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MoneySmart: Economic Inequality

Survey highlights financial challenges faced by LGBTQ people.

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In conjunction with this year’s Pride Month, Experian surveyed 500 LGBTQ people about their thoughts and behaviors related to all things financial—and especially their saving and spending habits.

The survey found that LGBTQ respondents devoted an average of 11 percent of monthly income to savings or investment, and 16 percent to discretionary spending.

In addition, more than one-third of respondents reported “bad spending habits” they would like to improve or change, compared to 28 percent of the general population. Similarly, while roughly 38 percent of the general population “struggles to maintain savings,” nearly 45 percent of LGBTQ respondents put themselves in that category. 

While almost everyone encounters financial challenges at some point, people in the LGBTQ community face unique problems that can become more urgent as they inch closer to retirement. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and allow same-sex spouses to share in benefits like Social Security, many of these challenges remain.  

In the Experian survey, a significant majority (62 percent) of LGBTQ respondents reported having experienced financial challenges because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Thirteen percent reported discrimination or harassment at work, 12 percent reported being passed over for a job, 11 percent reported discrimination leading to higher housing costs, and 10 percent reported a lower salary or reduced chance of promotion. 

“While the U.S. has made significant progress on protecting the rights of LGBTQ citizens, employers in the majority of the country are still allowed to fire workers for the simple fact of being gay or transgender,” Experian noted. 

Additionally, many LGBTQ people don’t have children who can take on caregiving duties. In fact, some LGBTQ people are completely estranged from their biological families. This, coupled with employment and salary discrimination, can make it more difficult for LGBTQ people to afford care from professional home healthcare providers and assisted-living facilities. 

Another financial hurdle at the top of the list for many LGBTQ people is student loan debt. In another recent survey conducted by Student Loan Hero, nearly 60 percent of LGBTQ borrowers said they regretted the decision to take out student loans. Meanwhile, more than 25 percent of LGBTQ borrowers characterized their student-loan debt as unmanageable. One reason for these high numbers is that LGBTQ borrowers are more likely than the general population to earn less than $50,000 per year—which can make any debt more difficult to pay off.  

It is important to note that while the individuals surveyed by Experian identified as LGBTQ, responses varied—in some cases, substantially—based on age. 

For example, nearly half of respondents ages 25 to 34 reported that they struggle to maintain control of their finances, compared to 57 percent of those ages 35 to 64, and 75 percent of those 65 and over. 

Likewise, nearly half of LGBTQ people ages 25 to 34 reported bad spending habits that they need to improve or change, compared to only 13 percent of those 65 and over. 

The good news is that by working with an advisor who is well-versed in financial and retirement planning concepts (as well as in working with LGBTQ couples and individuals), investors can feel much more comfortable in voicing their long- and short-term financial goals and desires.

There are also some helpful resources available to the LGBTQ community related to money, business, and long-term care issues. Some of these include the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the Lesbian Business Community, SAGE (Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders), The Montrose Center, AssistHers, and Lazarus House. 

There is also financial and retirement-planning information available from the federal government, such as the Social Security Administration’s web page on benefits for same-sex couples at ssa.gov/people/same-sexcouples.

 If you’re struggling to get to where you need to be financially in order to meet your short- and long-term goals, it can be extremely beneficial to talk with an experienced advisor who can develop a plan that is based on your specific needs, time frame, and other objectives. It can also be helpful to work with a financial advisor who is well-versed in the laws and regulations that relate to domestic partners, same-sex spouses, and other issues that LGBTQ investors face. 

For more on the Experian survey, go here. 

For more on the Student Loan Hero survey, visit studentloanhero.com/featured/survey-lgbtq-student-borrowers-regret-loans. 

This article appears in the September 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Grace S. Yung

Grace S. Yung, CFP, is a certified financial planner practitioner with experience in helping domestic partners plan their finances since 1994. She is a principal at Midtown Financial LLC in Houston and was recognized as a “Five-Star Wealth Manager” in the September 2017 issue of Texas Monthly.
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