How LGBTQ+ people can find a financial pro they trust

How LGBTQ+ people can find a financial pro they trust

If you’ve attended your local Pride celebration this month, you’ve likely seen all manner of floats bearing the rainbow-hued logos of familiar businesses. In many cases, parade sponsors and participants include financial institutions, from banks to real estate agencies to investment brokerages.

While many members of the LGBTQ+ community are likely grateful for the support, many more may eye such displays of solidarity with skepticism.

Some 3 in 10 LGBTQ+ adults (30.8%) say they experienced discrimination when accessing financial services, according to a recent survey from the Human Rights Campaign. The figure jumps to 40.3% among transgender and nonbinary folks.

Naturally, no one deserves this sort of treatment, whether that means being steered away from certain properties because of your sexual or gender identity or having same-sex partners excluded from estate plans.

But avoiding such situations is merely a baseline of what queer people should expect from financial professionals, says Chris Jay, a wealth management advisor at Merrill.

“There’s a sensitivity or awareness quotient that everyone deserves, and you really have to audit to make sure that you don’t miss important nuances, because our community is different,” he says. “We’ve got a different history, and we approach wealth and financial planning differently.”

In other words, for queer people looking for money help, avoiding discrimination isn’t enough. Rather, look to work with institutions and individuals that are aware of the community’s unique financial needs.

How LGBTQ+ individuals can find good financial help

Making that process easier is a career goal for Charles Chaffin, a financial psychologist who founded Affirming Advisor — a program designed to help financial firms better serve LGBTQ+ clientele.

“It’s about communicating better with clients and understanding the issues the community brings,” Chaffin says. “And we want people to be able to find an affirming advisor and be able to locate a safe space for them, whether it’s wealth management or banking or something else.”

Soon, he says, you’ll be able to search a database to locate professionals who have received the training. In the meantime, here’s how to go about finding a financial pro you can trust.

Narrow your search

If you’re looking for a financial planner in particular, the CFP Board’s search tool allows you to filter for certified financial planners who specialize in working with LGBTQ+ individuals and couples.

For other financial professionals, consider consulting your city’s LGBTQ chamber of commerce. The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce lists affiliate chapters on its website. Jay’s local affiliate, the Seattle-based GSBA, has “a fantastic database of queer-friendly companies,” he says.

And although there’s not yet a searchable Affirming Advisor database, those who have gone through Chaffin’s training can display the credential on their website.

“We have a badge. So looking for an affirming advisor is a good starting point,” says Chaffin. “They have identification to say, we have this training and we’re a safe space.”

Vet the firm

If a financial institution is publicly supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, that’s certainly a good start, says Jay. But it’s worth digging into the firm’s history to make sure they’re not just paying lip-service to queer people each June.

He suggests, for instance, asking if an institution began offering parental leave for queer folks before laws mandated it. In the case of an estate attorney, “do they have any sorts of precedents of examples [for work they’ve done with queer clients]?” he says. “Is there case law that you authored or co-authored that helped advance things?”

“You should be looking into the institution just like you would making any other financial decision or purchase,” he says. “If you engage an advisor, you want to check their background — and that goes for attorneys, accounts, advisors and Realtors.”

Vet the professional

Even if an institution is saying and doing the right things, the individual you work with will make or break your experience, says Chaffin.

“If a firm has a float in the Pride parade, maybe they’re committed, maybe they’re not,” he says. “When I call them to find an advisor, the question is, does this person understand the language that I’m bringing when I’m talking about [LGBTQ+ family planning], or how I define a family?”

To that end, it makes sense to thoroughly vet any professional you plan on working with.

That entails everything from asking an advisor about their previous work with LGBTQ+ clients to scrutinizing their website and advertising materials to make sure they’re inclusive. “Email signatures are a big thing. Having pronouns listed is a big element in regards to being a safe space.”

What you’re looking to avoid is someone who — while maybe not overtly discriminatory — is unaware of your unique financial needs as an LGBTQ+ individual. Chaffin recalls a recent call with an insurance broker who fit that description.

“He goes through the whole thing and says, ‘Well, you probably want to talk to your wife and get some feedback,'” Chaffin, a gay man, says. “Those types of assumptions are significant. They’re not small, little things.”

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