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Retirement Eye for the Queer Guy – and Gal

By Tom Foster

The cable TV show, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” relied on a panel of gay men to provide fashion tips for straight men, performing a “makeover” to revamp the guy’s wardrobe, redecorating his home and offering advice on a host of personal topics. The show proved a smash hit, not to mention a rescue mission for the seriously unstylish.

Based on the findings of a MassMutual study on financial security, many LGBTQ folks could use some help with a makeover of their own, particularly when it comes to their retirement savings and other personal financial issues. LGBTQ Middle Americans are more likely to say they feel less than financially secure and many often struggle with financial emergencies, according to the MassMutual LGBTQ Middle American Financial Security Study1 (LGBTQ Study). The study polled 500 respondents who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) ages 25-65 who earned annual household incomes of between $35,000 and $150,000.

The LGBTQ study pinpointed a wide range of possible financial issues, including an inability to save, lack of preparation for retirement, struggling to make ends meet, and a need for more education about retirement savings and financial issues.

Americans in general have fallen behind when it comes to retirement savings, according to the study.  It’s particularly true with those polled in the LGBTQ community., More specifically, 70 percent of whom told us that they are not saving enough for retirement. That compares to 63 percent of Middle Americans overall who were polled.

One problem could be a less-than healthy attitude about savings in general. Of those polled, LGBTQ individuals were more likely than other Americans to agree with the statement, “Spending money to enjoy myself now is more important than saving for the future,” 36 percent compared to 27 percent, respectively. Four in 10 LGBTQ individuals admitted they don’t understand how to save and invest for their particular situation; nearly half (45 percent) said they struggled to make ends meet as compared to 35 percent of the general population.

LGBTQ Americans seem to struggle more with managing their finances, especially when it comes to budgeting and meeting expenses, the study shows.

There are some bright spots and some opportunities for financial advisors. The LGBTQ community was more likely to wish their employer offered more education about retirement savings. Moreover, survey respondents expressed concerns about having different financial planning needs than the average household, more difficulty in finding financial guidance and more interest in financial education. More than half (53 percent) said they were unsure about where to go for financial advice.

The takeaway is that more than ever, retirement saving and financial planning are not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Different households have different priorities and needs.  In the case of LGBTQ people you may want to start by determining their relative knowledge and comfort with managing money, saving and investing.  You may want to help them establish good financial habits as part of any financial and investment recommendations you make.

John Schneider and David Auten wrote about MassMutual’s study findings in their DebtFreeGuys.com website and Forbes.  They expressed surprise that the LGBTQ community finds it difficult to get help from financial services firms like MassMutual.

“Many firms, including MassMutual with this LGBTQ Financial Security Study and its previously reported Lasting Legacy Survey, are trying to connect and help our community,” wrote John and David, who are gay. “Unfortunately, the messages aren’t being heard or understood.”

John and David promote the need for education and open discussion about financial issues.  They point to many online resources, including their own website: “The fact is that many of us aren’t living fabulously but are living fabulously broke and we need to talk about this.”

 So if you have LGBTQ clients, they may be in need of a financial makeover, or at least some retirement savings and financial management counseling. Work closely with your financial services firm and give your LGBTQ clients the retirement eye.

E. Thomas Foster Jr. is head of strategic relationships for retirement plans for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual).

1MassMutual LGBTQ Financial Security Study, https://www.massmutual.com/-/media/files/MM-LGBTQ-Financial-Security-Study 

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