How Personal Finance Differs for the LGBTQ+ Community, w/ John and David Auten-Schneider
Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.
According to a Prudential Financial study, 50% of LGBTQ+ people only have one banking product, while 66% of non-LGBTQ+ folks have at least two banking products. This statistic indicates a disparity with how the queer community engages with financial products, and it forms the topic of this week’s episode.
Through their writing and speaking for DebtFreeGuys.com, their microblog, DebtLasso.com, and The Queer Money® podcast, David Auten and John Schneider help queer people live fabulously and not fabulously broke. David and John’s work has appeared in Forbes, Yahoo Finance, CNBC, ABC News, and Good Morning America, to name a few.
Their goal is to connect LGBTQ+ people with the information and services they need so they and the queer community can do more and be more. They join me this week to discuss the various challenges LGBTQ+ people face in the workplace and their personal finances.
We kick off our conversation discussing the reality for many LGBTQ+ people in the workplace. David and John point out that while the corporate world has become much more welcoming of the queer community, LGBTQ+ people remain far less likely to strive for leadership or executive-level positions. Part of that may have to do with a fear of being open about areas of their personal life they are not comfortable discussing due to past experiences.
From there, we dig into some of the financial disparities faced by members of the queer community, which is concentrated mostly in large urban centres with a high cost of living. According to David and John, this fact alone contributes to the economic challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals and couples alike.
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- How marriage equality impacted John and David
- Understanding the workplace protections for LGBTQ+ people
- LGBTQ+ people are still not seeking higher positions in the corporate world
- Most, but not all, personal finance works the same for everyone across the board
- 50% of LGBTQ+ people only have one banking product
- There is a disparity with how LGBTQ+ deals with financial products
- Financial services advertising is trying to connect with the LGBTQ+ community
- In the US, the purchasing power of the LGBTQ+ community is over 1 trillion dollars
- The economics of having children as an LGBTQ+ person
According to a study by Prudential Financial, 50 percent of LGBTQ people have only one banking product, while 66 percent of non LGBTQ folks have at least two banking products. This statistic indicates a disparity with how the queer community engages with financial products. And it forms the topic of this week’s episode. With their writing and speaking for debtfreeguys.com their microblog debtlasso.com and the Queer Money podcast, David Auten and John Schneider help queer people live fabulously and not fabulously broke. David and John’s work has appeared in Forbes, Yahoo! Finance, CNBC, ABC News and Good Morning America, to name a few. Their goal is to connect LGBTQ people with the information and services they need so they and the queer community can do more and be more. They join me this week to discuss the various challenges LGBTQ people face in the workplace and in their personal finances.
Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. This episode of the Maple Money Show is brought to you by Willful. Did you know that 57 percent of Canadian adults don’t have a will? Willful has made it more affordable, convenient and easy for Canadians to create a legal will and power of attorney documents online from the comfort of home. In less than 20 minutes and for a fraction of the price of visiting a lawyer, you can gain peace of mind knowing you have a plan in place to protect your children, pets and loved ones in the event of an emergency. Get started for free at maplemoney.com/willful and use the promo code Maple Money to save 15 percent. Now, let’s chat with John and David…
Tom: Hi, David and John, welcome to Maple Money Show.
David: Hey, there.
John: Hi. Thanks for having us. Were excited to be here.
Tom: The reason I wanted to have you on is because you have a lot more personal experience than I have on this topic. What I want to talk about is LGBTQ and how that affects finances. Obviously, this is something I can’t speak to, but I do want to make sure we cover the topic and point out how there can be differences. We’ve had past episodes on how things can be different for females compared to men so this may be a similar vein to that but I definitely want to walk through your experiences.
David: First of all, thank you for doing that. I think that the more we know about people who are different than us, the more we can understand why people do the things they do and make the decisions they make. It helps us understand more on how to be humane to each other. I think it personalizes everyone, so thank you for doing that. We appreciate it because there are a lot of folks in the personal finance community (and outside of the personal finance community) who don’t care or just don’t want to focus on this or talk about it at all.
Tom: Well, thanks for saying that. I do care about sharing it but don’t know a lot so you’re going to have to educate me here. First thing I wanted to point out is that you guys are from the US and here in Canada we were ahead of you in bringing out rights. It was 2005 that we recognized marriage equality and with that came all sorts of protections. I know you guys have that now, but even going back to when you didn’t, what did that feel like then? Maybe weren’t looking to get married yet, I don’t know. But what did it feel like being told you can’t?
John: You know, I never really thought about what it felt like to be told that we couldn’t get married because that was just always the case. We were often told in the United States was that a marriage between a man and a woman is the traditional definition of a marriage and having same sex couples get married would break the sanctity of marriage. We were very aware of the hypocrisy of that. How to Marry a Millionaire was a dating show here in the United States where you got married to a millionaire on the show, having just met them. All sorts of celebrities were getting married one weekend and then getting divorced the next weekend. We would just see a lot of hypocrisy but I don’t think we weren’t necessarily disenfranchised by it. I will say that when we started to have the debate in the United States, some states started actually allowing marriage equality but there wasn’t much security. You could move to one state to get married but if you moved out of that state, your marriage wouldn’t be recognized. There was all sorts of confusion. When it finally became legal across the land in June of 2015, I will say, I was surprised. I think David and I were up until one o’clock that night watching the news, just stunned. But when it finally happened, I think we were emotional about it because it was the first time we sort of acknowledged this actually did actually matter to us, maybe more than we had thought about previously. I was always thinking that it was never an option for us so having it recognized and legalized was an emotional experience. And finally having that equality is obviously a good thing.
David: And I would say, to a certain degree, it’s similar to fighting for something you really want in your life and finally seeing it happen. And let’s say, just for example, that you had been desperately trying to get your health in order or trying to lose weight. Maybe you were an extremely obese person and you finally hit your goal weight. There is just this relief and excitement that happens. I think about people who cross the finish line of a marathon who literally break down and start crying because of the emotional that comes with achieving something like that. For us, the legacy of knowing that this is just not something that’s going to ever happen for our community because of the mentality or the thought process of what was going on in the United States, I think it did come as a shock. It’s kind of like when somebody says, “You know what? You are good enough,” and we can say, “Oh, yeah… I am!” That’s kind of how a lot of folks felt. There are enough people in the United States who actually believe that we are equal. And that was kind of a relief.
Tom: Now, I don’t want to go too far down the American path being we are a Canadian show, but one thought I had was did that change anything taxwise? Now that you can be in a recognized marriage, did that come with it tax benefits? Without getting too much into the American taxes, it did come along with it I assume.
David: Yeah, actually, that was part of the foundation of the case that was built for the Supreme Court. It was the case of a lesbian couple who were together for over 50 years. One of the partners passed away. When that individual passed away, all of the tax laws around what happens when two people own something and they are not married versus two people who own something and are married, they built a case that this woman was defrauded out of over $700,000 of taxes because her partner was not able to transfer those assets to her as a spouse when she passed away. So that was one of the foundational pieces there. What’s interesting in the US, there are over a thousand laws written into the federal code that speak to the benefits of a man and a woman and the tax benefits for that. Now those are slowly being rewritten to be gender-neutral and those laws are being applied to same-sex couples. It is kind of a whole learning process for us. John and I have covered several of those topics on our Queer Money podcast, partly because we need to learn about it, but also because there’s just this massive amount of information out there for us to understand.
Tom: Again, with the States, there’s a right to work issue when it comes to careers. In Canada, we have protection for sexual orientation and gender identity. But having laws is one thing but you still could have someone discriminating against you so I wouldn’t say we’re 100 percent there because that’s still a possibility. Working through a corporate ladder career, I assume this can be a problem depending on who your boss is?
John: Yeah, for sure. So the Supreme Court of the United States just codified the protections of for LGBTQ people in the workplace in June of 2020. But again, we don’t know exactly what that looks like because there are these laws that protect people. Corporations tend to be a little bit more evolved when it comes to acceptance of LGBTQ people. I think a lot of corporations are seeing that diversity does actually add value to the bottom line. There’s actually an organization here in the United States called, Out Leadership. They have what’s called the return on equality. They’re tracking the return on equality and showing that there actually is a better bottom line performance for corporations that are more diversified, where they have different thought processes; people who aren’t afraid to go against the grain and provide unique ideas. They’re seeing that in the bottom line level. I think more and more corporations are getting that. At least for the bigger companies, discrimination isn’t as big of a case. Now, you may have that some isolated situations with different managers but just having the protection from at the federal level just makes everything a little bit better. Now, whether or not LGBTQ people are aspiring to those higher level positions remains to be seen. There’s still that problem in the United States where they’re advocating for diversity but the top two or three levels of every organization is a bunch of white men. We’re trying to broaden that a little bit. We have noticed that LGBTQ people, in general, tend to not seek those more secure, higher level positions. And to some degree, we’re getting the impression that that’s because there’s safeties at the lower level positions where you don’t have to be as “out” and as “open” and maybe put yourself at risk. But hopefully, with the workplace protections that we now have at the federal level, we can sort of push more people up to those higher level positions.
Tom: Why do you think that is about not willing to take that risk? Is that something ingrained in people? What’s causing that? What’s your guess?
David: I think that there are possibly two things going on. One, as your career progresses and you move up the career ladder, more people know you and want to know more about you. Your boss wants to know a little bit about what’s going on in your personal life. Or you are invited to corporate events where you’re going to be interfacing with senior level or high level individuals and there’s going to be a lot of conversation back and forth. They’ll say, “What does your wife do?” Well, if you’re in the closet or you are uncomfortable sharing that kind of information, then you’re going to be less likely to want to seek those kinds of positions. You know that you’re going to have to tell people, especially when you think about smaller organizations or organizations that are in very conservative parts of the country or world, people are less inclined to want to share that kind of personal information. So I think there’s a little bit of us holding ourselves back.
But as John mentioned, I think there’s also something that we call cascading homophobia. That is when somebody who is supportive of the LGBTQ community or say that they are, has the opportunity to hire you, promote you or put you on a project but they are also aware of the fact that there is somebody above them that has expressed some sort of opinion (whether that’s in a joke or has been vocal about it or has just kind of underhandedly said something) and they are fearful that by promoting you, giving you this job or putting you on this project is going to make that person ask, “Why would you do that? Why would you hire a gay guy?” or “Why would you promote that trans person.” They are concerned about their own career (if not more) than they are about yours so they’re less likely to do it. They may not even realize that they’re doing it. They’re not doing it consciously. They may do it be doing it subconsciously. I think that may be one of the “down pressures” on queer folks that just keeps us at this level. We don’t have those role models of individuals at those higher levels that are “out” and showing we can do this.
Tom: You mentioned the concept of coming out. Is that more often now? Is this just as part of acceptance? Are people feeling more comfortable about coming out and just being themselves?
John: I think we’re starting to see more and more of a trend of people coming out and coming out at younger ages. In fact, there was just a study that came out from Gallup here in the United States that reported that 5.6 percent of Gen Zs are reporting that they’re LGBTQ, which is considerably larger than any other demographic currently in the United States. We are starting to see a trend that way but I think that’s sort of more of a pocket experience. I think it’s contingent on maybe what generation you’re in and where you live throughout the country, or where you live in your particular state. I don’t know that it’s broadly accepted but it does seem like we’re headed in that direction so the long arc of equality is still bending in our direction.
Tom: A lot of this sounds like insecurity. How does this apply to finances? Is there financial insecurity? Is there a concern there?
John: David and I like to say that 80 percent of finance applies to everyone equally across the board. It’s all transactional. A bank account works the same for you as it does for me. Saving, investing works the same for a trans person as it does for a white woman. All that is equal. But there is about 20 percent that’s affected by our background, that being, who we are, where we came from, the money stories we have in our head, how we feel about ourselves, and it’s that 20 percent that has an overarching effect. While bank accounts work the same for everybody a recent study from Prudential Financial showed that only about 50 percent of LGBTQ people have a single banking product such as a checking or savings account relative to 66 percent of non LGBTQ folks who have at least two. It’s almost twice as much. So there is a disparity there on how we’re engaging with financial products and even how we look at them. So, yes, I think a lot of that is based on insecurity for many of us, because many of us came from a time and place where it wasn’t okay to be gay. We kind of carry that with us in our adulthood and in what we feel like we’re worth and what we feel like we can achieve. I think that expresses itself not only in our personal finances, but also in our careers (as we were talking about earlier) as to what I think I’m capable of achieving in my career. I may be opting out of moving up the ladder and that’s, of course, inhibiting my income growth.
Tom: It’s an interesting idea that your community is not into different financial products. Here in Canada, I just happened to notice there’s one or two major banks that are very obviously advertising towards LGBTQ. I will admit, at first I thought, are they just pandering? But it might be a case where it might actually help. It might allow them to see that there is another product they could use. What do you think about advertising specific?
David: Well, what’s interesting is, especially here in the United States, when you think about the banking and retirement finance industry, for us here it is the traditional imagery you see. It’s the straight white couple walking down the beach with their golden retriever. That’s the that’s the perfect retirement imagery. We’ve seen those kinds of images for decades. Growing up, we’ve just always seen that if you invest, this is what you’re going to look like. Well, I don’t look like that so I’m probably not going to be investing. I think the imagery in just showing queer people, showing same-sex people, showing someone who is maybe non binary, is almost an invitation. It’s the invitation that says we see you. We know you’re out there. I don’t necessarily think that it’s truly targeting but they want us to feel welcome to coming in the door to work with that company. Just like they want everyone else to feel comfortable. People of color, women—they want everyone to feel comfortable. I think that imagery is the first step. The second step is making sure that as a company, you’re ready to understand the needs of that community and how they may be different from other communities.
Tom: I should mention, too, being only advertising didn’t bother me in that it allows everybody to feel like this product is for them. I know there was a robo adviser down in the US that was specifically for females. I thought that was a little odd because, like you said, 80 percent of finance is applicable to everyone. You don’t need a special product but you do want to feel welcome to the same product that everybody else is using.
John: There does seem to be a trend of financial services, brokerage firms and banks trying to connect with the LGBTQ community. But there is also a legacy hangover. I think many leaders within the financial services simply think that connecting with women is the definition of diversity. They seem to forget that there are, especially at the higher levels, a whole myriad definitions of diversity and you’ve got to make sure you’re including everybody. While women are 51 percent of the U.S. population, just connecting with them doesn’t meet the definition of diversity.
Tom: I think they’ll catch on as they go because, ultimately, dollar speak. When they see their competitor reaching out to a different community, it’s unfortunate to think that money is going to solve this but I think when it comes to businesses that’s what it’s going to take to bring them all around.
John: In 2018 there was a study done here in the United States by an organization that found the purchasing power of the LGBTQ community in the United States alone was over a trillion dollars. And globally, it’s four trillion dollars. At least in the U.S., most LGBTQ peoples’ non-discretionary spending goes to alcohol, entertainment and personal hygiene products. We’re not investing that. We’re not putting those in savings and checking accounts. If we could condition the LGBTQ community to at least use some of that money more wisely, it not only helps the LGBTQ community achieve financial security, but it also helps the banks and the brokerage firms with their assets under management and the assets they have on record.
Tom: I’m glad you brought up spending because I didn’t want to paint everybody with this single broad brush. But it seems like that extra spending does come along with the community. Again, I don’t know the stuff, but I assume it’s sort of a fashion and a party thing that just kind of comes along with it for many people in the community?
David: I think there are segments within all communities. When you think about straight white people, there are couples who have kids and those who don’t have kids. There are all these different segments but I think what has happened, partly because of media, is the media has focused on this kind of archetype, typically gay men—gay couples as being fabulous. Because they see that, then they assume that everyone else in the gay community or the queer community is just like that. We have nice homes. We have nice cars. We wear fashionable clothes. And it’s become almost this label, this impression that we have as a community, that’s what we have to live up to. John and I believe that some of that came out of the HIV AIDS epidemic in the late 80s and early 90s, where you had literally millions of men and women who were dying. They were at this point in their lives where they knew they could die next week, next year so they’re going to live their lives to the fullest. They’re going to get all they can out of life. And because of that, as a community, there was this pattern of us really living our lives up. We feel like there’s still a little bit of a hangover from that. At the same time, in the Western world, when you don’t feel like you measure up to everyone else, the easiest way to show that you’re just as good as everyone else is what you wear, the car you drive, the home you live in. And the unfortunate thing is the accessibility to credit, to borrowing money, has really allowed a lot of folks who cannot afford a lifestyle to be able to project to everyone that they are just as good. That they can afford this lifestyle. You want to go back to your peers who picked on you as a kid and say, “Well, look at me now. Look at how fabulous I am.” And there are all sorts of definitions of fabulous. For one community it may be nice cars and fancy clothes. For one community, it might be having lots of pets and giving lots of money to charity. They might drive the right kind of car and eat organic foods. There are labels that go with each community. And our community has done a great job of figuring out what those labels are to show everyone we’re just as good and that we’re not dealing with what’s going on inside and those feelings of where that really came from growing up.
Tom: This sounds like what we’ve talked about before on the show and on the blog, keeping up with the Joneses. But it seems the gay Joneses are a multiplier beyond that where you’re still keeping up with the Joneses but maybe even more extreme.
David: I think to a certain degree for our community, it’s not just keeping up. It’s proving to others that you’re just as good, if not better. If you thought I was a bad person—if you thought I was worthless, or you think that I’m not the kind of person that society should respect but I have the nicest car on the block, the biggest house and all of these things, it’s really hard for you to tell everybody else we’re not good enough because everybody’s going to say, “Yes, they are. Look at them. They have all the stuff. They’re just as good, if not better, than the rest of us.” It’s that need to kind of overachieve with almost everything in our lives that, as a community, we still have to figure out how to deal with.
Tom: Yeah, it’s a great point. I know you’re helping a lot of people turn this around where it doesn’t have to be that way. I appreciate that you’re doing that. The last thing I wanted to cover is family planning. Say you guys wanted to have a kid. No pressure, but obviously…
John: Gee, thank you.
Tom: Obviously, there’s a few extra steps you have to take. And I assume even for a straight couple that wanted to adopt, there’s probably extra expense and effort there compared to just having a baby. Again, I don’t want to put any pressure on you to answer this personally. I just want to know from any information you have, is this a concern? Is this a problem? If you’ve been married and want to go all the way with having a child, what’s that look like and what’s the expense around that?
David: It really depends on how you’re going to have children. We have seen in the research we’ve done and the people we’ve interviewed on our podcast around the various ways to have children, the costs can range from a couple of thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring a child into your family. What we are seeing is there are a lot of agencies and organizations out there that are encouraging same-sex couples or trans individuals to go through the surrogacy route or adoption route and to take on a massive amount of debt to acquire a family. Just anecdotally, John and I did not have children, in part, because at the time we just couldn’t afford it. And now we’re at an age where we don’t necessarily want to have children because we don’t want to take care of kids when we’re in our 70s. But we have friends who literally went to the hospital, paid a $500 deductible and brought their child home and that was the extent of their expenses. In some cases, all of the expenses have been covered by insurance. You have a straight couple who can have a child and do it relatively easily but it is something that is one of the biggest expenses queer people will have if they want to have a family. There are economical ways to do it. And definitely, if you’re considering doing it, I would definitely recommend you do your research. There’s grants out there that are available. There are lower cost ways to do it. Take the time to plan it out and think about it before you do it. That’s one of the advantages that we have is… We don’t have any “whoopsies” when it comes to having kids because it’s not going to happen. But we have the opportunity to plan it out, to be prepared financially, to be prepared emotionally. There is that opportunity to take advantage of that.
Tom: And for anyone having a kid, that 18 years plus, is already expensive so having the additional expense up front is so much more to think about.
John: Yeah, exactly. The FDA down here in the United States estimated that it costs over $230,000 to raise a child in the U.S. from the age of birth to the age of 18. And that’s not including college. That’s an expense that only about 20 percent of LGBTQ people have because only about 20 percent of us have children. But studies also show that we only have about $6,000 more in savings relative to the general population. So while we don’t have that extra cost, typically we’re not necessarily saving as much as one would think that we should or could.
Tom: Is there anything we haven’t covered? Any big blind spot I have here? Any expenses that you might be experiencing that others aren’t?
John: Well, just to bounce off of the not having children aspect of being LGBTQ, that also means that we have to look at retirement a little bit differently. While having children doesn’t guarantee you’re going to have a support system when you reach your retirement years, especially towards the latter portion of your retirement years, there is that opportunity there. That’s something the general population doesn’t necessarily need to consider as much. Whereas David and I don’t have children. There are children in our lives who we hope maybe could help us when we’re older but we don’t necessarily have anybody who has that responsibility. We have to add that into our retirement planning; how we’re going to retire, where we’re going to retire and when we actually need more extensive care, how that’s going to be financed. Trying to go the government sanctioned route isn’t always the most appealing route. One, because it’s not always the best care that you can get. But then likewise, not all organizations are as open and accepting of LGBTQ people as we might like them to be so many people who do retire and don’t have the family to rely on when they need that extensive care kind of have to go back into the closet, which is somewhat of a sad predicament. That’s another nuance of being LGBTQ I think our community needs to think about. Retirement will look different for us, especially because we don’t have children.
David: I would also add that there’s something tangential to retirement but also the rest of our financial lives. Especially in the 60s, 70s and 80s, the queer community oftentimes gravitated to cities where they felt a little bit safer. Whether it’s the United States or Canada. In Canada, I think about places like Toronto and Montreal.
John: Yeah, geography is not your strong suit.
David: I guess not.
Tom: It’s always the big urban cities that seem to be where everyone congregates.
David: Right. And those are the most expensive places to live. The cost of living is the most expensive there. Some research has shown that the top cities that LGBT folks in the United States live in—and I would expect it to be somewhat similar in Canada, the cost of living, on average, is 40 percent more. In places like New York and San Francisco it’s 100 to 150 percent more expensive to live in those cities. When you live in a place where it’s more expensive, even if your income is on par with everyone else, you’re still having to deal with the fact that there’s all those extra expenses. You don’t have the money to be able to set aside for acquiring wealth, acquiring a home, the things that lead to some level of financial security compared to people who can, for example, live in a smaller city in Saskatchewan. Or in the middle of North Dakota. It’s not as likely that you’re going to find large LGBTQ populations living there so they don’t have the ability to build up the financial security that many of our straight peers are doing all across the country and around the world.
Tom: This has been great. Thanks for walking us through all this. If there’s someone hopefully listening to this podcast that is LGBTQ, can you tell them about your website and your podcast?
John: Yes, we are The Debt Free Guys and our home base is debtfreeguys.com. We’re The Debt Free Guys on all social media from YouTube to Facebook to Instagram and Twitter. We also have the Queer Money podcast where we talk about the financial nuances of being LGBTQ and that’s available on any platform you can download a podcast from.
Tom: That’s great. Thanks for being on the show.
David: Thank you.
John: Thank you.
Thanks, John and David, for shining a light on the unique financial challenges faced by many people in the LGBTQ community. As a society, we’ve made enormous strides towards equality but there is still lots of work to do. You can find the show notes for this episode at maplemoney.com/140. Are you new to the Maple Money Show? If so, I want to thank you for listening. In case you weren’t aware, you can watch videos from any of our top episodes over on our YouTube channel. If you’re interested, head over to maplemoney.com/youtube. Make sure to like the video and hit the subscribe button. I appreciate the feedback I receive from my listeners. I want to thank everyone that’s taken the time to email me or share their favorite episode in a tweet. It keeps me motivated to keep bringing you guests and great topics. We’ll see you back here next week when we have Miranda Marquardt back on the show to discuss the independent lifestyle of freelancing.
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