“What makes money different for LGBTQ people than for everyone else?” This is a common question we get when talking with the general population about money. The fundamentals of money are the same for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s the same for men and women. Money’s agonist to race, creed and heritage. What is unique for each demographic, including queer people, are our risks and concerns.
LGBTQ people can be fired from our jobs in up to 30 states for being LGBTQ. This increases our need for not only have the standard three to six months’ worth of living expenses but saving even more money in our emergency savings accounts. Family planning for same-sex couples is on average more expensive than opposite-sex couples because the cheapest option to have children isn’t available to us. Finally, it’s not uncommon for a surviving partner of a same-sex relationship to have to fight their deceased partner’s family in court to protect the assets they acquired throughout their relationship. Marriage equality has given same-sex couples a means to negate this risk, but not all same-sex couples wish to get married. Therefore, trust and estate planning are of increased importance.
Compounding interest, the time value of money, cash flow management and most of finance applies equally to all of us, but it’s that 20% that makes money different for queer people than for everyone else. Unfortunately, as we learned from MassMutual’s LGBTQ Financial Security Survey, 60% of LGBTQ people don’t trust financial services because we assume the person on the other side of the desk either doesn’t understand our unique needs or doesn’t want to serve people like us, which increases our risk in the those 30 states where we can be fired. With this additional unique concern for queer people, where are LGBTQ people to turn?
Fortunately, GuideVine understands the unique financial needs and concerns of queer people. Therefore, we’ve created a list of our financial advisors with a dedication and experience helping queer people achieve the financial security we all, queer, straight or otherwise, desire. We interviewed some of the financial advisors on this list to increase the list’s awareness and to inspire LGBTQ people to engage with their money and an LGBTQ-friendly financial advisor.
A commonality among all the advisors we interviewed is the desire and eagerness to help all their clients, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, achieve their financial goals. This desire to help everyone is something we strongly support at GuideVine.
So, let’s meet some of these advisors.
Carol Berger, an advisor for 12 years who hails from Peachtree City Georgia, is a fee-only advisor who serves by helping all individuals and couples (both traditional and non-traditional) make more informed decisions for their financial future.
Berger’s committed to serving the queer community for two reasons. She says, “Since I’ve been in a same-sex relationship for 40 years, I know how difficult and uncomfortable things can be when working with people. (Maybe not as much today, but more so when I was younger.) I wanted the LGBTQ community to have someone they could turn to who understands their situation. Also, there are differences when planning for LGBTQ couples versus traditional couples. Again, not as much since marriage was legalized, but there are still things to consider.”
Berger’s been fortunate that her clients easily open up to her about their LGBTQ-status. It also helps that she holds the ADPA® (Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor) designation in addition to her CFP® (Certified Financial Planner) designation, both offered through the College of Financial Planning. “The ADPA® was a curriculum designed specifically to learn about the different needs of same-sex couples,” Berger shares.
Despite asking all our advisors the same questions and almost all of our questions eliciting varied responses, one question consistently resulted with a similar response. That is, what are the unique needs of the queer community. Berger says, “Estate planning is one of the most critical areas, especially for same-sex couples who aren’t married. Even if they’re married, same-sex couples need to understand how things will work should something happen unexpectedly. Unfortunately, even today there can still be some family issues that arise. In some cases, there’s a big difference in income and assets owned between the two (one may not work). I try to do what’s possible to help the non-working partner or spouse grow their investments and one way is through spousal IRA contributions.”
Spousal IRA contributions permit a working spouse to make Roth or Traditional IRA contributions, currently between $5,500 and $6,500 contingent on the age of the “non-working spouse,” on behalf of the non-working spouse. Therefore, if one spouse stays at home to raise the children or starts a business that has yet to generate money, the working spouse can keep the non-working spouse on track for their retirement savings and, thus, keep the couple on track for their retirement.
There are two requirements however for spousal IRA contributions. The first requirement is that the couple must be married and file their taxes jointly. The second requirement is that the working spouse’s earned income, at a minimum, equals the combined total of the nonworking spouse’s IRA contribution plus the working spouse’s IRA contribution, meaning $11,000 to $13,000 as of 2018, based on age.
There are situations when the deductibility of the spousal IRA contributions is phased out and when they’re not permitted. These are the questions about which you’ll want to ask a financial advisor, such as Berger, and to which they should be able to speak.
Ricky Biel is a financial advisor at a boutique firm in Pasadena California who’s been helping his clients achieve their financial goals since 1999. Biel specializes in investment, financial and retirement planning, all leading concerns for LGBTQ people. In fact, Biel has his Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor certification.
Biel and his independent fee-based advisory firm’s ethos is to help their clients achieve their goals and live their best lives regardless of their personal and sexual preferences. “I help because I care,” Biel says.
In his initial meetings with clients, Biel’s less concerned about LGBTQ-status than he is about getting to know his clients and building trust with them. In fact, he says, “Many times after meeting clients for the first time I don’t know [if they’re LGBTQ]. I ask thoughtful questions over time,” he continues, “that usually lead me to understand whether they’re LGBTQ.”
To overcome the hurdle of many in the queer community with a distrust in financial services, Biel shares his experiences over his 20-year career and how he’s helped clients just like them, which is why so many of his LGBTQ clients come to him through referrals. Biel simply asks our community to do what we often ask of others, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Biel continues, “Keep an open mind. Think positive and be inclusive in your thinking believing that people can and will help.” Finally, he says, “Be willing to take the first step.” That is “to take the first step and meet with an advisor for a complimentary consultation. There are many great advisors who are willing and able to help if given a chance.”
For his queer clients, specifically, Biel sees that “estate planning is usually the area that needs to be addressed as my LGBTQ clients may have family try to interfere if they don’t agree with the ‘LGBTQ lifestyle.’ This area has had the most pressing needs as we discuss things such as medical healthcare directives, medical and financial powers of attorney and other beneficiary options.”
To that end, healthcare directives, medical and financial powers of attorney, beneficiary options and other legal and medical documents don’t help if no one can find them. Save your partner and the rest of your family distress by archiving all your documents in a logical and accessible location. Tools such as LifeLink and DocuBank electronically store official and legal documents that make them accessible from anywhere in the world at any time of day, including emergency situations when time is of the essence.
Shanna Tingom runs a solo practice as a financial advisor out of Gilbert Arizona. As an advisor, Shanna’s been helping her clients achieve their financial goals since 2011 and has over 20 years of experience in financial services. In addition to specializing in investment, financial and retirement planning, Tingom helps her clients with college and tax planning. With the disproportionate amount of student loan debt LGBTQ graduates have relative to the general population and so many same-sex couples trying to understand how marriage equality affects their taxes, these are helpful specialties to the queer community.
Tingom is eager to help queer people because she’s inspired to help those who receive little of it. She shares, “I’ve always felt like this was a very underserved community, and one that has a hard time finding help in our industry.”
Knowing the LGBTQ-status of her clients is important so Tingom can give accurate and comprehensive advice, but Tingom says the LGBTQ-status of her clients often come up naturally in the discussion as she asks questions to understand their full financial picture. Tingom says, “by being honest, friendly and demonstrating that I’m willing to help” her clients share a very important part of themselves.
Tingom says knowing her client’s LGBTQ-status is important for two reasons. “If they’re not legally married, they need to make sure to have all of their legal documents in place to make healthcare decisions and deal with the estate issues after death. Powers of attorney, HIPPA documents, wills and trusts are very important to have completed and be state-specific. Access to financial accounts both before and after death is important. The second reason is that updated beneficiaries are important, as well.”
To Tingom’s latter point, everyone, queer or otherwise, should update all their beneficiaries on all their accounts to be aligned with their will unless they and their spouse agree otherwise because beneficiary designations supersede wills.
This technicality catches many people, queer or otherwise, by surprise. If you leave your ex-partner or ex-spouse as a beneficiary on any of your accounts, they have the legal rights to the assets in those accounts upon your death. Your will designating your current partner or spouse as the heir does not supersede beneficiary designations you assigned prior to your current relationship.
As is evidenced, there are financial advisors who want to and are well-prepared to serve the queer community. There are, also, tools such as GuideVine’s list of our financial advisors to help us find those advisors. It’s now our responsibility for our own and the queer community’s financial security to find those advisors and connect with them in an authentic way.
Thank you for reading all the way!
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