Because of a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender discrimination in the workplace that was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court only a year ago, many LGBTQ Americans face unique financial challenges today, including how to best prepare for retirement.
Studies show lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals seem to be struggling more than their heterosexual counterparts when it comes to saving for the future. A UBS report on LGBT retirement planning shows the median retirement savings for same-sex couples is $66,000 versus $88,000 for heterosexual married couples.
Why the $22,000 gap? One reason could be access to financial planning professionals and participation in the stock market. A study by Prudential revealed LGBT Americans were less likely than the general population to have an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k), 403(b), 457, an individual retirement account (IRA) or individual stocks or mutual funds.
Dan Herron, a certified financial planner with Elemental Wealth Advisors, and other finance professionals who advocate for LGBTQ individuals and couples, offer these strategies and suggestions to help better prepare financially for life in retirement.
FINANCIAL PLANNING SUPPORT
With decades of wage disparities to contend with, members of the LGBTQ community have been underrepresented in the financial services sector, and historically have been less likely to use retirement accounts including 401Ks, IRAs or even protection such as life insurance.
When planning for the financial road ahead, it’s important to seek guidance from a professional. There are now a number of firms and individual financial advisors who specialize in supporting the LGBTQ community. If friends or colleagues don’t have suggestions, visit letsmakeaplan.org and search a database of Certified Financial Planners to find an LGBTQ advisor or ally. Other LGBTQ-friendly financial planning resources to consider: the XY Planning Network and SAGECents. Businesses including MassMutual and PrudentialFinancial also have been recognized for supporting LGBTQ Americans.
Members of the LGBTQ community have been historically underpaid, and typically earn less than their heterosexual counterparts across a variety of age groups. While new laws will ultimately help eliminate the disparity, they won’t replace years of lost income that could have been earning interest in a retirement account.
To begin boosting your earnings now, consider starting a side hustle such as a part-time job on nights or weekends, or something you can do in addition to your other full-time work. This can help you save more money (thanks to increased cash flow), and it will also allow you to save more now.
With a successful side gig, you should be able to take advantage of an IRA or solo 401K which will help you save more for retirement based on your extra income.
CONSIDER CHANGING JOBS
Thanks to a global health pandemic, a surge in personal savings and pent-up spending, the job market is hot right now for those seeking new opportunities and higher wages. Generally speaking, one of the quickest ways to earn more is to change jobs. Research shows that people who get a new job — across most industries — typically make an average of 5% more than they did with their previous employer. It’s a good idea to stick with your current career until you land the new, higher paying gig.
Before taking the leap, research the companies you would consider working for and see how they present themselves through official websites and social media accounts. Do they include inclusive language and images? What about a diversity statement? What organizations does the business support?
CATCH UP STARTING AT 50
If you are age 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000 to a traditional or Roth IRA and an additional $6,500 to a 401k or similar retirement plan each year. When it comes to many 403(B) plans, you could be eligible for the 15-year catch up rule. If you have 15 years of work experience with the same employer, you could be eligible to contribute an additional $3,000. This rule is in addition to the age 50 catch up, but there are some rules for applying both. The IRS offers a great explanation on this at www.irs.gov
LONG TERM CARE OPTIONS
Because LGBTQ individuals and couples have been the victims of discrimination at assisted living and senior care facilities, Herron suggests locating LGBTQ-friendly assisted living centers years before you think you might need one. Continuing care retirement communities could also be considered as they provide care throughout your later years. They can also be expensive, so you’ll need to weigh the perks of being in a community versus the cost.
With reporting by Casandra Andrews