LGBTQI+ people have unique financial needs but aren’t consistently recognized by financial professionals, who may be unaware of the systemic and individual challenges these clients face. Brian Thompson of Brian Thompson Financial, who we interviewed for Grow, shared that 1 in 3 LGBTQI+ people and 3 in 5 transgender people reported experiencing discrimination last year.
LGBTQI+ people may want financial planning for specific issues, like saving for a gender-affirming medical procedure or building a financial cushion to leave a toxic job. Yet when LGBTQI+ people fear discrimination due to bad past experiences, they’re more likely to hide aspects of their lives from acquaintances, colleagues, and, yes, the very financial advisor who is helping them plan.
Given the lack of qualified LGBTQI+ financial advisors, cisgender, heterosexual financial advisors have a valuable role in offering services to this community. Yet to truly serve LGBTQI+ financial wellness requires a thorough understanding of their needs and concerns and a dedicated commitment to inclusion, allyship, and advocacy. Here are three ways to make your financial advisor practice inclusive for LGBTQI+ clients.
If you want to serve this underserved community, the first step is in showing LGBTQI+ clients they are welcome.
Does your website only feature images of straight couples or gender-conforming individuals? If so, LGBTQI+ people may assume you do not serve them. However, changing website imagery to be more inclusive can signal that you are an ally these clients can trust.
If you blog, podcast, or write newsletters to market your services, consider making these materials inclusive. Speaking about how an issue impacts queer people demonstrates that you have experience assisting with LGBTQI+ financial needs, builds trust, and adds value.
While you may refer to straight married couples using labels like husband and wife, LGBTQI+ couples may be uncomfortable with this language. Neutral terms such as partner and spouse are more affirming. The same goes for gender. Leave space for clients to tell you their pronouns rather than defaulting to binary gender pronouns, which is invalidating.
Understand Where They’re Coming From
Assuming that LGBTQI+ people have the same needs as their straight peers is a mistake. Instead, serving this demographic requires an appreciation of the ways their life experiences may differ from heterosexual, cisgender clients when it comes to earning and saving money.
Many LGBTQI+ people experience higher rates of financial insecurity and poverty and are paid less than their straight peers. As a result, your queer clients may seem “behind” when it comes to funding retirement accounts or building emergency funds. By taking into account these systemic barriers to equality and financial wellness, you can create a safe space for LGBTQI+ clients to open up about their concerns, desires, and goals. You can help them plan for brighter futures.
Despite advancements in LGBTQ rights, in 2018, HRC reported that 46 percent of LGBTQI+ people are closeted on the job. Over half of survey respondents reported witnessing homophobic remarks. Three-quarters of transgender people have experienced workplace discrimination. For LGBTQI+ clients, work is about much more than money. It’s about the right to stop hiding who they are. Clients may be reluctant to move for a job if it means leaving a city with a thriving queer community. Others may stay at jobs where they feel safe, even if moving on could be financially beneficial. When you’re aware of LGBTQI+ employment barriers, you can be sensitive to discussions of earning and saving money.
Don’t forget about the emotional side of financial planning. Like everyone, LGBTQI+ clients hold attitudes and beliefs around money that can limit their perspective. Thompson recommends the Klontz Money Script as a tool that financial advisors can use to identify negative scripts and patterns that hold queer clients back from financial wellness.
While there tend to be commonalities among the LGBTQI+ financial experience, every client has their own personal journey. Your job is to understand the factors affecting LGBTQI+ clients and how their identity may impact their financial goals—and then treat them as the individual they are. By remaining open and asking questions, you can learn your LGBTQI+ client’s needs and values and how best to help them.
Know What Matters Most
The traditional milestones of life–stable career, marriage, buying a home, and having kids–were out of reach for LGBTQI+ clients until six years ago, when marriage rights were granted at the federal level. Marci Bair, a financial advisor who works with LGBTQI+ clients, recalls a time when married same-sex couples needed to file separate tax returns or travel with advanced health directives in case of an accident.
While marriage equality simplified LGBTQI+ financial planning, there are still significant areas of difference to know. For example, by planning for a gender affirmation surgery or LGBTQI+ family, you can help clients accomplish significant personal milestones.
Since not all health care plans cover gender-affirming care, transgender clients may turn to credit cards or personal loans. They may be motivated to stay in toxic jobs so as not to lose employer-sponsored health insurance. They may face dysphoria when applying for life insurance since premiums are set using binary genders. In understanding the nuances of trans-affirming health care and life insurance, you can guide clients through the financial aspects of these decisions.
When it comes to having kids, LGBTQI+ couples have options. There's adoption, surrogacy, fostering, and third-party reproduction. Some insurers cover procedures like IVF but not others. Financial advisors can help clients estimate and budget for the steep costs of creating a family when you're LGBTQI+, which can run from $100,000 to $150,000 or greater.
You’ll need to establish trust if you want to help LGBTQI+ clients plan for deeply personal issues like these. You’ll also need deep knowledge of these issues from a financial perspective so do your homework to understand the financial ramifications of things like second-parent adoption or gender affirmation surgery.
True inclusion of the LGBTQI+ community extends beyond Pride Month promises. It means treating these clients with empathy while understanding their unique perspectives and the systemic barriers to wealth. Only then can you help LGBTQI+ people build wealth, protect their families, and plan for their futures.