For a vast majority of working Americans who don’t have a defined-benefits pension, their 401(k) is the centerpiece of their retirement plan. But some young adults of color, like Raul Duplessi, a working-blass native of the Bronx, are putting their hopes — and their money — into alternatives like real estate, entrepreneurship or stock trading on their own. They see straying from the beaten path as offering them a better shot at financial security — even if that means figuring it out as they go, and taking big risks.

People who study systemic racism and barriers to access in the financial services industry say they aren’t surprised that people like Mr. Duplessi have little faith in the Wall Street machine. "Black customers have a lot more distrust — rightfully so — of financial institutions,” said Mehrsa Baradaran, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, who studies financial inclusion and inequality.

Ken Alozie, a former investment banker and member of SCORE, an executive mentoring program for entrepreneurs, agreed. “Some of them saw their parents lose their jobs or saw their parents’ retirement plans get eviscerated” during the financial crisis in 2008, Mr. Alozie said. “It makes sense, given all that they have seen, that they have less trust in the financial system.” In addition, he said, he has found that people of color “tend to be less reliant on investing assets in traditional methods that are going to build wealth slowly,” especially if they’re the first generation in their family to try to create real financial security.

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