If you identify as queer, I bet $100 that I could guess if you are a spender or a saver. Luck wouldn’t be on my side, but rather statistics: According to Prudential’s 2016-2017 LGBT Financial Experience research report, more than 48 percent of the queer community identify as "spenders," as compared to only 32 percent of the general population.
On the surface, the queer community looks lucky. A deeper dive into our spending and savings shows our lack of savings puts us in an unlucky position. Consider these statistics:
The purchasing power of the queer community is close to $1 trillion
Same-sex couples on average earn at least $7,200 more than our straight peers
Only about 20 percent of same-sex couples have children
The cost to raise a child from birth to the age of 18, not including college, is about $245,000
Despite our higher incomes, strong purchasing power, and fewer long-term financial obligations, the most recent data show we only have about $6,000 more in savings compared to our straight peers. Contrary to our top two stated goals of financial independence and saving for retirement, we’re handicapping ourselves. Our median household consumer debt is $28,000 and our top three consumer expenses are dining out, entertainment, and travel.
While it seems we’re winning financially compared to the general population, the stakes for us are unique relative to the general population. On the ranking of consumer expenses, charity comes in at number six for queer people, after pet care, clothing, and fitness. Our unique concerns require that queer people save more than we spend.
Equality needs queer savers
Many people in the queer community are concerned about how the Trump administration will affect us, our lives and our families. Will President Trump reduce or roll back protections for queer people? Will Trump’s presidency embolden state and federal agencies to make life more difficult for us?
We don’t yet know the effects of the new administration on the queer community. There is contradictory information that suggests the Trump administration will help, hinder or do nothing for us. We can’t afford to gamble with this ambiguity.
Queer spenders need to become queer savers.
A pillar of a strong queer community is financially strong queer individuals. Financial strength will give us both the money and time needed to continue our fight for equality. We must continue to fund the organizations and causes that are working for equality. We must continue to donate our time and presence for our civil rights.
We can’t afford to gamble with debt or financial insecurity. We can’t be distracted by student loans or mortgages for the sake of our financial independence and civil rights. The financially stronger we are as individuals, the stronger we are as a community and the better equipped we are to continue our fight for equality.
Existing state-level risks require queer savers
Even though same-sex marriage became legal in June 2015, full and complete equality for the queer community has not yet been achieved. Many laws at state levels use outdated language and rely on old precedence. An example includes Florida’s birth certificate law that prohibits two parents of the same gender from being listed on the same birth certificate. Many state-level laws still discriminate against queer people, such as preventing trans people from officially using the gender with which they identify.
Twenty-eight states still lack non-discrimination employment protections for gay and lesbian people. Only 14 of those states include protections for trans people. This means that while we can legally marry in all 50 states, we can be fired in 28 states without recourse for putting pictures of our spouses on our desks.
Because of these risks, it’s important that we become queer savers and adequately fund emergency savings accounts. The traditional guideline is to save between three to six months’ worth of living expenses in such accounts. Queer people who live in states that lack protections should save at least that amount.
Long-term care for queer savers
Long-term care (LTC) is one of the more complex components of medical care because it requires the help of medical professionals and LTC is as diverse as sexual orientation. LTC can include help at home with basic needs, such as cooking, eating, and cleaning. LTC can be retirement villages that handle manual labor or assisted living that provides physical assistance for needs such as feeding and bathing.
Even today, many queer people must leave home when they’re younger. Forty percent of homeless youth identify as queer. Until recently, many of us didn’t have opportunities to create family structures that included spouses, children, and grandchildren. Thus, many of us must rely on our own selves and our own money as we age. Because the average annual cost for a basic nursing home is $80,000, we may quickly lose our autonomy if we lose our health.
While the Equality Act is still making its way through Congress, many long-term care facilities don’t currently have sexual orientation and gender identity protections. Many facilities don’t provide adequate training on how to care for queer individuals and couples. This means many queer people go back in the closet or risk discrimination and abuse.
This limits the number of facilities to which queer people can go for LTC. Facilities that embrace queer elders are often more expensive than basic nursing homes. With insufficient finances, insurance, or family support, decisions on how we're taken care of may be left to the state or a guardian assigned to our care.
For these reasons, queer people need adequate retirement savings. We need adequate long-term care and life insurance. We must establish durable power of attorneys and living wills. These precautions will increase our odds of living out our final years as ourselves and on our terms.
It’s imperative that the queer community not gamble with our higher-than-average annual incomes. We must use more of our disposable incomes to continue our fight for equality and to protect ourselves until equality is achieved. Therefore, we must stop gambling with our money and our future and become queer savers.