SURVEYS ASSESS THE ROLE OF RICHES
By Dolores Kong
The Boston Globe
Men want to be rich more than women do.
Whites are most likely to be saving for retirement,
while Asians are most likely to be contributing
financially to the care of their parents or in-laws.
And if they were to win a million dollars, blacks
would be most likely to give a lot of it to charity,
while Hispanics would be most likely to give much of
the money to family and friends.
Three national surveys released yesterday turned up
significant race and gender differences in Americans'
attitude toward money. The findings raise intriguing
cultural, psychological, and socioeconomic questions
about the way people view wealth.
And they have important policy implications,
especially with Americans' poor savings rate and the
national debate about the future of Social Security to
help provide for retirement.
"This survey indicates more people than before are
saving and are thinking about their financial
situation, so that's progress," said John Rother,
director of legislation and public policy for the
American Association of Retired Persons, which
commissioned the report on money and the American
family for its Modern Maturity magazine.
"On the other hand, there's still a long way to go.
Every indication we have is that many people are not
saving enough, and too many people are not saving at
all. There's a lot to do through tax- favored
arrangements like 401(k) plans and pension plans, and
other mechanisms, to reinforce savings behavior."
The AARP survey highlighted some of the most
intriguing race and gender differences about money.
The full survey, involving a nationally representative
sample of more than 2,300 people 18 and older, will
appear in the July-August issue of Modern Maturity.
For instance, when respondents were asked if they
would like to be wealthy, 73 percent of men said yes,
but only 60 percent of women did. Asians were most
likely to say yes (79 percent), followed by blacks (67
percent), whites (64 percent), and Hispanics (60
Neither Joan Perry, author of "A Girl Needs Cash" and
president of Take Charge Financial!, a licensed
financial advisory firm in Los Gatos, Calif., nor
Richard Geist, president of the Newton-based Institute
of Psychology and Investing, were surprised by the
finding that men want to be rich more than women.
"In my own experience, money is much more connected to
men's self- esteem than women's," said Geist, a
practicing psychologist. "When you ask, `Do you want
to be wealthy?' you're likely to get more men saying
`yes' because money is related to how they feel about
Perry agreed that "Do you want to be wealthy?" is the
wrong question to ask women.
"The question you want to ask women is, `Do you want
to be secure? Do you want to live the same lifestyle
that you live now?' " said Perry.
And while AARP officials could not explain the
variation in responses by race and ethnic background,
they said differences in income, family immigration
history, and education might help explain some of the
disparity. For instance, Hispanics and Asians were the
most likely to report being recent immigrants or
having immigrant parents, and blacks and Hispanics
were the most likely to report earning less than
$20,000 a year.
Cultural values might also be at play when it comes to
savings and money, said Frank Moy Jr., director of
community affairs for St. Elizabeth Medical Center in
Boston, when asked to respond to the survey's findings
"My parents, my relatives - they've always been
disciplined savers," said Moy, who is one of the
second generation to be born in America. His family
used to run a Chinese restaurant in Fall River. The
AARP survey found that of the 1,700 respondents who
say they invest or save money, 29 percent of Asians
save or invest 21 percent or more of their income,
tied with blacks for the highest rate.
But even though whites lagged in the proportion of
income being saved or invested, they were the most
likely to say they were saving for retirement - 66
percent - versus only 59 percent for Asians, 49
percent for blacks, and 46 percent for Hispanics.
And as to the survey's finding that 33 percent of
Asians report contributing financially to the care of
their parents or in-laws, compared with 28 percent of
Hispanics, 17 percent of blacks, and 10 percent of
whites, Moy said, "Respect for parents and elders -
it's instilled in us. It's part of our culture.
They're given the highest respect."
The other two surveys by the Employee Benefit Research
Institute, American Savings Education Council, and
Mathew Greenwald & Associates looked at the confidence
of US workers overall in their ability to retire
comfortably and of minority workers in particular.
While 26 percent of all US workers said they were
"very confident" they would have enough money to live
comfortably through their retirement years, only 24
percent of blacks and 19 percent of Hispanics said so.
Asians, however, outpaced all groups in feeling very
confident about a comfortable retirement, with 31
percent saying so. There were also differences by
gender: Men were much more likely to be very confident
(31 percent) than women (21 percent).
The surveys were done by nonprofits that favor
improving Americans' savings rate and retirement
planning. The AARP survey involving more than 2,300
people has a margin of error of 2.5 percent for the
overall sample, 2.8 percent for the non-Hispanic white
sample, and 4.9 percent for the three minority
samples. The retirement confidence surveys involved
interviews of 1,000 people age 25 and older, with a
margin of error of 3 percent for the overall sample,
and 7 percent for the minority samples.