In recent years, we’ve seen great strides for equality for the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S. But even with increased workplace protections and the legalization of same-sex marriages, LGBTQ+ couples still face several unique financial challenges and considerations. If you identify as LGBTQ+, by recognizing and planning for these difficulties, you can set yourself and your family up for a stronger financial future.
Preparing for “I do” (or “I don’t)
While more than half of same-sex cohabiting couples are legally married, a significant percentage have chosen to remain unmarried. Regardless of whether you choose to get legally married or not, it’s important to understand the financial benefits and protections legal marriage provides, including:
- Social Security benefits: Married couples are guaranteed spousal and survivor benefits.
- Health insurance: Spouses are often eligible to receive coverage from their spouse’s employee health plan.
- Retirement accounts: Employer-sponsored plans, like a 401(k), automatically add legal spouses as the beneficiary (unless otherwise designated). Spouses who inherit a retirement account and roll it into their own IRA can defer distributions until 72, while non-spouses are typically required to withdraw the full amount within 10 years.
Being legally married can also afford LGTBQ+ couples military benefits and protections from gift and estate taxes.
While estate planning is important for everyone, LGTBQ+ couples who choose not to get legally married should ensure all of their documents are in order should an emergency occur. That’s because non-married couples will not receive “next-of-kin” status for their partners, meaning they won’t be allowed to make decisions for the other in the event of a medical emergency without a medical directive (AKA a Living Will or medical power of attorney). If partners aren’t legally married, they will also need to provide written consent to list each other as beneficiaries for retirement accounts. Similarly, unmarried couples who want to leave assets to their partner should ensure this is specified in their Will as it may not be automatically assumed or consider establishing a trust.
Planning for the fam’
No matter the parent’s relationship, gender identity or sexual orientation, there’s no denying that children are expensive for any family. It’s estimated the cost of raising one child to age 18 is around $230,000 — though that number tends to rise significantly for same-sex couples depending on their chosen method to pursue parenthood. For example, adoption, artificial insemination and surrogacy can cost anywhere from about $10,000 to upwards of $150,000. Less costly methods families might consider include fostering-to-adopt or working with a sperm donor or intrauterine insemination, all of which may be possible for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Many LGBTQ+ families also have to factor in legal costs when family planning, as often times one or both of the parents may not be a biological parent to the child. In this case, seeking to establish legal parentage through adoption can typically add anywhere from $100 to $3,000.
The earlier couples can begin saving for their future families, the better. And using interest-earning savings products, like an Online Savings Account or High-Yield CD from Ally Bank, can help families reach their goals faster.
Related: Budgeting for Baby for New Parents
Growing into those golden years together
Marriage equality was a major step for the LGBTQ+ community, but discrimination and disparities are still highly apparent. Studies show that LGBTQ+ individuals continue to earn less than hetero workers, a wage gap some call the “Gay Pay Gap” — male LGBTQ+ individuals earn about $0.96 and LGBTQ+ females earn about $0.92 to a straight male’s $1. These imbalances are exacerbated when looking at LGBTQ+ couples.
These salary discrepancies factor into retirement planning and saving: The median retirement savings for same-sex couples is $66,000 compared to $88,000 for straight married couples.
For LGBTQ+ couples, saving and investing early and often for retirement is essential, whether through an employer-sponsored 401(k) or an individual retirement account (IRA) or both. Doing so means you’re able to take greater advantage of the effects of compound interest — a financial phenomenon that knows no gender or orientation bounds and is one of keys to building long-term wealth.
Working with a financial planner can also be a smart way for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples to navigate and prepare for the unique challenges or circumstances you might face. When seeking a wealth management professional, someone who specializes in finance for or is a part of the LGBTQ+ community can be especially effective in ensuring you feel represented and understood.
Financial planning with pride
Prepping for and maneuvering through life’s biggest moments isn’t always easy, and those in the LGBTQ+ community often face increased obstacles and considerations. The earlier you can begin to save and invest for your objectives, and with an LGBTQ+ friendly advisor or bank by your side, you can feel confident you aren’t alone in reaching your goals.