Retirement a Key Factor in Getting African-Americans to Invest

“If anyone were ever poised to invest with confidence, it’s the black community,” says Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments.

Middle-class African-Americans are investing more in the stock market than they have in over a decade, according to the Ariel Investments 2015 Black Investor Survey.

The survey of 500 black and 500 white households with incomes of at least $50,000 found that 67% of African-Americans are invested in stocks or stock mutual funds, compared to 86% of whites. While blacks are still comparatively under-invested in stocks when compared to white households, that percentage is on an upward trend, from 60% in 2010 and 57% in 1998, the first year Ariel conducted the study. White household investing has also risen since 2010, from 79% to 86%.

Seven in 10 African-American investors cite workplace retirement plans as a contributing reason for becoming an investor—double the rate of the next most common reason—having extra cash on hand they wanted to grow. More than half of African-American investors say workplace plans are the most important reason for becoming an investor—more than four times more common than having extra cash. For white investors, workplace retirement plans are also an important reason, but to a slightly lesser degree (63% cite them as a reason, while 45% say they are the most important reason).

Furthermore, for non-investors, retirement plans were cited as the most likely entry point into the world of investing. When non-investors were asked their likelihood to invest under various circumstances, 58% of African-Americans and 63% of whites said they would be likely to invest if their employer offered a good 401(k) plan.

“Clearly, access is a key factor,” says Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments. “My hope is that as more employers offer retirement plans, we will continue to see both white and black participation in the market continue to rise, better preparing everyone for retirement and other financial goals.”

NEXT: Other factors leading African-Americans to invest

The survey found that retirement is a rising priority for both racial groups. In 2000, 33% of African-Americans said their most important goal for saving and investing was for retirement. This year, 44% of African-Americans see retirement savings as most important— more than twice as many as those that save for any other goal. In 2000, about half of whites were focused on retirement savings. In 2015, six in 10 whites state this as their primary goal.

The study found that income is a key factor in African-American stock market participation, with only 57% invested at the income range of $50,000 to $100,000 compared to 81% at the range of $100,000 and more. For whites, the discrepancy was smaller (83% versus 92%). A high level of education is also a predictor for African-Americans participating in the market. Blacks with a graduate degree have a 72% participation rate, as compared to college graduates and below, who participate at a rate of 63%. For whites, the difference is not statistically significant (88% versus 86%).

The survey also found age plays a role in investing. The lowest participation in the stock market among African-Americans is among seniors: only 56% of those 65 and older are invested (compared to 88% of whites in that age bracket). For whites, the lowest participation was among those younger than 40 (73%) while the black younger-than-40 demographic followed closely behind (67%).

African-Americans are more optimistic about the economy than their white counterparts, according to the survey. Compared to whites, African-Americans are more likely to feel hopeful about the current U.S. economy (75% vs. 50%), feel that the economy has fully recovered or is on its way to full recovery since the recession (65% vs. 40%) and feel bullish about the stock market (65% vs. 53%). These findings are in stark contrast with the results of the 2010 survey, when just 43% of African-Americans were bullish compared to 60% of whites.

“If anyone were ever poised to invest with confidence, it’s the black community,” says Hobson. “This optimistic sentiment marks a time of tremendous opportunity, not only for African-Americans to take further advantage of the stock market’s wealth building potential, but also for the financial services industry to reach out to this historically under-served group.”