Here's why LGBTQ+ adults wrestle with financial security
For many LGBTQ+ adults, planning for retirement, investing, and even budgeting are a struggle.
Almost two-thirds of LGBTQ individuals surveyed reported living paycheck to paycheck most of the time, according to a new Nationwide Retirement Institute survey of 1,000 nationally representative adult U.S. consumers and 1,000 members of the LGBTQ+ community. That figure jumps to 72% for Black LGBTQ+ members.
Moreover, LGBTQ+ survey respondents said that they were less knowledgeable than the general population about retirement planning (by 13%), estate planning (by 12%), and investing in the stock market (by 8%).
“The statistics are dire,” Manisha Thakor, a certified financial planner and founder of MoneyZen, told Yahoo Money.
The findings underscore the higher costs the community often faces from health care to parenthood at the same time that those individuals find their earning power curbed by biases in the workplace.
More than a third (37%) reported that their career had been negatively impacted due to gender identity or sexual orientation and almost half (46%) said their opportunities for career advancement have been negatively impacted, according to the survey.
“As a member of this community, for 16 years I hid my sexual identity out of fear of losing clients and also losing earning opportunities and promotions," Rona Guymon, senior vice president at Nationwide Financial, told Yahoo Money. “These challenges negatively impact LGBTQ+ individuals earnings potential, a problem that then compounds as they age.”
Health care costs, too, can take on career and future financial security. More than half (56%) believe that LGBTQ+ people experience higher health care and health insurance costs than non-LGBTQ+ people, according to the survey.
“Two vital areas — mental health and substance abuse — are often under-treated across the entire population due to stigma,” Thakor said. “Studies indicate that the LGBTQ+ community faces additional headwinds in the areas of mental health and substance abuse often due to environmental factors such as lack of family support, bullying, and social discrimination.”
That, Thakor said, could be “one component to the lack of retirement preparedness and emergency cushions.”
When it comes to parenthood, the financial picture can be challenging, too. Roughly half of LGBTQ+ Americans surveyed found saving to start a family (52%) more difficult for them compared to non-LGBTQ+ people.
“The LGBTQ+ community has to intentionally plan to have children, so they have to build in the fertility or adoption expenses in their planning,” Guymon said.
Paths to parenthood in the LGBTQ+ communities typically include adoption, surrogacy, and sperm donation — all of which can be accompanied by hefty price tags, Thakor said.
“Children are expensive, period,” Thakor said. “But kicking off parenthood with these additional outlays may likely be another reason for a late start to retirement savings and building an emergency fund.”
Her advice is to plan and save for these costs early on by being “extra aggressive in paying off high-interest private student loans or credit card debt.”
It’s not “rocket science,” Stuart Armstrong, a certified financial planner at Centinel Financial Group, in Needham Heights, Mass, told Yahoo Money.
“In the LGBTQ space, we have to make sure we don’t skip the basics of living within your needs, minimize your debt, and having good basic health and disability insurance,” Armstring said, “regardless of where we live, regardless of what pronoun we use, regardless of our marriage status.”
Core estate planning can make a huge difference
Despite the glum findings in the survey, financial well-being has improved incrementally for the LGBTQ+ community in recent years.
“I’m in my early 60s and my generation came of age during the AIDS epidemic,” Armstrong said. “There was no job protection or housing protection laws, and certainly no marriage equality. Today, a younger, emerging generation has been able to begin to look at their lives with more financial freedom and flexibility, although that hasn’t been around for a long time.”
That said, while marriage among LGBTQ people has been on the rise in the seven years since the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, many couples are still lacking certain estate planning documents, Armstrong said.
“It’s critical that LGBTQ couples, particularly those who are not married, have a will and to update the beneficiaries on any financial accounts. If you plan to leave assets to your partner, it’s vital that you do these things to avoid probate and any possible clash with family.”
Meantime, a living will or health-care directive is essential for couples should one partner become incapacitated or fall ill.
“Having these documents is key for visitation, medical decisions, and custodial appointments for children,” Armstrong said.
Many couples, too, are unaware of the Social Security benefit rules for same sex couples, Laura J. LaTourette, a certified financial planner and founder of Family Wealth Management in Dahlonega, GA told Yahoo Money. Even if you were previously denied survivors benefits because you did not meet the marriage requirement due to unconstitutional laws, you can ask to reopen, or take another look at a claim, according to the Social Security Administration’s website.
Finally, less than four in ten LGBTQ+ Americans (37%) feel that financial advisors understand their unique challenges, the survey found. And seven out of 10 say they would feel more comfortable with an advisor or financial professional who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
About a third of LGBTQ+ members in the survey specified that increased representation of their community in the financial services profession (34%) would better support them in their personal finances and financial planning.
That’s easier said than done. “The CFP Board doesn't even track the LGBT community,” Georgia Lee Hussey, founder of Modernist Financial, in Portland, Ore, told Yahoo Money. “It's a concern.”
Most financial advisors and planners who specialize in working with the LGBTQ community clearly display this information on their website and other online profiles, Hussey said. Resources to find planners who work with the LGBTQ community work include XY Planning. You can also search the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards for letsmakeaplan.com. Click 'LGBTQ Individuals/Couples' under the 'Client Focus' search option for a listing of the advisors who are LGBTQ-friendly.
“Being a lesbian, I look for ways to help my community,” LaTourette said. “As an advisor, that's what I do. I know the language. I know the rejection, and I understand some financial things that are very intimate to talk about, but you need someone you can trust and who is an ally.”
Kerry is a Senior Columnist and Senior Reporter at Yahoo Money. Follow her on Twitter @kerryhannon
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