Know Your Worth: Personal Finances for the LGBTQIA Community

Did you know that the purchasing power of the LGBTQIA community is almost $1 trillion? Yet at the same time, there are a lot of financial challenges that people in these communities face.

“We often tell people that the fundamentals of money aren’t different for queer people but the nuances and concerns are unique,” says John Schneider, who blogs with his husband David Auten at Debt Free Guys.

“This means that, to the extent that we can, queer people must be more vigilant with our money management, avoid debt as much as possible, diversify income streams, work harder, save and invest more.”

Here at Chime, we’d like to celebrate Pride Month by featuring some of the financial challenges facing the queer community. On that note, we’ve compiled specific steps queer people can take to improve their finances. Take a look:

Start a side hustle

As crazy as it sounds, it’s still legal to fire someone on the basis of their sexual orientation in 28 states. Trans people can even be fired legally on the basis of their gender in 30 states. Even worse, three states (Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina) have gone in the complete opposite direction and passed laws banning local anti-discrimination laws from being passed.

While we can work to pressure politicians to change laws, Schneider and Auten also suggest supporting groups like Out Leadership, which promotes LQBT+ people at higher echelons of the private sector. In the meantime, queer people can help buffer themselves against possible job loss (and earn more income) by starting up side hustles.

Start college planning early

“Many queer/gender-non-conforming youth are kicked out of their parents’ house or have to go no-contact with parents that don’t approve of their sexuality or gender expression,” says Lillian Karabaic from the Oh My Dollar podcast/radio show.

“Unfortunately, this means that they often can’t get access to their parents’ income information for the FAFSA,” says Karabaic.

And, because this information is required in order for almost all college students under the age of 24 to receive financial aid or scholarships, many queer young adults end up with substantial student loan debt. In fact, according to a 2018 survey, queer college students graduated with $16,000 more in student loan debt than non-queer people.

What to do? There’s no easy answer but for starters, it’s a good idea for queer people to begin planning for college early.

Learn about healthcare options

We all know that queer people are often systematically discriminated against at their jobs. It turns out that this can come back to haunt you when it comes to healthcare.

“Many same-sex married couples (like many straight couples) rely on one partner’s employer health insurance benefits to cover the other partner and any children,” says Karabaic.

“Unfortunately, this requires folks to disclose their spouse’s gender to their employer, which can result in them getting fired,” she says.

That’s why it’s a good idea for queer people to learn about all the alternatives available to them, such as the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, or community-based support programs.

Make saving for retirement a priority

Most queer people won’t deny that saving for retirement is a priority, according to a 2017 survey. However, for a variety of reasons, it’s harder for most queer people to save as much as the general population.

On average, 40% of the general population has an employer-sponsored retirement account, compared to 35% for LGBT+ people. And, 30% of the general population also has an IRA, while only 18% of LGBT+ people do.

Another factor to consider is that LGBT+ people are more likely to rank themselves as “spenders” rather than “savers” — a factor that comes from data which shows that queer people save 5% less on average than the general population.

Retirement is one of the most difficult things to save for. But if you can prioritize savings and find ways to reach your goals, you can cross retirement worries off of your list.

Financial education is key

Just because someone identifies as queer doesn’t mean she or he will face the same financial challenges as another queer person.

For example, according to one 2009 study, 21% of African-American lesbian couples live in poverty. But if you’re a white lesbian couple? That number drops to just 4%. The bottom line: all queer people face unfair financial challenges in some way or another.

So, if you’re a queer person, you can take action by educating yourself on the particular challenges of your situation and learning how you can counteract it. And, if you’re a straight person, you can help the queer community by listening to what they have to say, supporting political change, and acting as advocates on their behalf. After all, we’re all in this together. By lifting each other up we can all achieve our financial goals, whatever they may be.

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