For many people, planning for the future is not necessarily a top priority as they try to survive today and navigate these strange, troubling times we are all going through. However, experts urge you to always think about the future and make sure you are preparing the legacy you will leave behind to future generations of loved ones. After all, if you do not protect your assets, no one else will.
Latinas need this advice now more than ever — just ask the attorney and financial planning expert Carmen Rosas.
The scary truth is that most Hispanics are not saving for retirement or focusing on protecting their assets. A recent Morningstar report found that more than two-thirds of Hispanic households aren’t saving any of their income and aren’t putting aside money through workplace savings programs like a 401(k) plan.
Experts believe that the main reason for the absence of financial planning is a lack of information and confusion around retirement planning. Plus, there’s the issue of access — the Morningstar report found that Hispanic households are 17% less likely than white households to have access to a retirement plan, as reported by CNBC.
Enter Carmen Rosas
Attorney, author, public speaker, financial expert, and Latina powerhouse Carmen Rosas feels this disparity in financial planning deeply, and she’s working to educate, inspire and support Latinas to help them protect their assets. She’s on a mission to help Latinas plan for tomorrow but also live for today, as she says on her website.
It’s a personal journey for Carmen. As a first-generation Mexican, the first one in her family to go to college and the only attorney in her family, Carmen was inspired by her grandparents when she decided to focus on estate planning. Her grandparents and great-grandmother were “property owners who poured their blood, sweat, and tears into creating a home that was not only a roof over their heads but also full of memories,” she told BeLatina. “The thought of that being lost because of a lack of planning or completion of simple legal documents devastated me.”
And so, her career path to helping other Latinas navigate the financial planning process began.
Carmen passionately believes it is essential to prioritize financial planning, estate planning and have important conversations about the legacy you want to leave behind. When her grandmother passed away, she recalls her mom trying to mourn a devastating loss while also understanding the legal system.
Thankfully she was able to help her mother, considering her legal knowledge and connections to attorneys in the estate planning world, but most Latinas do not have that luxury. “I couldn’t imagine all those families who did not have access to someone in law school (Latinas only make up less than 2% of the legal population nationwide!). Death brings out different sides of people, and when you’re trying to mourn and grieve, the last thing you want to do is deal with an overwhelming legal system,” she said.
We sat down for an online interview with Carmen to tap into her vast knowledge of the financial planning world, but equally important to understand why so many Latinas are intimidated by the idea of estate planning. And thanks to Carmen’s invaluable advice, we’re here to tell Latinas how to navigate the legal system and get started protecting their assets.
Why do you believe that so many Latinas are not focused on protecting their assets?
Honestly, I think it’s that they don’t know what they don’t know. There’s been such a movement for financial literacy for women — budgeting, investing, paying off debt — but I don’t think estate planning is talked about enough. Many of us are finding out about estate planning for the first time as we’re doing research for our aging parents. The fact of the matter is that estate planning was created for white male landowners. As women of color, it hasn’t been until recently that we could even have a line of credit on our own. As we continue to make moves in the financial world, I see estate planning as the perfect next step, especially for women of color.
Why do you find that your clients aren’t working to protect their assets?
The three main reasons I get from clients as to why they haven’t protected their assets are:
- They think they’re too young, and no one wants to talk about dying. We simply don’t want to face our mortality. No one thinks there will be an accident or that they might die tomorrow. No one likes admitting that it’s a possibility and estate planning requires considering (and preparing for) that possibility.
- They think they don’t have enough to protect. Everyone is so focused on their goals that they don’t think about protecting them while they’re in progress, mostly because of the reason above.
- They think it’s too expensive. Yes, estate planning is an investment upfront. However, if you don’t invest in it, your loved ones end up in probate court. That’s not only a financial expense, but it takes a lot of time, energy, and peace of mind amid great sorrow and mourning.
What advice would you give Latinas who don’t know where to begin and are overwhelmed by the process of estate planning and protecting their assets?
Step one would be to find an estate planning attorney in your area. It’s important to find someone you are comfortable with; think of it as dating. This process will require you to build a relationship with your attorney, so don’t just go with the cheapest or most convenient option. Find someone willing to answer your questions and work with your unique situation.
If you don’t quite feel ready to contact an attorney, you can start by attending an informational webinar or event. For example, I offer informational webinars at least four times a year. Going with an option like this will allow you to get a feel for the attorney and understand what estate planning is.
The other thing you can do is find a book that explains estate planning. If you need somewhere to start, my book, The QBIC’s Guide to Creating a Legacy, will give you a solid understanding of how estate planning can be used to create a legacy by protecting your assets, family, and future.
At the very least, take an inventory of your assets and the important people in your life. Look at what you’d be passing on and who you’d want to manage and benefit from your assets.
What exactly is estate planning, and why is it so important?
Estate planning allows you to secure and preserve all those things you have worked so hard for your family (especially your kids!), your investments, your home, and so much more. An estate plan is essentially a collection of documents that are legally binding and can make it easier for your loved ones to inherit or distribute your assets when you pass. It typically includes four common documents, including a will, power of attorney, healthcare directive, and living trust:
- A will, also known as a last will and testament, allows you to give instructions on how you want your assets distributed and who you would want to take care of your kids if you passed away.
- A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to make financial decisions in case you are suddenly incapacitated and cannot do so yourself.
- An advanced health care directive allows you to select someone who will make medical decisions for you. This can include anything from pain relief, emergency surgeries, blood transfusions to life support, and whether or not you want to be cremated or buried.
- The last and final document that is super helpful is a living trust. This allows you to keep your estate and loved ones out of the court system. Unlike a will that still goes through the public domain of probate court, a trust remains private and amongst your loved ones.
This planning keeps you and your loved ones out of court and allows your family to focus more on their emotions rather than the stress of the legal system.
Why do you think it’s important to connect with your roots and learn about your family history as a part of planning for the future?
I like to think of legacy as having three parts — Mind, Body, Soul. Mind is your desires and getting it legally documented. Body is taking care of the temple you have on this Earth. And soul is all about your inner workings, childhood, culture. It’s all of what you will pass on. But in order to have a healthy legacy, you need to understand the legacy you inherited — what has been passed down to you by your parents, grandparents, and other ancestors. For so many of us, especially as women of color, our ancestors went to great lengths and sacrificed so much to give us the life we have today. We can’t fully appreciate or even build our own legacy without understanding, celebrating, and honoring theirs. Someday our descendants will do the same.
How do you see protecting one’s assets as a fundamental part of honoring our culture and traditions?
Your ancestors came for a better life than their home country provided them. You were afforded that opportunity, and now you’re doing it! But as you’re chasing the bag, building the wealth, buying properties, and investing, it’s also so important to make sure it is secured. We have to protect our legacy and preserve it!
My dad is from Mexico. I was able to learn Spanish from my grandmother — watching novelas with her and visiting with her after school. Our culture is so important to hang on to, and I’m lucky enough to have it handed down to me from my dad, grandmother, and others. Now it’s critical that I continue to pass it on to future generations so it doesn’t get lost; this is all a part of protecting one of my vital assets—my culture—and preserving it for the next generation. One of the ways I do that is by taking my daughter to Mexico every year so she can be immersed in the culture and traditions, even more so than I was.
What is the single most important piece of advice you have for Latinas and families as they plan for the future?
Be intentional about what you want for yourself and your family. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You don’t have to compare yourself or try to “keep up with the Joneses.” You get to design and create a legacy that’s unique to you. Also, don’t forget it’s ok to be the first. We are breaking generational curses, building wealth, and leaving legacies for those who came before us and all those who will come after us.