With even the youngest Baby Boomers entering their mid-fifties and the oldest entering their mid-seventies, Baby Boomer retirement is a popular topic in financial circles today. However, for the Baby Boomers who are LGBT, retirement often looks different than the picture of that straight, white couple walking their golden retriever on the beach on your advisor firm’s retirement collateral.
For starters, as recently as 2017, Gallup found that only about 10% of LGBT people were married to their same-sex partner. Likewise, because of conscious and unconscious biases and because of their LGBT status, many LGBT people didn’t have the opportunity throughout their working years to amass as much money as their straight peers. Finally, even today LGBT boomers must still navigate life as an LGBT person. In some cases, this means going back into the closet as they age, so they can get the care they need.
So, while proper retirement planning is important for everyone, it’s uniquely important for LGBT Baby Boomers. Below is a guide for both LGBT Baby Boomers and their financial advisors to use to better navigate this time in their lives.
Social Security Spousal and Survivor benefits
While 10% of the LGBT community is married to their same-sex partner, over 66% are not married and have never been married to anyone. Thus, they can’t take advantage of the full benefits of Social Security, the Spousal and Survivor Benefits.
The Social Security Spousal benefit only applies to couples who have been married for at least 12 months. The benefit provides either 100% of a worker’s own Social Security benefit or 50% of their spouse’s benefit, whichever is higher. The Social Security Survivor benefit applies to couples who have been married a minimum of nine months and provides the surviving spouse with either 100% of their own benefit or 100% of their deceased spouse’s benefit, again, whichever is larger.
Only marriage, not domestic partnership or common law marriage, is a contingency to qualify for these benefits. Not being married could mean couples are leaving the equivalent of millions of dollars on the table. Therefore, marriage is financially advantageous. Financial advisors who have LGBT clients who are in relationships should encourage their clients to consider marriage to receive these benefits.
For many individuals, it could mean the difference between a financially insecure and a financially secure retirement.
National LGBT support groups
Because of the unique risks and concerns of being LGBT, there’s a team of organizations to support us. Most LGBT people are familiar with these organization, but their financial advisors should be aware of them, too, and be ready to connect when and as needed to help their clients. Below is information about each organization.
Being denied necessary care or adequate housing facilities could completely disrupt an LGBT Boomer’s retirement plan. That’s why it’s concerning that, depending on a person’s LGBT status, they can be denied housing, services and employment in up to 30 states in the US. If a client is being discriminated against for any of these reasons, the first five references are good resources. For retirement information specific to the LGBT community, the six reference is your best.
- Lambda Legal “is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and everyone living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.”
- GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders or GLAD leverages “strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation.”
- Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders or SAGE is another advocacy group for the LGBT community, however, SAGE focuses its efforts on the elderly, as elderly LGBT people often don’t have a voice.
- SAGE helps older LGBT people with other needs, such as finding a community or a person with whom to talk. Both resources help older LGBT people feel less isolated and keep their physical and mental health sharper.
- The National LGBTQ Task Force fights to advance full freedom, justice and equality for LGBT people.
- The National Center for Lesbian Rights fights to “achieve LGBT equality through litigation, legislation, policy and public education.”
Most financial advisors are familiar with the American Association (AARP), but most don’t know that AARP has an LGBT vertical, AARP LGBT Pride. AARP LGBT Pride offers information from planning guide for LGBT caregivers to LGBT estate planning to a marital status and Medicare eligibility guide.
You might ask why there are so many LGBT-advocacy organizations. As Todd Sears, founder of Out Leadership recently shared on the Queer Money™ podcast, “If we look at the annual budget of Lambda Legal, for example, being about $20 million and the positive impact it has on the LGBT community versus Focus on the Family with its annual budget at over $500 million, we need to pay attention. If you look at the budgets of all LGBT-advocacy groups, they wouldn’t even equal half the budget of Focus on the Family. This is what we’re up against.”
Local LGBT advocacy organizations
To be sure, it’s nice to have the backing of a large, legal organization to help advisors support their clients. However, our neighbors are often the best allies. Many cities and town across the country have local LGBT-friendly support groups, community centers and advocacy organizations. From Destination Tomorrow in the Bronx to One-Colorado to the Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity in Bakersfield, such organizations can often be a great resource for advisors and their LGBT Boomer clients.
Many financial advisors are unaware that even though marriage equality became legal in 2015, it’s still legal in up to 30 states to deny employment, housing and basic services to people who appear to be LGBT. This is one of the more unique concerns of the LGBT community when we do our financial plans that the general population doesn’t have to consider.
That said, there’s still risk with a same-sex spouse being denied access by hospital administrators to their dying partner or following a surviving spouse’s do-not-resuscitate (DNR) instructions or other exercising other rights they have as the spouse because hospital administrators choose to exercise their right of legal discrimination. Even today, some families try their best to deny same-sex spouses their rights to their spouse’s assets.
For those reasons, attorney and author, Liz Schwartz advises that everyone get access to all their legal documents, including marriage certificates, wills, DNR directives and more from anywhere in the world. None of these legal documents help if advisor clients can’t find them or they’re too hard or far away to access in an emergency.
DocuBank and other similar services are good resources. “DocuBank electronically stores all official and legal documents, including healthcare directives and emergency medical information, on a card to keep them accessible from anywhere in the world at any time of day,” Schwartz says.
Another electronic storage solution is Carbonite for Home. Carbonite distinguishes itself from peers such as Dropbox because of the encryption it offers and its proprietary Carbonite File System (CFS) software.
Such tools are helpful in situations when the time is of the essence, such as if medical professionals question the validity of your same-sex marriage and, thus, your rights to visit your spouse in an emergency room.
Because we don’t yet have full LGBT equality in all 50 states, it’s important for LGBT people and couples to take extra precautions. Even if in your current state of residence their marriage is seen as equal and they’re protected despite their LGBT status, a new job or a family emergency can quickly move you to a state that’s less inclusive. The measures Schwartz shares and others will help protect you when you may need it most.
LGBT-friendly assisted living facilities
The percentage of LGBT people raising children is estimated to be between 17% – 20%. While having children doesn’t necessarily guarantee that there will be someone to take care of you when you’re in the final stages of your life, it certainly increases the chance. However, for about 80% of the LGBT community, approximately 11.2 million people, must plan on having little to no familial support when they’re older.
Likewise, LGBT people can be denied assisted living and nursing home care in most states. Even when LGBT have legal protections, there’s evidence of abuse or inappropriate care based on their LGBT status. For this reason, it’s common for LGBT people to go back into the closet when they’re older.
The more financial advisors understand these unique nuances of their LGBT clients and the more LGBT clients have the courage and the know-how to ask questions aligned with those unique concerns, the better prepared LGBT people and their advisors will be. The better prepared everyone is, the more LGBT people can have the unique and comfortable retirement of their dreams. Maybe we’ll even see those images on financial services collateral someday.
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