Although Americans of all backgrounds encounter similar barriers to saving and planning, cultural differences account for disparate experiences among groups, according to a study released Thursday by ING Retirement Research Institute.

The study reported that all populations found retirement planning to be a daunting task. However, Hispanics felt the least prepared, with 54% saying they felt “not very” or “not at all” prepared. This compares with 50% of African-Americans, 48% of white and 44% of Asian respondents who said they did not feel prepared.

These results correspond with the amount saved in employer-sponsored retirement plans, with Hispanic respondents reporting the lowest average balances ($54,000) in their retirement plans, considerably less than the average balance across all groups ($69,000). In contrast, Asian respondents reported having the highest average plan balances ($81,000).

Findings for the “Retirement Revealed” study came from an online survey conducted last October by ORC International. Respondents were 4,050 adults (including 500 African-Americans, 500 Hispanics and 350 Asians) between the ages of 25 and 69 who were employed full-time with annual household income of $40,000 or more.

Other key findings:

Financial Information

  • Nonwhites were more likely than whites to get their investment information and guidance from the Internet and media: 54% of African-Americans, 53% of Asians and 50% of Hispanics vs. 45% of white respondents.
  • Whites were more likely to use a financial professional.
  • While 28% of overall respondents were currently working with a financial professional, only 75% of this group said their advisor looked at their complete financial picture.
  • Face-to-face communication with a financial professional ranked highest in terms of value provided in getting information about their retirement plan and other employee benefits.

Planning Goals

  • Fifty-seven percent of Hispanic respondents said they had never calculated how much money they would need to continue their current lifestyle upon retirement.
  • Seventy percent of Hispanics did not have a formal investment plan to reach those goals.
  • Twenty-nine percent of respondents overall had a formal investment plan, with African-Americans most likely to have one (32%) and whites least likely (28%).

Barriers to Saving

Seventy-three percent of respondents admitted to having barriers to saving. African-Americans said debt was their biggest barrier. Needing to know more about their savings options was a greater barrier to savings for Hispanics than for any other group.

Emergency Savings

Forty-one percent of respondents overall had virtually no emergency savings (one month or less). This increased to 47% for Hispanics and 50% for African-Americans, while only 25% of Asians had one month or less saved for emergencies.

Purchasing Priorities

Asians appeared to be most prepared for retirement, but had a tendency to place a higher priority on lifestyle choices, such as purchasing a nice house or car, than planning for retirement.

 “There are certainly more similarities than differences among the ethnic groups when it comes to retirement planning, but distinctions do exist and understanding them can be critical to future retirement success,” Fabian Gonzalez, vice president of multicultural sales at ING U.S., said in a statement.

“For example, many times in the Hispanic community, parents will sacrifice their own financial future in order for their children to advance. By researching and learning about the rationale behind decisions like this, we can better understand our customers and help them achieve their financial goals,” he said.

Additional findings:

  • Twenty-three percent of African-American respondents had life insurance coverage equal to four to five times their salary, higher than the total population (18%). This corresponds with African-American respondents saying they were the most likely to leave life insurance proceeds to their heirs (70% vs. 53% of the total sample).
  • Sixty-three percent of African-Americans cited reducing debt as their most important short-term financial goal.
  • Hispanics are the most likely (57%) to want more education about investments and retirement options from their employer, compared with all respondent groups (47%).
  • Asians are the least likely to have a last will and testament (26%), compared with 31% for Hispanics and 37% for white respondents.