Why is financial literacy a challenge for immigrant families?

April is Financial Literacy month. By now, it’s probably not surprising to hear that an overwhelming number of Americans struggle with financial literacy. For immigrant families, there are even more challenges, many of which are unique to the immigrant community.

  1. Low English proficiency - With all the acronyms and jargon in banks, FDIC, APR, CD, IRA’s and so on, we can fill up the alphabet several times over. Now imagine trying to understand these terms in a foreign language. Addressing this issue involves more than hiring bilingual bank staff, but also having bilingual materials, including websites and apps. Translating materials is also not as easy as typing terms into Google translate. More complicated terms like subprime and area median income are hard enough to explain in English, let alone a second language.

  2. Distrust of financial institutions - Many immigrant families have had negative experiences with banks from their home countries. This makes them less likely to want to build relationships with U.S. banks. The challenge of relationship building is worsened when banks don’t have the ability to communicate cross-culturally.

  3. Scams - Because of both low language proficiency and sometimes cultural understandings, immigrants can be more susceptible to scams and illegitimate practices. A common practice is one in which someone uses their ability to speak the same language as the immigrant community and builds a reputation as a “trusted source”. However, this same person might use this advantage to deceive immigrant families in to signing contracts in English and selling high-cost, predatory financial products which harm immigrant families.

ACDC is committed to equipping immigrant families with skills and tools to overcome these challenges and give families control of their finances. Our Building Blocks blocks program puts financial literacy at the core. Whether a family is looking to purchase their first home, save for their child’s education, or just rebuild their credit, our Building Blocks staff are eager to help.