How to Choose an LGBTQ-Inclusive Financial Professional
For LGBTQ people, it's important we entrust our money to someone who understands the legal complexities of nontraditional families. Here are steps you can take to protect yourself when choosing an accountant, financial planner, estate lawyer, and more.
You've worked really hard to save money, forgoing that beach getaway or those extra nights out-and now you are ready to talk to someone about how to start investing your precious dollars for a more financially secure future. Or maybe you are expanding your family, getting married (or choosing not to), having children or buying a home. Or, it may be that you are further down the road on your life journey and are thinking about estate planning to protect your family for the longer-term, or for advice on how to more thoughtfully invest your money.
All of these scenarios point to the need for a financial advisor, a personal accountant, a financial planner, and/or an estate lawyer. Finding a trustworthy advisor to work with requires a certain level of research and fact-finding. For LGBTQ folks like me, that work gets ever more complicated both by the unique legal or financial circumstances you might be facing, as well as the pool of professionals you can choose from.
It's important to find a financial planner who is LGBTQ-supportive, so that you can feel safe sharing your personal and sensitive information. Someone who is LGBTQ-affirming and informed is more likely to understand the nuances of your situation and will be best equipped to help you make sound decisions about your finances and future.
So, how do you go about finding an LGBTQ-friendly financial professional?
It starts with knowing your needs
In order to identify the right financial advisor, first assess what your specific needs are. If you are LGBTQ, it may be that you have unique circumstances that are distinct from the majority. Two-female-headed households, for instance, are on average less likely to pull as much income as different-sex households or two-male-headed households, according to Statista. Those who are transgender are three times more likely than the general population to have a low household income, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. The need to start to plan your financial future may beckon earlier for those of us who are LGBTQ, or we may not be in a position to be thinking about retirement planning until later than most.
And when it comes to marriage and children, LGBTQ families face a whole new level of patchwork legal and financial complexities that require particular expertise. The need for financial and legal professionals who are trained in the nuances that LGBTQ families face becomes even more significant.
"Raising children is a life changer regardless of sexual orientation," says David Rae, a gay financial planner in Palm Springs and Los Angeles and president of DRM Wealth Management, an LGBTQ-owned firm. "Many in the LGBTQ community have children later in life, and have to go through a more complicated process to have a family. Whether adoption or surrogacy, the upfront cost to start a family can be staggering. For LGBTQ Americans looking to start a family be more aggressive early with saving for retirement to help free up cash later to start and raise your family," he explains.
Thinking ahead to what your future needs might be and working with a financial planner to work towards those goals take on a different dimension when you are LGBTQ, and the right advisor can help.
Look for the signs
The best way to identify which financial or legal advisors are LGBTQ-friendly are to look for the signs, literally.
"Most financial advisors and planners who specialize in working with the LGBTQ community clearly display this information on their website and other online profiles," says Stephanie Sammons, a Dallas-based certified financial planner.
Sammons recommends websites such as XYPlanningNetwork.com, NAPFA.org, and FeeOnlyNetwork.com as good places to start to find LGBTQ-affirming financial advisors. LGBTQ-specific organizations like the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the National LGBT Bar Association also offer legal resources including databases of contacts all around the country.
"You can also search the Certified Financial Planner site at letsmakeaplan.com. If you search areas of focus LGBTQ, you will see a listing of the advisors who are at least LGBTQ-friendly," adds Rae.
Know the risks of not doing your homework
While it's true that you don't necessarily need to seek out a specific LGBTQ-identified or affirming professional to help you sort out your finances in order to get good service, the risks may outweigh the rewards.
"I don't think I will shock anyone reading this, but homophobia is still rampant in this country," says Rae. "There is also a large gap financially by gender. Dealing with life and finances is stressful enough; there is no reason that the financial planning process should be any more painful than it has to be," especially for already vulnerable LGBTQ folks.
Another part of the vetting process-beyond doing online research and asking friends or trusted groups for leads on a financial or legal advisor-is that "gut check" when you meet with them. Do you feel comfortable? Do they seem nervous, skirting overt acknowledgement of you or your family dynamic? Chances are, if your gut tells you this isn't the right fit, you are probably right. It's also OK to ask that direct question: "Have you worked with LGBTQ people or families before?" Their response should guide your decision to move forward or not.
In addition to the peace of mind in knowing that your private information and life savings are in trusted hands, working with someone who is LGBTQ-supportive is just going to be a better experience for you.
Plus, "working with someone who truly understands your interest, goals, and needs can help make financial planning a lot more fun," Rae adds. And who doesn't want to put a little fun into money management?