Five financial planning tips for LGBTQ+ couples
Sometimes the hardest commitment couples make is to join their finances. After all, money matters encompass a host of sensitive personal issues including values, goals and priorities, which is why it’s vital to be on the same page as your partner.
Many LGBTQ+ couples find themselves with an even more complex web as they navigate finances unique to their situation. One survey found that only 43% of LGBTQ+ people were optimistic about their financial futures, compared with 52% of their straight counterparts. And, one-quarter of LGBTQ+ respondents agreed their sexual orientation or gender identity had impacted their personal finances, compared with just 14% of heterosexual people.1
So while in most ways your finances will look the same as heterosexual couples, there are some differences to navigate. Here are five steps to take to get on the right financial road:
1. Create a new joint budget
Your values and goals come to the surface when you’re making a budget. While it can be delightful to dream with your partner, a budget also includes confronting past habits and feelings of autonomy. After all, before tying the knot you were free to allocate your money as you pleased and may have developed habits that need to be reconciled.
For the LGBTQ+ population that means overindulging in categories such as dining out and travel (when it’s safe), with nearly 50% of 25 to 34 year-olds admitting they have “bad spending habits,” according to an Experian study, frequently offering those as examples.2
Making a budget offers a clean slate, especially if you view it as empowering rather than punitive. A budget calculator can help you with this mindset shift; Voya's budget calculator uses the “50/30/20” approach, which calls for allocating:
- 50% of your income to “needs” (housing, utilities, groceries, debt payment)
- 30% to “wants” (clothing, entertainment, travel)
- 20% to savings
Instead of focusing on what you can’t spend, this approach illuminates how much you can spend by building in anticipated splurges. Many couples decide to further divide that 30% of “wants” into an amount they will use jointly and then funds for each partner to use at their discretion, so it doesn't feel as though you're asking permission every time you consider a purchase.
2. Set shared goals and save for them
As part of the budgeting exercise, talk through your dreams and plans so you can decide what you are working toward, such as:
Owning a home
Ready to set down roots? According to NAR research, LGBTQ+ homeownership continues to lag behind the national average, and while there are no definitive reasons why, it could be because some couples worry they will face discrimination.3 That means they may need to set their sights on certain – potentially more expensive – neighborhoods. In fact, 94% of respondents to the 14th LGBTQ Community Survey from San Francisco-based Community Marketing who live in urban areas say they find the environment in which they live to be LGBTQ+-friendly, compared to just 45% of those who live in smaller towns and rural areas.4
Setting aside money for a down payment can put you in the savings habit so you are a step ahead when you decide to jump into homeownership.
The Family Equality LGBTQ Family Building Survey finds that 63% of LGBTQ+ people ages 18 to 35 are considering expanding their families.5 And while kids are expensive for everyone, parenthood can be particularly costly for LGBTQ+ couples when you account for what you’ll spend going through adoption or seeking medical intervention.
As you create your parent-to-be budget, don’t forget to research and build in the legal costs associated with obtaining the proper paperwork to ensure both partners are legal parents, in addition to the reproductive treatments.
3. Prioritize retirement savings
If you want your golden years to be comfortable, it’s imperative to start saving now so your money has more time to potentially grow. Only 20% of the LGBTQ+ population indicate that they can rely on family or friends for financial support after coming out.6 In the Experian study 44% of LGBTQ respondents said they struggle to maintain adequate savings, compared with 38% of the general population, and they ranked saving for retirement as their top financial concern.7
LGBTQ+ couples may face two other additional hurdles related to retirement funds. First, many women in same-sex couples may face a double income gap given that men typically out-earn women. And, couples who choose not to have children may need to shoulder extra costs in retirement since many adult children otherwise assume caregiving duties.
4. Confirm your legal documents are in order
With laws frequently changing – or potentially at risk of changing – it's vital to make sure paperwork is legally correct so your wishes are known. Sitting down with an attorney can be a smart step for peace of mind that your marriage license, power of attorney and other relevant forms are properly documented and stored safely.
You should also take a look at any wills or trusts, insurance and retirement savings accounts, and any other key documents to double-check they have been updated with the correct beneficiary.
5. Research investment decisions that align with your values
Company ethics have earned a place in the spotlight as reasonable investment criteria, thanks to the advent of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing. You can do your own research on funds and companies to see if they reflect your beliefs, or consider consulting an advisor. While just 22% of LGBTQ+ Americans say they have used financial planning services, a third-party consultant can help you set goals and objectives in all the areas covered here and create a roadmap to achieve them.8
Saving for the future is important to make sure your loved ones are taken care of. Want to know more? Visit voya.com/voyalearn for live and on-demand videos to help you plan for the future you and your partner want to achieve.
1 MarketWatch (February 27, 2019). LGBTQ people have a worse financial outlook than their straight counterparts. Retrieved from: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/lgbtq-people-have-a-worse-financial-ou...
2 experian (June 18, 2018). LGBTQ Money Survey: Attitudes, Challenges, and Opportunities. Retrieved from: https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/lgbtq-money-survey-attitudes...
3 National Association of Realtors (June 9, 2020). LGBTQ Homeownership: There's More Work to Do. Retrieved from: https://magazine.realtor/dailynews/2020/06/09/lgbtq-homeownership-theres...
4 CMI (June 2020). 14th Annual LGBTQ Community Survey®. Retrieved from: https://www.cmi.info/documents/temp/
5 Family Equality (2019) LGBTQ Family Building Survey. Retrieved from:https://www.familyequality.org/resources/lgbtq-family-building-survey/
6 WNYC Studios (February 24, 2019). Queer Money Matters. Retrieved from:https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/nancy/episodes/queer-money-matters
7 experian (June 18, 2018). LGBTQ Money Survey: Attitudes, Challenges, and Opportunities. Retrieved from: https://www.experian.com/blo gs/ask-experian/
lgbtq-money-survey-attitudes-challenges-and-opportunities/8 CMI (June 2020). 14th Annual LGBTQ Community Survey®. Retrieved from: https://www.cmi.info/documents/temp/CMI-14th_LGBTQ_Community_Survey_US_P...
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