Anxiety. Shame. Depression. Pessimism towards personal finance. These are just a few of the things that more adults in the LGBTQ community feel than straight adults, according to the 2019 Queer Money Matters survey. Additionally, fewer LGBTQ adults feel positive emotions like confidence, control, and excitement towards their money, with 52% of people who identify as queer saying they have anxiety around finances, compared to 41% of straight, cisgender people.
This money angst — while unfortunate — is understandable. “I think many people in the queer community just don’t feel that they have the same level of security and support that the straight, cisgender population has. We’re more likely to be discriminated against at work, or in housing, or just walking down the street,” says David Rae, a certified financial planner in Los Angeles, CA. Sometimes, the discrimination faced comes from family and close friends. In the survey, 35% of respondents said they could rely on family and friends for financial support before coming out, but only 20% said they could after coming out.
“When many people come out, they strain their relationship with their family, and this really puts them at a disadvantage,” says Rae. This might mean having to pay for college for yourself, or getting kicked out of the house prematurely, forcing you to support yourself before you’re ready. “Those things — if you haven’t experienced them — might not seem like that big of a deal, but when you translate that over your entire life, that really can add up. Even just having $10,000 extra dollars in student loans, by the time you pay that off, that can be the difference between having money to save for retirement and not.” explains Rae.
Also, with the lack of support comes a psychological impact, explains Stephanie Richman, CFP and Vice President of EP Wealth Advisors. When your relationship with money is volatile early on in life, you’re more likely to view money as something to worry about rather than be empowered by as you age. “If money is seen as bad, and your relationship around it is tinged with anxiety, you won’t want to address it,” Richman says. Unfortunately, this anxiety-driven avoidance creates inertia — a feedback loop of inaction and disempowerment.
Fighting Back — And Changing Our Relationships With Money
One of the things that helps disrupt this sort of inertia? Conversation. “I think across the population — straight or otherwise — a lot of people live in the closet with their finances,” Rae says. “When money feels like a taboo topic, people don’t open up about it, but people in the queer community can band together and really take a step forward and talk to one another about money.”
One of the more effective ways to do that is to get in a room with people with whom you identify, and start talking, says Richman. “When you’re in a workshop or a seminar, you might be surrounded by only straight people or men, and maybe they’re very familiar with personal finance, and there may be a fear of asking questions.” But asking the questions you need to ask — and getting answers — is the only way to fully take control of your finances. So seek out environments where you feel comfortable enough to ask your questions and share enough details about your own finances to get the right advice and information. Many LGBTQ organizations offer financial seminars, or you could even take the initiative and get a group of like-minded people together in your community, and invite a financial advisor to lead a workshop for all of you, Richman advises.
If groups aren’t your thing, then start solo — try working directly with a qualified individual, like a [Certified Financial Planner] who understands your financial world and can help you navigate through it,” Rae says. There are professionals who specifically cater to the LGBTQ community — a quick Google search can help you find one in your area — and just be real with them. “Don’t worry about sounding okay or being judged. Just express what you want in your own words. The hope is that the person on the other side of the table listening to you will be able to interpret it in such a way that they can help. Don’t have a fear of stating your wishes,” says Richman.
The most important thing to remember is that there’s definitely time to improve your finances, no matter where you stand today, Rae says. When you’re struggling, it can help to remember there are others struggling, too. The myth of gay affluence can be dangerous psychologically. “Obviously, we see a lot of people at the top of the pyramid. We have Ellen, and all these celebrities who are rich, and they look like they have it all. But there are many more people who are struggling,” Rae says. Often, people may look like they have it all together when they probably have similar concerns as you. “Everyone struggles with money, and you’re not alone.”
With Molly Povich