The “Queer Money” podcast hosts told us how a money miscommunications kicked their financial journey into gear — and how you can do the same.
Published June 16, 2021|8 min read
It’s David Auten and John Schneider’s job to talk about money. The first time they discussed debt with each other was after they quit their corporate jobs to pursue their personal finance platform The Debt Free Guys full time. “The moment when we came out to each other about our financial situation and realized we had $51,000 in credit card debt, it was deflating,” said Schneider. Even though they were financial service professionals and saved a decent amount for retirement, they realized they had a negative net worth.
From then on, Schneider said, "We hustled to pay off our credit card debt and got crystal clear on what matters most to us. We started spending, saving and investing accordingly. I'm proud we're able to say that we have more than $1 million in investment assets right now." Now the couple provides financial advice and resources on several platforms, like a financial guide to creating a happier and healthier gay life and talking to talking about personal finance on their “Queer Money” podcast.
We spoke with Auten and Schneider about how to find a LGBTQ-friendly financial adviser and how LGBTQ couples can openly discuss money.
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Schneider: In order to build a stronger LGBTQ community than what we have today, we need to have financially secure and financially independent LGBTQ individuals and allies.
Up until recently, our community hasn't talked a lot about personal finances. In order to be able to free up our time and money to support LGBTQ causes, politicians and organizations that are pushing for our progress, we need to have more of our own money.
Auten: The Williamson Institute says that roughly 40% of LGBTQ youth are homeless, which means they're starting life off being excluded from financial education and financial support.
For a lot of LGBTQ folks, those kinds of things are just not a part of their life because they do not have a supportive family to pay for things like a cell phone plan, first car or their first apartment. Another example is same-sex couples who decide to get married and pay for it entirely. Then when it comes to retirement, they don’t have as much as much to retire on. It’s that kind of legacy financing exclusion that has a compounding effect on the LGBTQ community.
Auten: I think that the most important thing is focusing on what you need as a couple, your family and for yourself. That means getting crystal clear on where you're going to spend your money and how you're going to budget. In some cases it may mean making decisions that would go against what the general LGBTQ population would say is the cool thing to do. You may forgo brunch, a fancy vacation or stylish clothes, because you know what you want for your family in terms of long-term financial security. And that means creating a financial plan as a family.
Auten: There's a massive hole in the U.S. health care system when it comes to supporting and helping trans individuals. Oftentimes it's only in cities where there's a large trans population where you may see a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ health and medical needs. Oftentimes they're trying to serve the whole population of trans people who don't have access to a doctor who knows how to deal with their specific health care needs.
Schneider: I think one of the best resources that the LGBTQ community has is the organizations that are supporting us, such as the LGBTQ centers, [that are] even in smaller cities where you might not expect them to be. In addition to that, we do have a lot of mental health issues in our community. And one of the great things that we're seeing is the escalation in telehealth. For those individuals who feel like they're in the middle of the country, isolated from the rest of the community with nowhere to go, this is a portal into getting some of the services that they need.
Auten: I think one of the biggest mistakes that we make is that most of us don't think that financial services companies want to work with people like us. And for that reason, we don't work with financial services companies like insurance companies or investing with financial advisors. But, I'll also give us some grace for it.
We know for a fact — the data shows over and over and over again — the more people who work with financial institutions, the better they are with their money and the more likely they are to succeed financially. Our mistake is thinking that they don't want to help us and then doing those financial tasks on our own.
Schneider: There are a couple of ways you can find a financial advisor that works for you. Our top recommendation is to connect with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. There are a whole bunch of different financial service professionals, from a financial planner, to a real estate agent to an insurance agent. Everybody that's a member of the NGLCC is either LGBTQ or LGBTQ-friendly. There should be a local chapter in or near your city. The SAGE, which is an organization for elder LGBTQ people, has some resources to help you find financial services professionals as well.
Schneider: David and I talk about money all the time, but it's our job as well. I would say that at a minimum, we're talking about our personal finances and our budget on a weekly basis.
If you want to have a conversation with your partner, figure out what time works for you. Whether it is meeting every payday to discuss your finances, weekly or monthly may be more appropriate for you. These money conversations don't need to be extensive and laborious.
Sometimes our weekly meetings are only 15 minutes. We ask: Are we within our budget? Are we on track for our other goals? If we're not, how do we need to tweak it? Once you get a system in place that can be a very efficient process. At the very least we would recommend talking about your finances on a monthly basis.
Auten: I'm so proud that John and I don't feel like we need to prove ourselves to anyone else with the way we dress or the vacations we take. We do post on Instagram or Facebook but the number of followers we have doesn’t equal our self worth.
Our self worth is tied to who we are as individuals and who we are to each other as a couple. I think that’s had a direct correlation to the increase in our net assets over time.
Auten: There are no major regrets for either of us or at least for me. We may have pulled the trigger a little early in leaving our corporate jobs to start The Debt Free Guys. We struggled with our business income over the last couple of years. Some of that might be related to the fact that we could have been a little bit more prepared financially when we both had to quit our corporate careers.
Schneider: One of the things that David and I just love doing is going to a restaurant, having a glass of wine and having good quality food. We've realized that’s one of the things that we enjoy. We've been able to figure out how to work that into our calendar and social life in a way that doesn't sabotage our financial life. Whereas, I think most people don't figure that out. They see a budget as restrictive — that it tells them a million things that they're not supposed to do or that they can't do. But when you know the three or four things that really matter the most, you have more potential to earn a return of that particular investment because it’s something that really matters to you.
For us, we thoroughly enjoy having a bottle of wine at a decent restaurant. That negates the old habit of paying for designer clothing or going to all the happy hours and parties. Those things weren't necessarily providing us true and deep satisfaction. So we kept going on a hamster wheel where we kept having to chase those things for a brief moment in time. It provided this gratification. Whereas now, going out for a glass of wine would make us happy for the next few days, if not a week. We get a much better return out of that investment, but it's different for everybody — and that's why it's important to figure out what it is that matters most to you.
Auten: One of the last things that John and I splurged on was good running shoes. We love to run and walk around our neighborhood. It not only helps us with our physical health, but it really helps with my mental health. Which in turn helps me to not have the desire to spend myself into feeling better. I think that to me, spending $250 on running shoes was a nice splurge for us because it has so many other benefits to life.
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Image: Nastia Kobzarenko