The finance edition.

Author:Jensen, Annelise
 
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In the following pages we introduce five Latino finance experts who have shared their expertise and vision on today's Latino finances. Our specialists have given advice and highlighted the major challenges and issues that Hispanics face today when it comes to investing, banking, 401 'ks and making sound financial decisions.

We introduce, Louis Barajas who is an author and financial planner. He is followed by Maria Arias from Comcast, one of the premier diversity promoters in the country who gives us an inside look on how diversity helps stimulate the economy.

Pete Rodriguez from the BNY Mellon Bank is an expert on audit, risk and legal fields. Mark Hugo Lopez, Director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center, has spent years studying the political opinions and perceptions held within the Latino community by doing survey research that has helped shed light on the complex questions surrounding financial backgrounds for officials and the public alike. Lastly, Xavier Gutierrez from Meruelo Investment Partners, an expert in investment and acquisitions gives advice to young professionals, and shares his vision for himself and for the future of Latinos in America.

LOUIS BARAJAS

One of the Top 100 Financial Advisors by Mutual Funds Magazine.

Louis Barajas was the first Latino to become a CFP, a Certified Financial Planner, and for the last 25 years he has been advising people on how to optimize their money. Barajas has even made a name for himself as one of the Top 100 Financial Advisors by Mutual Funds Magazine. Barajas is an author, a spokesperson, and reoccurring TV guest that discusses financial issues. Barajas stardom began while growing up in the Eastside of Los Angeles, when he took up the job of managing his parent's finances at the age of 11. Barajas says it's his regular work with wealthy A-listers that has helped support his consumer advocacy work. Latino Leaders asked Barajas to shed some light on the current financial struggle afflicting Latino communities in America. Here is what he had to say.

Overall, how would you characterize the current financial situations of the Hispanic community?

I was in corporate America in the 1980s and in 19911 left to start my own financial planning firm, and I actually started in the Eastside of Los Angeles. Back then, I wrote about the horrific state of the economy for Latinos and how badly we were doing. To be quiet honest with you, that was 1991 and we're in 2016.

Twenty-five years later, I really don't see that Latinos have really progressed that much. I still think that Latinos earn less money than the Anglo workforce. I know we [Latinos] have less home ownership, we [Latinos] still don't invest in 401Ks or retirement plans. The only drastic improvement might be that more Hispanics are using banks then back then. The biggest trend then was that Hispanics were cash driven and didn't use a lot of financial institutions, but we [Latinos] have overcome that. But I don't think it has really improved in the last 25 years, and to be honest, I think it has gotten worse. For example, in the financial planning industry a certified financial planner, I think there are less entering that are Hispanics. I think, maybe, 15 years ago we had three percent of all financial planners were Hispanic. I would tend to think that number has dropped. So I think that also the financial planning industry really hasn't gone out of their way to really help the Hispanic community in America, I think they made the situation worse. I think the products that they provide for the Latino communities haven't gotten any better as well.

What are some of the leading factors for Hispanic?

It goes back to there is a lack of financial literacy or financial education amongst the lower and lower middle class. I think most people think that financial product sales people are really advisors. I think that most communities are under served, since there isn't really a lot of capital or investments. You tend to see more banks or insurance companies and not a lot of real advisors. I think that most lack the education and how to properly select an advisor or someone that can really help them.

So what is the most important advice you can give to Hispanic communities that are trying to invest in a better future?

"Let me share with you this. A lot of what I see in underserved communities is that people have just given up. They have this mindset that is very cynical and they don't know whom to trust. They have become cynical of the government and of other members of their community, cynical of the press, or the media. It's really not that complicated to create wealth in America. It's really not. The problem is that there are really too many hucksters selling stuff based on fear or greed. At some point what is going to happen is we're going to have to say look, they somehow have to intrinsically decide that they have control of their future'. So I need to get people to believe that as soon as they have a say in their future, then that's the first thing. And that's what my book 'Latino's Journey to Financial Greatness' was about, it wasn't so much about personal finances as it was about overcoming the cultural limitation beliefs that the Latino community has."

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