David and John Auten-Schneider, hosts of the Queer Money podcast, offer their perspectives on financial challenges in the LGBTQ community
Courtesy of Capital One
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We and other personal finance experts have long talked about the financial challenges of the LGBTQ+ community. That includes access to equal housing, services protections and wage inequality because of one's sexual orientation or gender identity.

While those protections would be included in the Equality Act, legislation remains pending in Congress.

To be fair, the LGBTQ+ community has made significant progress over the last several years. The two most notable being the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling to ensure marriage equality and 2020 decision to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That progress has continued with the current administration, as President Joe Biden recently signed executive orders protecting LGBTQ people from housing and services discrimination.

The LGBTQ+ community faces a unique set of financial challenges that are preventing equal opportunity for all.

Let's break down some of the obstacles confronting members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Queer people are often expected to pay more

One LGBTQ+ financial challenge is the expectations — and misconception — that LGBTQ people can or should pay more because we don't have kids. While 15% of LGBTQ people have kids — compared to 38% of opposite-sex couples — it's not a cause for LGBTQ people having more money.

In fact, because of wage inequality for people in the LGBTQ community, having fewer opportunities for career advancement and in many cases needing the physical and emotional safety that comes with living in an LGBTQ-friendly city (many of which often have high costs of living), it's likely that your LGBTQ+ sibling or friend doesn't have as much financial security as their straight counterparts.

This is why we didn't travel for the holidays for three years while paying off credit card debt. Adding $800 to $1,000 in plane tickets to the credit cards we were working hard to pay off didn't make sense. Yet, our families never offered to come to where we lived for a holiday and foot the travel expenses.

A similar situation arises when caring for aging parents. LGBTQ folks are more likely to be asked to care for aging parents, which is backed by a 2010 MetLife study. This increases the financial burdens and restricts the savings opportunities for LGBTQ folks.


Queer people, especially gay men, struggle with the 'hysteresis effect'

There's also the lingering consequence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the LGBTQ community, specifically for gay men.

As Paul Donovan said on Queer Money® episode 252 about his book, Profit and Prejudice: The Luddites of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, that then created a hysteresis effect.

The hysteresis effect occurs when a singular event has an economic effect that lasts even after the initial event no longer exists.

Of course, we're still fighting HIV/AIDS. But we know more and have more resources to fight HIV/AIDS and it's no longer the death sentence it once was. A lingering economic effect for many LGBTQ+ people is "an unhealthy short-term view when it comes to finances," according to Donovan.

Our struggle with the hysteresis effect is one reason we got into $51,00 in credit card debt. We had a myopic view of what being successful was and spent accordingly.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

The consequences compound on the challenges above and the many LGBTQ+ financial challenges about which we and many others have written. For example, LGBTQ+ people have smaller emergency savings accounts, less in retirement savings and more in debt than the general population, according to Student Loan Hero.

How to overcome those challenges

Get clear and become committed to your life and money goals

There are a lot of emotions tied to money. We attach our self-worth and value to money. We sometimes feel guilty that we have money while we also sometimes feel guilty that we don't have enough money. If we're letting family or loved ones guilt us into paying for what we can't afford, paying more than our fair share, or risking our financial security, we likely have emotional reasons, such as the need to please, to cause that.

This is just one reason why it's important for LGBTQ+ folks to get crystal clear on what matters most to us. We must figure out what we want our lives to look like and what we want to achieve, then architect our lives to reach those goals. That includes financing. If being helpful, giving or being charitable is one of our goals, we can include that in our life and financial plans.

If we have fewer resources at hand, then being clear on the one or two things we most want to achieve in life can help us efficiently spend our money and have money left over to help the people we care about or to meet our obligations.

Let's be hopeful (and intentional) about our future

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, "the arch of the moral universe is long and bends toward justice".

There's no doubt it's bending toward justice in the LGBTQ+ community. The solution is that we must recognize that.

This means that while we live our best lives today, we must consider our long-term financial security and the lives we want to live when we're older. To be clear, living our best lives today and having financial well-being to live our best lives in the future aren't mutually exclusive.

Courtesy of Capital One's website

It's by talking with our friends and family about money, working with a Money Coach at a Capital One Café or other financial planner to recognize what matters most to us today and what we want in the future.

It's for these challenges and opportunities that we're strong advocates for LGBTQ+ financial independence and why we're proud to partner with Capital One. Though people have nuanced backgrounds, Capital One believes, as we do, that finances should work for everyone. That's why Capital One supports LGBTQ+ communities facing unique economic hardships through both products and programs supporting our needs.
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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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