Guest Writer Jamie Lowe provides insight on Queer Financial Wellbeing, and how we can all employ planning techniques to make our money work better for us.
by Jamie Lowe
I’ve heard a number of rumours about LGBTQ+ people’s spending habits. Apparently, gay couples spend more on luxuries because they have two incomes and no children. Can you imagine my eyes roll?! Although it might be true for some people, couples might decide not to have children no matter what their relationship preferences are.
The truth is that despite being part of the same community, we have a diverse range of lifestyles, and our experiences can differ greatly. The one thing that unites us is the need to break free from societal norms, as most of us were raised with the expectation of being cisgender and heterosexual. Sadly, this often means that queer individuals are accustomed to feeling uncomfortable, which is devastating. This is why I am reaching out to other queer people to discuss finances.
Here are some key factors that can influence the financial situation of queer professionals:
1. Lack of Education.
There has been a lack of teaching in schools about managing money. If you were never taught about all these areas of finances it can cause us to feel shame. Moreover, the media's primary motive is to generate revenue, which can exacerbate the confusion and leave people feeling overwhelmed. This, in turn, can have a negative impact on their mental well-being.
Despite the legalisation of same-sex marriage, queer individuals still face numerous social challenges that differ from those of cisgender heterosexual couples.
2. Property Prices and Location.
There is safety in numbers, so we tend to live in queer-friendly places like Brighton, London and Manchester. Property prices are higher than average in these areas so if we have more of our money tied up in property, we could have less disposable income to put savings aside for an emergency or as a retirement fund.
3. Career Progression & Work Culture at an Employer.
Family issues and discrimination at work can prevent us from fulfilling our career aspirations. You might not be able to go into higher education without support. Don’t get me wrong, there are Alan Sugars of the world who find a way without education but his story is powerful because he’s overcome challenges. Another way queerness can impact our careers is discrimination at work. From daily microaggressions like being spoken over, to lack of suitable healthcare policies, as well as direct discrimination linked to longer-term development opportunities and promotions. If our careers don’t progress at the same rate as non-LGBTQ+ people, we simply won’t earn as much.
I’m both queer and neurodivergent, and after a year of self-employment, I don’t think I could see myself working for someone else again because I really value the flexibility it gives me. Self-employment comes with challenges though, especially financial ones. It’s hard to manage instability if your earnings aren’t consistent, not everyone will be able to adjust their budget from month to month easily, or put money aside in good months to spend when their income isn’t as high.
If you’re starting a family, neurodivergent and/or transitioning there are a variety of reasons why you could spend money on private healthcare. This is another reason why we might not have as much disposable income as cishet people.
Solutions for Queer Professionals and Manageable Financial Health:
When we put something on the to-do list and have it sit there, looking at us and taunting us, it takes a toll. Instead, we should proactively be working through our lists, and if we need help from other people to do this, that’s fine, too.
Have you ever heard that phrase, ‘how long something takes is the amount of time you have to do it in’? You could give yourself a date to get these things done. Make it a very manageable date when you know you’re less busy.
To me, health and wealth go hand in hand. If you don’t feel in control of your finances, it can weigh heavily on your mind and affect your mental health. In 2022 40% of UK employees said that financial concerns were their biggest worry and 24% said that they worry about money every day.¹ So please take time for self-care and look after your financial well-being today and tomorrow.
Queer or not, families come in all shapes and sizes. Our legal system was built on the assumption that people are married and have children. Legal structure favors traditional family structures, consider legal options for non-traditional families.
Pay attention to bills and manage debts to avoid future consequences.. Do you know where your money is, what it’s doing for you, and are you ensuring your debts are manageable and you can look forward to a comfortable future? Can you do anything to make them better to avoid late fees or high-interest rates? Also, things like retirement planning and life insurance are things you have to proactively seek out or you can miss out on them completely.
What Can We Do To Make Our Money Work For Us?
Know what benefits you might be entitled to. Places like the Citizens Advice Bureau can help.
Do you have an emergency fund? Having some cash put aside will do wonders for your mental health. It usually makes people feel safe and independent which improves confidence. Financial experts generally recommend having 3-6 months' worth of living expenses.
Most people have pensions set up by their employers. If you're still unsure whether you can retire when you want to, you can explore options to consolidate or move your pensions to a better place.
Having your own place has pros and cons but one big advantage is that most people will have a mortgage that’s designed to be paid off before you’re retired so you don’t need to worry about paying rent when you’ve stopped working. That puts less stress on saving for retirement because you won’t have to pay rent.
Making sure you have a Will means you can be clear on who has control of your finances and other important things i.e. any dependents when you’ve gone and insurance policies have options for this too.
If you’re long-term single or choose not to share finances with your partner(s) you need to think about your independence. If you are reliant on your income, what happens if it’s not there? There are insurances that you can put in place to insure your income in case you are ill or in an accident such as income protection, accident, sickness and unemployment insurance and private medical insurance to get you back on your feet asap.
People who help with money haven’t always been the most approachable for queer people. Older cis-men in suits who traditionally work in financial advice don’t generally give off the most diversity-friendly vibes. Seek out more diverse financial advisors to help you feel more at ease and access the financial support your need.
The Importance of LGBTQ+ Inclusivity in Financial Services.
It wasn’t too long ago that a gay couple applying for a mortgage could only apply as friends, take an HIV test and give details on their personal life that their straight counterparts wouldn’t have had to. And getting life insurance would have been a similar experience.
But we’re starting to see a shift so it’s getting easier to find help. I’m happy to say that people living with HIV can get life insurance now. And I know some insurance providers are looking at how they can make applications more user-friendly for trans and non-binary people.
We’ve still got a way to go in some areas but the more we use services and are able to feedback on our experience to providers, the more we can demand change. Take advantage of the progress we've made and explore financial services that are LGBTQ+ inclusive.
Jamie Lowe (he/they)
Jamie is a financial planner providing specialist help to the LGBTQ+ community. He is on a personal mission to encourage people to take charge of their money. Find out more here.
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