Today, many Americans are hard-pressed to set aside enough savings for a timely or comfortable retirement. The factors most-often cited as driving the coming "retirement crisis" include longer life expectancies, rising health care costs and stagnant incomes.

The African-American community faces these same challenges plus other economic headwinds, but with larger hurdles to overcome to secure a comfortable retirement. Nowhere is this more apparent than in America's defined contribution system, where African-Americans are confronted by the following:

  1. Lower overall use of employer-sponsored plans.  In 2013, only 41% of African-American families had retirement savings accounts, vs. 65% of white, non-Hispanic families.

  2. Lower levels of plan enrollment and contribution rates. African-American had a 68% average plan enrollment vs. 79% for white participants, and 22.2% lower contribution rates  vs. white participants.

  3. Unfavorable demographic, economic and work-related factors.  Compared against their white counterparts, the average African-American plan participant is 14% younger, has 10% less job tenure, earns 30% lower average salary and has 28.4% higher job turnover.

These factors, in turn, drive the following adverse retirement outcomes for African-Americans:

  1. Significantly lower average retirement savings balances than their white counterparts. For participants with income less than $60,000, African-Americans have 34.1% lower average balances. For income levels below $30,000, this figure climbs to 48.6%.

  2. Dramatically higher cash-out rates. In general, African-American plan participants are 61.5% more-likely to cash-out their retirement savings, vs. white participants. Immediately following separation, and for income levels less than $20,000, this figure soars to 134%.

Range of solutions

Overcoming the African-American retirement crisis requires actionable solutions that collectively improve the situation for American retirement savers. Here are some to consider:

1. Improve access to workplace retirement savings plans.

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