LGBTQ workers feel unprepared for retirement. Here’s how to boost financial literacy

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Preparing for a secure financial future is a daunting task for any employee. But for members of the LGBTQ community, new research shows that they often feel their uphill climb is a bit steeper, and they’re falling behind financially.

Nationwide Retirement Institute recently surveyed 1,000 LGBTQ adults in the United States about their financial needs and challenges, and found that nearly two-thirds are living paycheck to paycheck; that number jumps to 72% for Black LGBTQ members. The community largely reports feeling less prepared than their peers outside the LGBTQ community when it comes to retirement (13%), investing (8%) and estate planning (12%).

“I’m not sure if they’re truly less knowledgeable — my feeling is that they identify as being less knowledgeable,” says Rona Guymon, SVP of annuity distribution at Nationwide Financial. “But this community faces unique challenges that many of their peers do not.”

More than a third of survey respondents believe their career has been negatively impacted due to their gender identify or sexual orientation, a fact that Guymon is all too familiar with.

Read more: Are your ‘inclusive’ benefits excluding transgender employees?

“As a female executive as well as a member of the LGBTQ community, I’ve had aspects in my career where opportunities for advancement were inhibited by one or the other,” she says. “There are a lot of similarities when you compare how females are treated in the workplace and how the LGBTQ world is treated as well.”

More specifically, Guymon points out that the LGBTQ community tends to live in urban settings, where there are more protections built into city infrastructure and housing, which tends to be more expensive. Family planning is another crushing financial responsibility, one that will always take planning and investment.

“Heterosexual couples struggle with family planning and infertility as well, but it’s not the entire population,” she says. “Every member of the LGBTQ community, if they want to have children, it has to be very intentional and very expensive. And that impacts their debt loads and how they manage their paychecks.”

That’s where competent financial support and guidance can make the difference between simply getting by and creating a secure future. Nationwide’s survey found that seven out of 10 respondents would prefer to work with a financial adviser who is aligned with the community, either as a member or as an ally. (Currently, just 37% feel that financial advisers are prepared to handle their nuanced challenges.) The sticking point, Guymon says, is understanding.

“This community wants support and it craves financial literacy, and I don’t think you have to be a member of the LGBTQ community to best serve this community — but you have to be a member or an ally, and really show that you’ve done the work to understand their needs,” she says. “Show that you’ve done your research to get to know your client. Show that you’re ready to help them get past paycheck-to-paycheck living.”

Read more: Is your workplace LGBTQ inclusive? You may want to ask your employees

Nationwide, for its part, provides a suite of resources to help advisers across the industry feel better prepared to serve this community, via a white paper detailing needs, an educational seminar that can be provided to other financial professionals or even shared at the client level, and some important steps toward allyship to let the community feel seen.

“Sponsoring a pride parade, or being in a pride parade just shows that you’re willing to be part of the community,” Guymon says. “If you’re a CFP, you can register your practice that you are educated on and support the LBGTQ financial-planning community. If someone’s out there looking for a new adviser, that’s a great way to signal your support and knowledge.”

Guymon also encourages employers to do a self-audit of their entire benefits package to determine if inclusivity is built in. Ensure that benefits extend to non-married couples, explore unconscious bias trainings within the organization, and make sure these efforts happen at the senior level, all the way down to entry level, she says.

“Nationwide is very proud of having a 100% rating  on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, which is focused on the benefits given to this community at a corporate level,” Guymon says. “If employers are wondering how they’d stack up, get a copy of that application, and it will help you determine if you have the right LGBTQ benefits within your organization.”