By Christopher Stroup
A good financial plan should bring a client confidence, security, and hope. Achieving those sought-after goals is hardly the same experience for everyone.
Financial planning for the LGBTQ+ community embodies a wide range of topics like marriage decisions, financial protection, family planning and legacy planning.
That said, how can you create an environment where everyone can be their whole selves while getting support and advice tailored to their unique needs and dreams? Here are four steps to help you do just that by becoming a more LGBTQ+ affirming advisor.
Step 1: Lose the cookie cutter definition of a traditional committed relationship
The preconceived notion of what a traditional relationship looks like may not be so when working with LGBTQ+ clients. Do monogamous relationships in the LGBTQ+ community exist between two partners? Of course! May you also come across a committed couple with a third member that also plays a central role in their romantic lives? Totally! This couple may even have the third individual be a key person in their estate plan. Trust me, I know, because I’ve seen it play out.
To become a more LGBTQ+ affirming advisor, the first step you will need to take is to challenge the cookie cutter definition of what a committed relationship looks like between partners. Not one relationship looks like another, especially within the LGBTQ+ community. It is imperative that you approach these discussions with an open mind or else you may end up sacrificing the main ingredient to a successful advisor-client relationship: trust.
Step 2: Understand the chosen family
Having been born and raised in a Mormon family, I count my lucky stars that my family did not abandon me after coming out in my adult years. That said, I can point to countless stories of friends (or clients!) who were not as fortunate. For members of the LGBTQ+ community, relationships with biological family members can be marked by sadness, anxiety, and feelings of abandonment. This can help explain why community is such a fundamental aspect of LGBTQ+ culture. For many, this chosen family may be all that they have to turn to.
As a LGBTQ+ affirming advisor, it will be paramount that you get to know this chosen family to understand the role they will play in your client’s financial portrait. This is especially important in areas of estate planning, where intestacy laws often default to biological ties. This could be problematic for an LGBTQ+ client that would rather not have the biological family involved in their wishes.
Step 3: Don’t assume marriage
Marriage has been legal for same-sex couples for a few years now. Even so, I still find myself fielding this question from queer clients: “Should we get married?” Many LGBTQ+ clients may ultimately decide to not marry for one reason or another. Some prefer to keep their finances separate. For others, marriage represents a societal norm that they want nothing to do with.
As the advisor, it is your job to help your clients plan for whatever future they see for themselves: marriage or no marriage. You’ll garner a lot of trust by helping your clients become fully informed about the tradeoffs with each option as it relates to their financial plan.
Step 4: Make inclusivity a fundamental part of your practice
Some of the small steps you can take to make your practice more LGBTQ+ affirming include:
• Adding preferred pronouns to your email signature and asking your clients for theirs
• Including photos of same-sex couples on your website, as well as incorporating language that speaks directly to their planning needs
• Offering gender-neutral identification options in client questionnaires and CRMs
By taking these four steps, you will be on your way to showing members of the LGTBQ+ community that they have found a welcoming partner in their financial journey.
Christopher Stroup, MBA, CFP® is an LGBTQ+ financial advisor working for Abacus Wealth Partners in Santa Monica, CA. He focuses his work on LGBTQ+ members of senior leadership across emerging and Fortune 500 companies.