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Mixed Messages

In defiance of all odds, the U.S. economy continues to perform well, even if a lunatic who knows nothing about basic economic laws is at the nation’s helm.

Latinos have noticed the prosperity, relatively mild as it is. In fact, consumer confidence among Hispanics has improved “asoptimism has grownabout their financial situation as well as the U.S. economy as a whole,” according to a new study.

The Hispanic Consumer Sentiment Index — which I for one, never knew existed — is rising, although it continues to trail the overall U.S. population. About 62 percent of Hispanics say they are “financially better off today than a year ago,” and 72 percent of Latinos say, “they will be better off over the next year.” The report adds that 58 percent of Hispanics expect “good times for the country as a whole over the next five years.”

Well, that all sounds pretty rosy. However, one group does not share Latinos’ optimism for America’s continued economic health. That would be our old friends, the super wealthy. A different report finds that “75 percent of ultra-high net worth investors predict America will hit a recession by 2020.” 

Wow, that’s quite a different take on things. 

In fact, 21 percent of rich people believe that a recession “will begin in 2019, and 50 percent expect the next recession to start in 2020.” And remember, these are individuals who obsess over the economy and financial markets, and there are very few Latinos among them.

So is Hispanic faith in the economy misplaced?

Well, I’ve written before about the Latino tendency to be optimistic. While this is definitely a positive trait, it can on occasion lead to irrational conclusions.

For example, if the above statistics are true, then over half of Latinos think the economy will be solid for the next half decade, at least.

But how does that align with the results of a different study that found“Latino families are strugglingwith paying down debt and are the least prepared for financial emergencies”?

That study found that over one-third (38 percent) of Latinos “believe the American Dream is disappearing,” and about a quarter (24 percent) worry about being able to care for their families.

The study reiterated that “Latinos have relatively lower accumulated wealth,” and that many Hispanics are looking at a wicked trifecta of debt. That would be the following grim stats

64% of Latinos have credit card debt. The average credit card debt is $9,652. 

63% of Latinos have a mortgage. The average mortgage debt is $181,292. 

27% of Latinos have student loan debt. The average student loan debt is $32,650.

In addition, the study found that Latinos are “less prepared than other consumer populations surveyed for a financial emergency, with 19 percent having less than a month of monthly expenses saved.” 

What about these numbers leads Hispanics to think that the good times will just keep coming?

Well, the study states the obvious when it points out that “Latino households are more likely to have a broader definition of family that includes extended family” and that Hispanics have “strong family and cultural values.”

The fact that your family has your back may cause many Latinos to worry less about the future. But even that positive value has a dark side, because according to the report, “Latino families are juggling multiple financial priorities, such as a future caregiver role for elderly parents.”

Again, the economy is definitely doing well. But it can’t last much longer, even if we didn’t have an impulsive, ignorant racist calling the shots. Sooner or later — and most likely, sooner — a crash is coming.

Maybe we should brace ourselves for that inevitability, rather than just hoping and feeling good about our bright, shiny futures.


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