LGBT couples should not underestimate the impact of changing legislation on their finances
Written by Philip Howell-Williams on May 26, 2015.
LGBT couples around the world share all the financial challenges faced by their straight peers as well as a whole host of additional problems often caused by confusion over what their legal rights actually are (if indeed they have any) and, in some countries, rapidly changing legislation.
The US is a case in point. Rights for same-sex couples vary from one state to the next. Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states – up from 12 in the space of a year, an increase which demonstrates just how quickly the landscape is changing for LGBT couples in America. There is also much confusion over what federal courts can and cannot do. In June 2013 the Supreme Court put a great spanner in the works for those states where same-sex marriage is banned by ruling the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Such confusion means that many couples in the LGBT community are absolutely bewildered about what their rights are, not just in terms of whether they can marry but also with regard to benefits and tax legislation.
Legislation in other countries, including here in Hong Kong, is changing at a lesser pace but there have been advances, such as the ruling in 2006 to bring the age of consent for homosexuals in line with that for heterosexuals, or that in 2013 giving a transgender woman the right to marry. Those campaigning for a change in the law hope that further rights will be won in spite of strong opposition from the more conservative elements of Hong Kong society.
When LGBT legislation does change, it can have a far-reaching impact on the financial situation and the investment goals of those affected by it. And yet, a study of LGBT investors by Wells Fargo in the US revealed that 83% of those surveyed did not fully understand how legislation at a federal and state level affects their financial and legal situation, including two thirds of couples who have already entered into a same-sex marriage.
If you are in an LGBT partnership, married or otherwise, there are important considerations you need to bear in mind with regard to your financial planning. Wherever you are living and whatever your status, the laws regarding LGBT rights, or the lack of them, will undoubtedly affect your financial planning. It is crucial to take advice from a financial adviser who is well informed on the issues particular to your situation.
In fact, the Wells Fargo study showed that 74% of LGBT investors prefer working with financial professionals who have other LGBT customers and 52% would rather use a financial adviser who is LGBT themselves. I fit the bill on both counts so if you are a member of this community and need help with retirement planning, investment advice and estate planning, I could well be your man!