You might remember when the White House was lit up like a rainbow. That happened one fateful June night in 2015, hours after the sun went down on a day when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage — a massive win for the LGBTQ+ community. But that wasn’t a cure-all for the struggles the community faces at large. In fact, thanks to that ruling, wider acceptance of our LGBTQ+ friends has led to an era of awareness and a push for equality. And where can we fight more of the good fight? Personal finance. Understanding these issues — whether you’re an employer, an ally, or a member of the LGBTQ+ community — is a step toward change.
Let’s start with marriage. “Just because you can get married, should you get married?” This is a question Marci Bair, President of Bair Financial Planning, asks her clients (same sex and heterosexual couples alike). Marriage offers a slew of benefits, both financially and otherwise, but there are also a ton of other things to consider before walking down the aisle. For example, will your taxes go up? Will your estate planning become unnecessarily complicated (particularly if you have children in the picture from prior relationships). These aren’t unsurmountable hurdles, but they should be considered.
Thanks to another landmark SCOTUS decision made in June 2020, it is now illegal for an employer to fire someone simply because of their sexual orientation. While that is a step in the right direction, last week we wrote about the wage gaps affecting the LGBTQ+ community. When it comes to wages, lesbian couples fare worse than gay or heterosexual couples simply because they do not have a male earner to supplement the household income, explains Naomi Goldberg, Policy Research Director at The Movement Advancement Project. It’s crucial for companies to pledge protections for their LGBTQ+ employees and work to close wage gaps all around.
Healthcare is another big ticket item that can be unaffordable if not offered by your employer. And if you’re not married to someone with health insurance or you’re working for a company that does not offer it to you, you’ll have to figure out how to pay for your own plan. In general, Goldberg says, LGBTQ+ people are less likely to work in industries that offer health insurance to begin with. But coverage isn’t so easy for same sex couples even if one of the two has healthcare. Many plans require a marriage certificate for your partner to be added to the plan, so same sex (like heterosexual) couples must weigh this as another factor in their decision to get married.
Family is complicated, even with all of the beautiful iterations of it in 2020. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to have difficult relationships with their families, which means that some of the intergenerational wealth that can help with financial stability may not be given to them upon their parents’ passings, explains Goldberg.
For same sex couples who have a child, depending on how you choose to add to your family, that child might only be biologically attached to one of the parents. It is important for the other parent to legally adopt the child so there are no problems, but the cost of that can be anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. Another price to consider.
Finally, it is important to go through the process of becoming the power of attorney for your partner and working out a specific will that details who gets your assets should you choose to skip marriage. Goldberg notes that having all of the paperwork in place is a must just in case someone down the line chooses to not recognize a domestic partnership or even a marriage of a same sex couple. Hiring a lawyer to help with those things can be costly, too.
With Rebecca Cohen