provides a revealing look at minorities’ spending and saving habits as it relates to their participation in the employer’s 401(k) savings plan. The researchers found that African-Americans and Hispanics participate in their company 401(k) plans at a lower rate than any other racial or ethnic group, regardless of income. When they do enroll, they save less money than other groups, are more likely to borrow against their savings plan and are less likely to own stocks. All of this can add up to a retirement spent in financial dire straits.

“Without a significant effort to improve savings and investing behaviors, African-American and Hispanic workers are in danger of retiring into poverty,” said Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments in Chicago. “401(k) plans are now the primary way Americans save for their Golden Years. The study reveals important differences that must be addressed if retirement security is to be a reality for all Americans.”

The study doesn’t point fingers but points out some of the behaviors that are weakening our savings accounts. The salary disparities among the different groups struck me as significant, as well. Average salaries for Blacks ($39,171) and Hispanics ($37,857) are far less than for Asians (54,475) and whites ($58,013). And earnings have got to affect how much people feel they can afford to save.

I also understand that there are many reasons why people dip into their savings that the study does not address. For instance, how many of you out there are helping to support your parents, siblings or other relatives financially?

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