december coverA Quality of Life

People everywhere are struggling in the current financial crisis, and many in the Hispanic community are not immune to the downturn. We need to empower ourselves so that we can respond to these economic challenges. We must be informed, active and ultimately demand change from our elected leaders around financial security---not only for today’s generations, but for those of our children as well.

We hear the news everywhere---health care costs are at some of the highest rates, and unemployment numbers continue to climb. And sadly, Social Security (and Medicare for those who are 65+ or qualify through disability) are the only sources of retirement income for far too many Americans. And that’s not the half of it! Before the present economic downturn hit the U.S., some people felt confident in their pension, 401(k) plans, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), and stock market investments. Yet how many Hispanics have those resources in place now?

Social Security, earned-income, employer-sponsored retirement contributions, personal savings, and health coverage are the pillars of retirement security. The risk of poverty increases with each missing pillar---which ultimately impacts the entire family---including current and future generations. Last year, AARP commissioned a nationwide survey to determine how people age 45+ were responding to the economic slowdown. It asked a nationally representative sample of 45+ Americans, including Hispanics, for their assessments of the economy’s condition, whether they had taken actions in response to the changing economy, and if they felt enough was being done to address the broader problems.

We found that 81 percent of all respondents, and 86 percent of Hispanic respondents, say the economy is in fairly bad or very bad condition. A similar percentage feel the economy is getting even worse and many have changed their behaviors in response to the poor financial conditions. Over one-fourth of all respondents, and 41 percent of Hispanics, said they are having trouble paying their mortgage or rent, and one-third have stopped putting money into their retirement accounts. More than one-fourth of all workers age 45+ have postponed plans to retire.

We also found that as the economy slows and prices rise, most middle-aged and older people, including Hispanics, report that they are having difficulty paying for food, gas, utilities, and medicine, and are responding to the situation by cutting luxuries and postponing major purchases and travel. Those age 65+ were less likely than those age 45-64 to report having taken steps to cope with a slowing economy or increasing prices as a result of the recent economic slowdown. However, this does not indicate that the older population is better off financially. Rather, the data suggests that the 65+ group had, even prior to the economic downturn, been forced to adjust their spending habits because of their work status, reliance on a fixed income, and rising costs for almost everything. So how do we fix the problem, especially with the anticipated growth of our community?

By 2050, the white, non-Hispanic population will fall below half of the U.S. overall population. The Hispanic population will double to 30 percent; and the Hispanic 50+ population is expected to more than double from 8 percent to 19 percent. Clearly, the time for action to improve financial security for Hispanics is now.

AARP is working hard to ensure lifetime financial security for all. We are a non-profit, non-partisan organization that believes financial security is a right, not a privilege, for all members of society regardless of age. We understand that financial security plays a big role in people’s lives, so we provide advocacy, education, philanthropic activities, information, and access to products and services to help everyone become financially secure. Some in the Hispanic community think AARP is a government agency---or even that we only offer insurance. Neither is true. What we do is so much more.

AARP gives families and communities the tools to live better: vivir mejor. We know that giving back is very important and we encourage our members and others to make a difference in the lives of others through “Create the Good,” whether through a five-minute online commitment or an ongoing engagement. Today, more than 9 million people make a difference through AARP’s various networks for volunteers, donors, and activists.

Our overall mission is to enhance the quality of life for all as we age---and we’ve been doing so for more than 50 years. To join us in our efforts and to learn of the key issues affecting the Hispanic community, and all of our communities---including the very critical topic, financial security, visit and

Rocky Egusquiza is the Vice President, Latino/Hispanic Strategy at AARP.