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Preparing LGBTQ+ Clients for Retirement and Beyond
• Laura J. LaTourette, CFP® • July 20, 2023
There will be an estimated 7 million LGBTQ+ people age 65 and over in the U.S. by 2030.1 As a CFP® Board Ambassador and a SAGE National Resource Center Ambassador for LGBTQ+ elders, I advocate for the financial planning needs of this diverse community and share my approach to LGBTQ+ financial planning.
There are people in the financial services industry who say they don’t need to do anything different with these clients. They’ve likely never felt the weight of discrimination. My recommendation is that if you can’t open your heart and be thoughtful about what it might take for an LGBTQ+ person to pursue financial security for themselves and their loved ones, maybe it’s better to refer those clients to someone like me. But if you really want to be considered an ally then you need to educate yourself and seek out resources to learn about our history, community, and current issues. LGBTQ+ financial planning is different for our three different generations, with varying levels of risks and resources. They are the Silent, Pride, and Millennial generations. I will focus mainly on the first two here and offer some ideas for working with them.
LGBTQ+ Planning for the Silent Generation
The LGBTQ+ elders in the Silent Generation are in their late 70s, 80s, or 90s. Some have never lived together with their significant other, they’ve always lived separately. They may have been partners for 50 years, but they’ve not even thought about getting married, even though they can now. They didn’t have the freedom to marry for so many years, and typically they have kept everything separate financially.
So, I’ll say to my older clients: “Let’s look into marriage and see if that would be a positive thing for you. Being married helps with estate transfer.” Marriage is about more than that of course, but I want them to be aware of what’s available to them.
I was talking to a couple of clients of mine who are in their 80s about getting married and they said of their union, “We don’t want everyone to know.” I suggested to them, “You can have a very small wedding with a minister and a couple of witnesses. Then you get it on paper, so when one of you passes away, we have Social Security survivor benefits options for the other one. We can merge the retirement accounts with more beneficial distribution options.”
Marriage is a big deal. Any financial planner who wants to serve the LGBTQ+ community should be ready to offer thoughtful guidance on the financial benefits of marriage, keeping in mind that it can be a difficult decision.
Retirement Planning for the Pride Generation
I’m in the Pride Generation, we’re in our 60s and 70s. We’re used to protesting—that’s what we’ve done since the Stonewall riots in 1969. One of the challenges our generation has is a lack of resources for retirement. Many of us have been afraid of being discriminated against, so we’ve changed jobs or chosen self-employment. This can keep people from being able to put away adequate sums of money for retirement.
Being a gay adult in the 1980s meant suffering through the deadly effects and stigma from the AIDS epidemic. Since we had no financial support from the government or outside resources, many people died or didn’t think they would live that long to worry about their future or retirement. But our community is resilient and came together to take care of each other, so we solved many of the issues facing treatment, intervention, etc. Many who made it through the AIDS epidemic and are still alive now have medical issues to worry about as well. They may be less affluent because they didn’t save enough for their futures.
Planners who want to serve these clients should be aware of this and sensitive when asking questions about retirement planning. Let a historical perspective on the challenges of our community inform your planning conversations.
Estate Planning Is Essential for All
I talk about estate planning with all LGBTQ+ clients. No matter what generation they are, I want to know if they have estate documents. This includes but is not restricted to the following: will, trust, living will, or healthcare directives, as well as general financial power of attorney. Our community members are very charitable-minded, and we talk about wealth transfer and legacy with all LGBTQ+ clients, no matter what size estate they have. If they don’t know an estate planning attorney they can trust in this area, they probably don’t have the proper estate documents.
I’ll review their wealth and legacy wishes then recommend they work with an estate planning attorney who is a LGBTQ+ member or ally who will draft or update documents and make sure they’re going to hold up in court. We want to make sure everyone’s covered with current legal language.
These tasks often cause worry for clients in the gay community, wondering who they’ll have to talk with to get the documentation, and what they’ll have to tell them. That’s why I’m proactive about asking and will join in on the meeting with them and the attorney if necessary.
Another thing we worry about is: Who is going to help take care of the LGBTQ+ elders who don’t have children? Before the Millennial generation, it was not commonplace for LGBTQ+ couples to have children together. If they did have children, it was most likely from a prior relationship, and unfortunately many became estranged from their children when they made the choice to live authentically, for many reasons.
Often, as you age, your adult children help take care of you if you’re sick, need someone to drive you, or do errands. In the gay community, we form more “formal family groups” and you see younger gay people helping the older ones with caregiving.
As part of the conversation, I try to help reconcile families if possible. I’ll say, “I know you haven’t talked to your kids in a while, but can we have a family meeting and just start a dialogue to see if there’s a way to heal the wounds?” Family meetings happen in my office and over Zoom. Through the years, I have found many adult children are interested in reconnecting. I’ve been able to be a bridge for my LGBTQ+ clients and help families reunite. It’s a special honor to be a part of that for someone. If reconciliation is not possible, I need to identify who my clients’ trusted contacts are and work with them.
Housing, Care, and LGBTQ+ Elders
Housing becomes another issue as we age. LGBTQ+ people worry about potential discrimination in care facilities or healthcare settings. For instance, if one partner needs in-home nursing care, will the staff be accepting?
It’s tough to navigate. So for my clients who need to live in an assisted living facility, I help research what the environment would be like for them prior to them making the final decision to move in, if possible. I am their advocate.
There are many in-depth resources that can help financial planners who want to work with the LGBTQ+ community. Here’s a listing of just a few:
There’s SAGE, which offers a wealth of information on LGBTQ+ aging and on-demand courses, including Understanding the Financial Needs of LGBTQ+ Older Adults. The Human Rights Campaign tracks legislation that affects the community. eMoney has an LGBTQ+ planning guide. Movement Advancement Project also has messaging guides that can help you find the right words to say. I also recommend The Motley Fool’s latest survey in collaboration with the Queer Money podcast on the community to learn more about needs and financial challenges.
Putting Out a Welcome Sign
As a financial planner interested in serving the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important to put signs out there to show you’re an ally. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most. Updating language on your website, so you are using words and phrases that are open and inclusive, shows that you are interested and empathic in serving my community. Even your intake forms can be made more inclusive by including pronouns and gender-neutral spaces. Adding your pronouns on your email signature, marketing materials, written correspondence, etc., can also serve as a welcome sign.
I believe we need a national directory and I’m working toward creating a Rainbow Advisor Network of LGBTQ+ financial planners, advisors, and allies so it’s easier for our community to find us.
A More Inclusive Tomorrow
I founded Family Wealth Management Group in 1998. Today we have a remote operation, and we work with clients all over the country. However, my physical office space is in a small town in the north Georgia mountains. Recently I was again reminded how important it is to be “out” in the financial services industry and let people know that I am a lesbian and work with the LGBTQ+ community.
A widow called me after her husband had died, and she was nervous to talk about what kind of help she needed. When I asked her the question, “What non-financial worries do you have right now?” she confided in me that she was extremely nervous. She was seeking a new financial advisor. Her husband had handled all the financial decisions before his death, but now she had to understand more about their finances and only had one son in his 20s. She was nervous because her current financial advisor did not know, and she felt would not be supportive, of discussing her decision to help her transgender son with the costs of reassignment surgery. She didn’t even want to start the exchange with the advisor and be made to feel like she had to explain anything: “He would just make me feel bad,” she said. She was particularly worried about discrimination. And, then what would her son do if he had to manage things for her because she was incapacitated or after she was gone? She didn’t want to put either one of them through the pain of a dialogue with him. I felt grateful to have that type of conversation with her. Trust is essential in financial planning.
See, my clients are people in the LGBTQ+ community, but they’re also like this mother, people who love people in the LGBTQ+ community. This woman’s story shows why it’s important to create a more inclusive financial planning practice.
We, who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community have unique strengths and challenges, but we share the same kinds of struggles, hopes, and dreams as the rest of the country as well. We are your parents, siblings, children, co-workers, church members, professionals, business owners, your family members. We live all over this country in small towns, large cities, subdivisions, and rural America.
1. “National Resource Center on LGBTQ+ Aging.” SAGE.
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