They post on Instagram pictures of one exotic vacation after another after another. Every Sunday is a funday that kicks off with a 20-plus strong brunch and bottomless mimosas. Their homes could be featured in the latest issues of Dwell and Elle Décor.
Who are these people living the fabulous lifestyle of the insta-life? According to Facebook, it’s the LGBTQ community. Ironically, our insta-lives just might be insta-lies. Is it possible that many of us look like we’re living fabulously when, in fact, we’re fabulously broke?
Here’s your ticket to the truly fabulous life.
The Big Pink Dollar
It’s common knowledge that the purchasing power of the LGBTQ community was most recently estimated at $917 billion. That’s close to $1 trillion and makes the pink dollar the strongest of any minority group within the US all while making up between 4 – 7% of the population! The most recent data shows that our global purchasing power is $3.7 trillion.
Same-sex couples on average earn at least $7,200 more than our straight peers and, though the extremity of this will likely change with marriage equality; currently only about 20% of same-sex couples have children. It’s for these reasons that queer people often set the standard of the dual-income-no-kids (DINK) life.
When straight families are building nurseries, the gay couple up the street is purchasing a new Audi A4. When straight parents are loading kids onto school buses, queer couples are planning fall vacations. Queer people simply make and have more money with fewer responsibilities, so the #LGBTlife is good. Or, is it?
Pink Power Wasted
According to MassMutual’s LGBTQ Financial Security Study, 58% of queer people worry about money weekly. Further, 70% of us, relative to 63% of the general population, admit to being behind in our retirement savings.
If we make and have more money with fewer responsibilities, why is the LGBTQ community financially unstable? Maybe we should reflect inward?
Is it because we tend to have a carpe diem philosophy about life? Take, for example, more than half of the respondents to MassMutual’s study said that spending for today is more important than saving for tomorrow. Likewise, Prudential’s 2016-2017 LGBT Financial Experience Survey showed that 48% of us consider ourselves spenders rather than savers, relative to 32% of the general population.
Further, George Hofheimer, Chief Knowledge Officer, Filene Research Institute and Matthew A. Lieber Instructor, Political Science, Madison College released Understanding the LGBT Opportunity in Financial Services in September 2015. They reported about the queer community:
Just 52% of same-sex couples held mortgages in comparison with 62% of heterosexual couples, and only8% of same-sex households owned their property outright as compared with 13% of heterosexual couples. Gay men are 25% more vulnerable to living in poverty than heterosexual persons, according to multiple surveys; 20.7% of single LGBT persons live on incomes under $12,000.
These statistics mean that, while your GBF may have the new iPhone X in the back pocket of his designer jeans, there’s a good chance he’s making minimum monthly payments on that phone and his jeans were bought on credit and 18% interest. He and his partner probably have little equity in their home and less in retirement savings than they will need.
But, hey, they’re going to Santorini Greece next year about when little league baseball starts.
Use Your Pink Dollar for Your Personal Good
In 28 states, we can still lose our jobs and be denied housing if we’re lesbian and gay and in 30 states we can lose our jobs and be denied housing if we’re transgender.
For these reasons, it’s critical for queer spenders to become queer savers and adequately fund emergency savings accounts. The traditional guideline says to save between three to six months’ worth of living expenses in an emergency savings account. Queer people who live in states that lack employment and housing protections can protect themselves by saving at least that much, if not more.
The Equality Act is currently stalled in the U.S. Congress. Therefore, most states don’t have protections for queer people in institutions such as nursing homes and there’s inadequate staff-training to care for older LGBTQ people. Consequently, we can be separated from our spouses or forced back into the closet if we go into assisted living.
It’s for these reasons, wise LGBTQ people are making retirement planning and savings more important than holiday planning. It’s especially critical for queer people to open employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, pensions, SEPs or Simple IRAs, when they’re available. Then, by contributing at least the minimum required to get our maximum employer match when one is available, we can take a big step towards a fabulous life that lasts.
If an employer-sponsored retirement plan isn’t available or we have more money to invest after maxing out contributions to a company-sponsored retirement plan, LGBTQ people should invest in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), such as a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA.
Likewise, it’s important for queer people to consider purchasing long-term care insurance (LTCI). LTCI can include help at home with basic needs, such as cooking, eating and cleaning. LTCI can mean living in retirement villages that handle the manual labor necessary to maintain a home or can be the assisted living that provides physical assistance such as feeding and bathing.
Finally, LGBTQ people who don’t have a financial planner should get one. Prudential’s 2026-2017 study also showed that fewer queer people than the general population have financial planners. This information demonstrates an opportunity for our community because an HSBC study showed that individuals with a financial planner have nearly 29% more in retirement income wealth than those without one. HSBC’s findings further support Prudential’s findings that queer people who use a financial planner are more affluent.
Use Your Pink Dollar for the Common Good
The remaining inequality of being queer underscores the importance of LGBTQ people and our allies to give more of our time and resources back to the queer community. How can we give better?
If we donated 1% of our purchasing power to charities that support the LGBTQ community, it would equal nearly $1 billion in donations. If we directed 2% of our buying power to political causes that support and fight for queer equality, it would total almost $2 billion. If we saved 10% of our purchasing power for the future, we’d invest an additional $10 billion annually.
Those are huge numbers. When we look at the numbers in that context, it’s easy to see the potential power of our pink dollar for the common interests. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon us to show more pride in the power of that pink dollar.
Show Pride in Our Pink Dollar
There are several steps queer individuals, and allies can take to use more of our time and money to improve our personal lives and strengthen the queer community. Six steps include:
- Diversify Your Income Streams and Increase Your Income – Leverage the sharing- and gig-economies and take on part-time jobs and start your own online business.
- Save more – Build an emergency saving account and fund your employer-sponsored retirement plan to get your full employer match.
- Avoid debt – Don’t spend on credit. Pay off all debts as fast as you can with your increased income from step one above.
- Automatically donate – Establish direct deposits from your employer to charities and causes that you support and that advocate and support the LGBTQ community.
- Spend within the community – Do business with queer businesses by using the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce directory.
- Vote with your money – When you can’t spend within the queer community, spend on companies that support us.
The pink dollar is only as powerful as the good it does us as LGBTQ individuals and as a community. Let’s ditch the gay cliché of pretending to be fabulous when we’re fabulously broke and let’s create a new cliché of being fabulously financially responsible, charitable and empowered.
Then, we’ll see how mighty the pink dollar can truly be.
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