Personal finance can feel especially daunting to members of the LGBTQ+ community, who have faced exclusion and discrimination from their families and financial and government institutions.
According to an analysis by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, gay men earn about 69 cents on the dollar compared to their straight peers and lesbians earn about 89 cents on the dollar compared to their straight peers. And these wage and wealth gaps are larger for queer and trans people of color.
Nevertheless, financial counselors and planners can help LGBTQ+ people navigate the tough financial questions they’re facing.
Seek an adviser who takes your needs seriously
For San Diego-based certified financial planner Marci Bair, financial planning begins with “creating a safe space for each and every client to be able to communicate their life story to you.”
Bair wants to hear from clients about what it was like growing up, how a client’s family talked about money, whom the client loves and whom they financially support. These details are especially important for LGBTQ+ people who may be estranged from or not recognized by their family of origin.
“If you don’t have your financial and legal house in order, your family’s desires can come in and make decisions that exclude the people that you love and leave behind” in the event of an emergency, illness or death, says CFP Cait Howerton .
Finding an adviser who is both culturally and financially competent can help you identify and execute your financial and life goals, be it paying down credit and student loan debt, or financing your transition.
Related: No matter the income bracket, LGBTQ investors are less confident about retirement than their non-LGBTQ peers
Know there’s financial advice for every income level
It’s a common misconception that you have to be rich to need a financial planner. In fact, financial counseling and planning can be a tool for supporting LGBTQ+ families and communities to realize their goals, protect them amid challenges to trans and queer personhood and family security, and (potentially) shrink wealth gaps.
While there are many more LGBTQ+ individuals than LGBTQ+ financial planners, financial counselors and planners allied with the community are immersing themselves in the cultures and demographics they seek to serve. They can help you start small with paying off debt, financing a medical procedure and investing for retirement.
Financial counselors help with everything from learning money management and creating financial goals to helping you access tax credits, public assistance agencies and manage debt. This is especially important given that members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to live in poverty, experience homelessness and face discrimination and violence, including from their families of origin.
Long term, a certified financial planner can assist in creating a comprehensive financial plan. CFPs hold rigorous financial certifications and are fiduciaries, meaning they are legally required to act in their clients’ best interests.
Read: California bans state-funded travel to Florida, 4 other states because of anti-LGBTQ laws
Identify an LGBTQ+ financial ally
To find a financial counselor or financial planner near you, you can start by searching your local chamber of commerce or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to see if there is a financial adviser near you.
However, if you’re not out yet, or not comfortable using a planner you might run into at the grocery store, online or remote financial planning can help connect you to a member of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally.
You can use the Find an Advisor tool on the XY Planning Network website to search by LGBTQIA. Or you can search Find a CFP Professional by specialties such as “LGBTQIA Individuals/Couples.”
Finding a financial planner who understands specific financial needs and situations can greatly improve your financial outlook, according to Dasarte Yarnway, co-founder of the Onyx Network, a platform supporting underrepresented financial advisers.
“From a money perspective, alone you go fast, together you can go far,” Yarnway says of the partnership with a financial adviser.
Also see: Is the housing market in a recession? Here’s what economists are saying
Make sure your wishes are honored
Once you’ve found a financial counselor or planner, the following financial, health and legal tools can help ensure your wishes are carried out in the event of an emergency or death.
Advance directives designate someone to act on your behalf in medical decisions if you’re no longer able to communicate, such as during end-of-life care.
A power of attorney allows someone else to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so on matters ranging from healthcare and money management to placing trades on behalf of a company.
A will detail issues such as guardianship of children, funeral arrangements and distribution of property.
A trust ensures that your assets go to the intended people (with tax benefits).
These are especially important for LGBTQ+ individuals and families who are not legally married, says Chicago-based CFP candidate Kiersten Peshek.
“If clients aren’t interested in getting married, which is perfectly acceptable in relationships, we need to think about estate planning: that they inherit the house, have the ability to make healthcare decisions and make sure the law and family members don’t get in the way,” Peshek says.
Legally formalizing your financial, health and other wishes is especially important for children of LGBTQ+ people who may not be biologically related to their parents.
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Alieza Durana writes for NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.