Let’s Talk Queer Money
There aren’t enough people, including queer people, talking queer money. We’re on a mission to change that. Won’t you join us?
When Money Was Just Money
Long before we were aware of the importance of queer money, we met on a disco dance floor in Denver with the sound of Deborah Cox filling the room. We weren’t club kids. We were too old for that. We club thumped enough, though, to befriend the drag queens who manned the doors like Steve Rubell. Therefore, we rarely paid to enter.
When we realized our relationship was a perma-thing, we also realized we had $51,000 in combined credit card debt. Our lives were the gay cliché of looking fabulous but being fabulously broke. Like too many in our community, all outward appearances speciously suggested everything was perfect.
That truth was that we overspent on happy hours that lasted too long, expensive dinners despite our expansive fridge, constant clubbing wearing clothing we couldn’t afford and vacations on which we shouldn’t have gone. We spent more time at the gym than we ever spent on a budget and our credit cards were the benefactors. We knew our BMI, but not our net worth and our bank accounts proved it.
The irony was that, at the time, we had 15 years of financial services experience between us. Like the emperor with off-the-rack clothes and cobbler’s kids with unfortunate shoes, 12 years ago, we were two finance professionals poorly managing our money while helping others with theirs.
We’ve since paid off our debt and now use our personal and professional experiences with money to help others in the queer community become and live debt free, and live bigger, badder lives
It’s possible that our “fabulous and carefree” stereotype-lives are the speed bumps and roadblocks to our financial security and long-term happiness. As a demographic, we’re as good with taking care of our money as we are at playing straight.
The Power Potential of Queer Money
The purchasing power of the queer community in the U.S. is near $1 trillion. The pink dollar was approximately 14 percent of all disposable income in the U.S. in 2016. Gay and lesbian couples earn more than straight couples. Despite these statistics, we spend more and save less than our straight peers and our saving and spending are getting worse.
Most of the queer people who reach out to us for financial help, like us, came from a time and a place when it wasn’t okay to be gay. We didn’t have the same life and social experiences at the same ages as our straight peers.
When we found our community of queer people, we harbored feelings of insecurity and longings to belong. Because of being bullied, forced into the closet or kicked out of our homes, we carry many limiting beliefs, including limiting money beliefs, that manifest themselves in bad money habits. You just wouldn’t know it by our outward appearances.
Many in the queer community (as with most) don’t talk about our financial situations until they’re dire. But, false appearances won’t make the pain go away, and we can’t afford to be distracted by financial insecurity or debt. These limit the support we can give to organizations fighting for our rights. They limit our autonomy and time we can volunteer and give back. They limit our contribution to the broader society.
The Unique Risks of the Queer Community
To be sure, the means to address these concerns aren’t unique to queer people. It’s our risks and concerns that are unique. Now that the two of us have paid off our debt, we’re using our personal and professional experiences with money to help our community address these unique concerns. Our partnership with Forbes brings a louder voice to the immediate and long-term financial nuances of the queer community.
Our over-spending and lack of saving and investing contradict our interests. For example, it’s still legal in 28 states for an employer to fire us for being queer. Our transgender brothers and sisters are at even more risk because only 14 of those 28 states have transgender protections.
Because the Equality Act is still working its way through Congress, most states don’t have protections for queer people in institutions such as nursing homes. Therefore, we can still be separated from our spouses or forced back into the closet when we go into assisted living.
Since the federal legalization of same-sex marriage, much of the fight for queer equality has migrated to the state-level. States have constitutions with antiquated language that don’t match federal protections and local legislatures that want to circumvent those federal protections.
If the queer community suffers from and is distracted by money problems, who will stand up for our rights?
As Wonhong Lee, head of diverse markets at MassMutual said,
“Whether married or in a domestic partnership, there are still important steps that LGBT couples and families need to take to plan for their future. For example, couples should develop an estate plan, including a will, to protect each other, their families and their assets. Yet recent research from MassMutual found that 6 in 10 LGBT adults (62 percent) aged 45-60 currently do not have a will.”
This is just one area in which the queer community can improve our financial security. By eliminating the distractions of debt and financial insecurity, we can focus on adding more value to society as business and industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and community leaders. Voting and marching for our rights and acceptance are important and influential, but businesses owned by queer people and queer leaders can inspire the most efficient change. By focusing on our contributions to society beyond the cliché and highlighting our strengths in areas such as science, education, arts, finance, technology and others, we’ll make sexual orientation and gender identity matter less and our value matter more.
Can the queer community do better financially? Yes, and that’s what we’ll cover in this space. Examples of what we’ll cover include:
• Making saving and investing feel at least as good as watching Susan Sarandon play Bette Davis
• Tax considerations for same-sex couples unaware of the perks and pitfalls of filing “married”
• Family planning, as children are never a whoopsy to same-sex couples
• Estate planning because we all want to end our show with a marvelous encore
• Highlights of queer people winning the grand prize of life
We’ll cover these and more to highlight the economic needs of the queer community and to help build a tenacious queer community. The stronger we are as individuals and community the stronger our society is. That helps everyone, straight and queer.
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