A Latina Money Expert's Tips For Slaying the Stock Market

A lack of financial literacy poses a significant barrier for Latines in the United States, often hindering their ability to build equitable wealth. So we asked five Latina money coaches to offer their financial expertise on all the pressing topics you have questions about, from building credit to homeownership. This Women's History Month, we want Latinas to understand that regardless of their financial journey so far, they do have the power to improve their financial well-being for generations to come.

The historic lack of Latina participation in the stock market is a complex issue with roots in both systemic barriers and cultural influences. A 2021 study by the FINRA Foundation reported that a staggering 57 percent of Hispanics and Latinos don't have stock market investments within retirement accounts or other investment accounts. This is a sharp contrast to their white counterparts, where stock market participation is significantly higher.

The reasons for this disparity are multifaceted, but a lack of financial education and exposure to investing concepts plays a major role. For many Latinas, particularly first-generation Americans, investing can be intimidating. It carries a sense of the unknown and untested. Cultural norms around money management may emphasize saving over risk-taking, which is fundamental for investing in the stock market. The fear of investing often originates from a desire to protect hard-earned income within communities that have historically had limited access to wealth-building opportunities.

However, the importance of investing in the stock market cannot be overstated. The stock market can offer significant long-term growth potential, allowing its investors to outpace inflation and build wealth over time. While traditional savings accounts offer stability, their returns may not be enough to keep up with the rising cost of living. But retirement savings within traditional savings accounts alone often fall short of providing the financial security that is needed later in life.

A shift, however, seems to be underway. This generation of Latinas is determined to break the cycle, and is increasingly seeking out financial literacy and greater access to investing platforms. Influencers like Delyanne Barros, also known as Delyanne the Money Coach, are working to change the narrative by offering culturally relevant financial education and shattering traditional investment myths.

"You cannot build wealth through a savings account," Barros says. "You must invest. Invest in yourself, a business, and the stock market. Hoarding money and cutting coupons will not build wealth. "

Fueled by a vision of early retirement, Barros aggressively paid down debt, invested wisely, and documented her journey. This dedication led to a thriving coaching business, enabling her to leave her 14-year career as an employment attorney and achieve millionaire status by age 40.

"I had such a clear vision before I started earning this type of money that it kept me very focused when the money entered my life," she says. "I'm not sure I would've been able to reach millionaire status without that clear vision."

Why Don't Most Latinas Invest in the Stock Market?

A lack of financial education is a major reason Latinas have lower stock market participation rates. Financial knowledge and investing strategies haven't always been easily available within some Latine communities. This results in limited understanding, reduced confidence, and a feeling that investing is out of reach. Additionally, cultural factors and systemic disadvantages can discourage Latinas from exploring investment opportunities and taking financial risks. Only 48 percent of Latinas are investing, compared to 62.4 percent of the general population.

"Most Latino parents, especially if they immigrated to the US, do not have the knowledge about investing in the stock market. Instead, they have focused on building wealth in the ways that they do understand through building businesses and buying real estate," Barros says.

Financial abuse experienced by Latinos in their home countries can also fuel distrust of financial institutions. This distrust is reinforced by the predatory and racist behavior of some US banks, such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Though the situation is improving, systemic discrimination remains a serious problem within the financial industry.

"The lack of diversity and representation in the financial industry certainly makes it more difficult for Latinas to look to the stock market and think, 'This is for me,'" Barros says. "As a Latina myself, I thought that Wall Street was built only for guys who looked like Leonardo DiCaprio on 'Wolf of Wall Street.''

Latinas can overcome these fears and feel empowered to invest once they begin to understand the language of investing. As Barros explains, "Investing is 80 percent vocab and 20 percent math."

How to Get Started Investing in Stocks

Latinas interested in stock investing can start small and build gradually. Before diving into stocks, they should consider taking advantage of free online resources and online platforms that offer low-cost or commission-free trades and fractional shares. This basic knowledge will help build confidence and guide informed investment decisions, even when starting with modest amounts.

"If your employer offers a match for your 401(k) or 403(b) plan, start there. It's a small amount of your paycheck (usually three to five percent) that your employer will match dollar for dollar. This is basically free money," Barros explains. "If no match is available, just start transferring $50 to $100 a month to a Roth IRA so that you can build the habit of investing over time."

Learn the Fundamentals of Investing in the Stock Market

For Latinas interested in stock market investing, understanding the fundamentals is crucial. This knowledge will empower informed decision-making and build a solid foundation for potential success.

"The stock market is like a flea market. You can go in thinking that you're buying a rare antique and then it turns out that you bought a fake replica," Barros says. "That's like buying a stock in a company that you thought would be worth a lot someday and it goes bankrupt. Inversely, you could also buy something that turns out to be much more rare and valuable than you imagine and that makes you a lot of money."

While investing in today's promising startups might seem similar to buying Microsoft or Apple early on, trying to identify the next big hit among countless options is a risky strategy. To avoid this mistake, consider broad-based index funds and ETFs. These allow you to invest in the entire stock market, spreading your risk and potentially benefiting from its overall growth.

Diversification Is Key When It Comes to Investing

Diversification is an essential investment strategy for Latinas. By spreading investments across different assets, Latinas can reduce risk and increase the potential for long-term growth.

Again, Barros emphasizes, "Index funds/ETFs contain hundreds or thousands of stocks. This way you are diversified across every industry and sector in the US or even the world."

Imagine a basket filled with a variety of fruits. Broad-based index funds and ETFs are like buying that whole basket instead of picking individual fruits. They track a market index, which is like a list of those different fruits, and hold a slice of each company within it. This way, you get exposure to a diverse group of companies, spreading your risk and potentially benefiting from the overall market's performance.

Holding onto these stocks is also important. "Time reduces your risk of losing your money. The longer you hold an investment, even through turbulent times, the more likely you are to come out ahead," she adds. "Time requires a steady mind and patience. If you can hold onto your index funds/ETFs for at least 15 years, your chances of losing money are nearly zero."

Understand the Difference Between Long-Term and Short-Term Investing Strategies

"Short-term investing is not investing at all. It's day-trading and gambling. This is the type of stuff you see in the movies and it's the fastest way to lose your money," Barros says. This applies whether you are actively trading stocks daily or weekly.

"Long-term investing is what I practice and what has been shown to work for most investors over the long term," Barros says. "This means buying and holding investments for years and years, even through volatile times, because over time the stock market goes up. The cost of making money in the stock market is being able to stomach these volatile times."

For Latinas aspiring to achieve financial freedom, the message is clear: the power is in your hands. Embrace the shift happening within our community and seek out the rising tide of financial literacy and tailored resources available. Barros's words offer a potent reminder: "Start learning the language of investing ASAP. The more you learn, the more confident you will become, and once you realize how simple it is to get started, you will be kicking yourself for not starting earlier. You are capable of many amazing things and investing is probably one of the easiest but most powerful tools you have available to build wealth."