METLIFE’s Economy Survey; African Americans Optimistic

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[Op-Ed: On The Economy]

As the current economic crisis has led Americans to re-evaluate their priorities, the American dream is, once again, being revised.

For many families, the dream is now defined first and foremost by financial security, followed by a greater emphasis on personal relationships – family, marriage and children.

According to The 2009 MetLife Study of the American Dream–the company’s third annual study–eight in 10 or 82 percent of African Americans believe they will be able to achieve the American dream in their lifetimes, compared to 89 percent of Hispanics and 75 percent of the overall population.

While African Americans are more optimistic regarding prospects to achieve the American dream, they lag other groups in realizing it, with only 19 percent of African Americans reporting that they have “achieved the dream.”

More so than the general population but to a lesser extent than other ethnic groups, African Americans view career success as a key component of the American dream. Approximately 43 percent of African Americans include career success in their top three definitions of the dream, compared with 53 percent of Asians, 44 percent of Hispanics, 24 percent of Caucasians and 29 percent of the public overall.

At the same time, African Americans are more worried than the general public about losing their jobs over the next 12 months. While 56% of the overall population is concerned about losing their job as a result of the current economic situation, the percentage climbs to 63% for African Americans.

Despite the current economic climate, African Americans are more optimistic about the future outlook of the U.S. economy and their personal finances—59 percent believe it will be better in 2009 than 2008, compared with 41 percent of the general population.

African Americans also have suggested that they would like to do more to prepare for a sound financial future. Roughly half of African Americans have expressed an interest in being more educated about financial topics (50% vs. 43% overall) and seeking the help of a financial professional (30% vs. 26% overall). This is important because regardless of the subjective nature of the American Dream, its achievement will require proper planning.

As individuals and families work toward achieving their American dream, they should make sure to incorporate the following steps into their plans:

(1)Assess your overall financial picture.

(2)Try to reduce your household expenses.

(3)Make sure you and your loved ones are protected with adequate health, individual disability, long-term care, and life insurance.

(4)Read your employee handbooks to learn about the benefits offered through your company.

(5)Save for retirement with a mutual fund and/or put the maximum you can into your company’s retirement savings plan (if offered).

(6)Plan your “exit” strategy by establishing your will, health directives, power of attorneys, and last instructions.

(7)Research investment advice or talk to a competent financial advisor rather than getting your information from “water-cooler” experts.

Raiford is a Senior Financial Planner with MetLife

For more information about how a MetLife representative can help you plan to achieve your American dream, visit or call 1-800-METLIFE (1-800-638-5433).

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