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John Schneider and David Otten – also known as “Debt Free Guys” – are personal finance writers and speakers blog and post a podcast called Queer Money.
Back in 2017, the couple shared with us how they are to decide their joint indebtedness. Today, they are still not borrowed and are working on new financial goals, such as saving on a comfortable pension while continuing to help other LGBTQ people improve their finances. They even conducted their first tour, the Queer Money Live Tour, in several cities around the US. last year.
To highlight some of the financial hurdles specific to the LGBTQ community, we asked Schneider and Aunt to share their perspectives and navigation tips. (The transcript has been slightly edited for clarity and length.)
Any updates since you shared a debt-free story with us?
Schneider: Still indebtednessand our financial goals have changed. The focus now is three things: saving for a comfortable retirement, more travel when we can start the journey again, and giving more time and money to LGBTQ organizations.
You often write about what is “fabulously broken”. What does that mean?
Schneider: It is essentially a debt from a frivolous waste of money to live up to the expectations of the LGBTQ community. The main driving factors are competition and lack of self-worth. For us, we were never “elite” gays, but we always wanted to be that way. We went to expensive happy hours and special events. There are different ways to “fabulously hack”. Last summer we met an artist who had just bought a pair of Manolo Blahnik boots, although they had a steady income – just so they could look good when they finished. One couple we trained to get rid of debt, spent a lot of kids on birthdays for their kids. When we delved into why they spend so much, it turned out that they saw how parents do it, and wanted to feel like they are good parents.
Aunt: The media often portrays gays as fabulous planes, but a small minority. The rest are left behind or dragged in search to become part of this lifestyle. Bad as we ended up “fabulously broken”.
What currency issue do you usually get from LGBTQ?
Schneider: We are often asked about how to find a partner on one page financially. In many cases, when one of the LGBT employees has their financial act together, the other person lives. A big problem has affected our community. It should not be over-generalized, but in most heterosexuals there is a sequence of events through which couples experience (marriage, birth of children, etc.), which provokes a discussion about finances. If LGBTQ couples are going through these events, they are more likely to have conversations.
Can you share other financial issues affecting the LGBTQ community?
Schneider: Aside from the competition and lack of self-worth that make them indebted, there are systemic problems. Prudential did a 2016/2017 study that found a difference in pay for sexual orientation similar to the difference in gender pay. In addition, there are many states in the country where you may be denied housing or other services due to the presence of LGBTQ. Some states [like Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas] passed laws facilitating the adoption of LGBTQ children and same-sex couples. If you hear you earn less than your peers, try to save more ambulance fund and even harder to keep in retirement. In fact, the main problem in our community is saving for retirement, because few of us do it with dignity.
Aunt: Cascading homophobia is a term we use to describe what we think is still happening in America. One of the reasons why we don’t see the kind of progress we can expect when it comes to promotions and increased mobility in the business world. If you look at corporate America, most leaders are white, conservative, Christian and heterosexual. It flows to people who are able to help LGBT people move. Of course, it just happens in the LGBTQ community. It is also part of the systemic problems faced by African Americans and other minority communities.
What advice would you give to anyone trying to navigate these issues?
Aunt: Look for resources. There are more LGBTQ voices crawling into the financial space, so find a voice that resonates with you. No matter what age you are, try participating in an employer-sponsored retirement program. If you have access to one of these, you should take the mantle yourself. You need to invest, whether it’s using Acorns, Betterment or another investing tool, even if you can only put in $ 10 a week. If older people may need to cut costs to spend more on retirement.
Schneider: It is important to know what your goals are and to have more clarity around what is important to you. When we had a credit card debt of $ 51,000, we realized we looked happy on paper, but weren’t really happy. Lived to other people’s expectations. Reconcile your expenses with your values.
Where have you seen the most progress?
Aunt: One of the biggest benefits has been equal marriage, which allows couples to work together to create a financial future. This includes the transfer of money (inheritance), a reduction in annual costs (if they differ significantly in income) and the use of their total income as leverage in mortgages and investments. This spoke to the case before marriage equality, and I would say this is the reason why so many couples have to financially get on the same page.
Couples who had lived together for 10 years before marriage equality were now figuring out how to combine finances and figure out how to do it. Prior to equality of marriage, there were additional costs for pooling assets for legal protection (e.g., payment for trusts and will be issued). Although the pooling of assets has been at the heart of marriage (for hetero couples) for decades, it has been natural for LGTBQ couples who have been working with their finances for many years.
Where else do we go?
Schneider: So far, there are enough LGBTQ people in the C-package. How many gay lesbians or transgender people can you remember? It is also the discrimination faced by the African American community. Companies may hire more than us, but white men still work on their boards.
Aunt: States are also abolishing defenses and complicating matters. Depending on your LGBT status, you may be fired in certain states for marrying a same-sex partner. Why is this legal? Why can I get married legally, but my boss can fire me because of it? It creates fear in people around having to tell who they are. We know people who tell their financial advisors who their partners are because they want to know about their city. How can you plan a financial advisor for this person if they understand half the equation? How do they properly apply for taxes or social security benefits?
What else should be remembered about LGBTQ?
Aunt: When it comes to systemic issues, it is important to voice what is happening and raise awareness. It is important to share experiences in places where they can have feedback with others. Now, in terms of institutional discrimination, the country is focused on Black Lives Matter issues, which makes full sense. I know that people can simultaneously solve traffic problems and LGBTQ; our country may not be ready to look in the mirror.
Schneider: The more confident we are that we have people, the stronger we as a community are – and the more time and money we have to donate to LGBTQ causes. We can only do this in the case of financial independence.
Photo by John Schneider on the left and David Otten, taken by Lemis studio and courtesy of John Schneider.