Immigrant communities come to America to begin a new life – they pursue new employment and launch businesses. Studies show that the Hispanic community is the largest minority group in America driving the U.S. labor force and contributing to economic growth. However, as the Hispanic population grows in America, the financial challenges remain prominent:

  • One in five Hispanic households experience some college debt and financial pressures, resulting in more Hispanic borrowers to drop out of school.
  • 20% of Hispanic workers earn poverty-level wages, making it difficult to set money aside for savings or retirement.
  • Financial literacy with limited English proficiency often leaves Hispanic Americans vulnerable.
  • Latinas in the U.S., many of whom are breadwinners for their households, are paid 47% less than white men and 31% less than white women. For Latinas, the average gap is 54 cents on the dollar.

Pictured left to right are Mari Lopez, Natalie Torres-Haddad, Diana Mena, Melanie Chavez, and Sylvia Hall.

These financial obstacles impede Hispanic communities from building wealth in America. The lack of retirement, access to credit, student debt, and language barriers prevent Hispanic communities from making money moves like supporting families back home.

At Remitly, we focus on easing the financial pain points for immigrants around the world. Founded in 2011, we now help nearly two million people around the world transfer over $6 billion annually to their loved ones in other countries. The money that family members receive enables upward mobility by helping pay for basic needs like food, housing, medical and school.

We’ve heard from immigrant communities and our customers that carrying the load of financial pressures can be heavy. Not only do first-generation Americans have to worry about survival, but they also worry about creating generational wealth and breaking the negative cycle around money that has been passed to them from their parents.

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15) and Mental Health Awareness Month (October), Remitly convened a conversation on making money moves while staying mentally healthy. Moderator and two-time TEDx speaker, Natalie Torres-Haddad, spoke with panelists that included a diverse group of women deeply rooted by their experiences with financial and mental stress, to discuss the intersection of money, taboos, and financial and mental health.

Here are four tips from the panelists on how to make money moves while staying mental healthy:

Advocate for yourself. The Latina pay gap exists and it’s important to understand how it impacts your ability to build wealth. Educating yourself about the current state of the gender pay gap, particularly for Latinas, will help you recognize your worth as a woman of color in the workforce so that you can better advocate for yourself. – Melanie Chavez, Employee Placement Manager for nonprofit, Year Up who at one point made $15K less than her peers in the nonprofit sector.

Change your relationship with money. Take control of your finances by putting your goals first and focusing on what you do now to make yourself better for tomorrow. Start by matching your future self with your present self. For example, set a monthly allowance to spend now, and try to invest everything else for your future. It doesn’t have to be a huge dollar amount, just find what works for you. – Silvia Hall, an attorney who started her own firm in 2017 and reached financial independence by taking control of her finances.

Find ways to be generous. As you bring yourself along to financial freedom and stability, think about who you’re bringing with you and know that what you give to others, you will get back double in return. When you’re generous with your time, referrals and advice you give, or even the money you send to family back home, you will begin to feel better. – Diana Mena, a first-generation Nicaraguan American, licensed social worker, and clinical social justice activist.

Set boundaries. Be transparent about the financial support you can provide your family back home and be okay with having to say “no”. If you can’t help your family and friends monetarily, know that it’s okay, and look for other ways to help family members beyond financial support. – Mari Lopez, a real estate consultant who experienced financial hardship during the 2008 recession.

To hear the full panel talk, listen below or here on Soundcloud.

Panelist Bios

Natalie Torres-Haddad
A two-time TEDx Speaker known for her talk “The Foreign Language of Financial Literacy” and “The Confidence Gap”. An international Award-Winning Author, a bilingual podcast host of Financially Savvy in 20 minutes, international keynote speaker and educator. Her activities have been featured in the Huffington Post, LA Times, 60 second docs and a Honda commercial as herself a financial literacy advocate. Born in El Salvador and raised in Inglewood during the LA riots Natalie quickly understood that the lack of higher education and financial illiteracy limits her community of basic human rights and equality in resources. She started investing in real estate at 24 and began her career advocating for financial and women empowerment for equal pay. Her challenges dealing with student debt, which led her to deal with depression, have inspired her to advocate for mental and financial health education in all schools and work environments.

Mari Lopez
Born in Mexico but raised in the states, Mari was raised in Eastern, WA. Her family worked mostly in agriculture to provide for a family of 10, and although her family didn’t have much, there was always plenty of food and love to go around. She started her real estate career in 2004 and in 2016 became CEO of her real estate company. Mari’s success is due to the loyalty of her clients and referrals, which makes up 99% of her business. She strives to go beyond the expectation of her client and takes the approach that every sale, small or large is a priority. Mari strongly believes growing spiritually, personally and professionally is critical not only to our own success but also to the success of others, therefore improving in all those areas will be a continued focus.

Melanie Chavez
Melanie moved to Seattle, WA in 2017 as a first-generation college graduate from Los Angeles, CA. Despite the lack of support from her parents, Melanie moved to Seattle jobless and scared, but determined to make a difference. Now a Partner Relations Manager for a youth nonprofit in Seattle, she enjoys building relationships with corporate partners while coaching and mentoring -youth and other first-generation college students.


Diana Mena
Diana is a first-generation Nicaraguan American, bilingual (Spanish/English) and bicultural, WOC, licensed social worker, and clinical social justice activist. She completed a Bachelor’s in Sociology from Seattle University and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Washington. She was trained at Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress.


Sylvia Hall
Sylvia is a personal injury lawyer who has reached financial independence by taking control of her finances. Her goal is to retire at age 40. Sylvia is also a real estate investor and does pro bono immigration work for NWIRP serving primarily on asylum cases.