The new year has arrived. For many people, that means making resolutions and thinking of ways they can do better in the coming year and beyond. Money management and financial planning are often very popular resolutions and goals, but most financial advice tends to be aimed at heterosexual couples who want to grow their family and raise children.
But, what if your life goals are different? What if you don’t receive the same protection under the current laws as hetero couples?
What if you don’t want to have kids?
Financial planning is a great way to start your year on the right foot, but if you’re a part of the queer and childfree, you might need to make a few more adjustments than your hetero friends.
Let’s take a look at some strategies you can use in the new year to get your finances in order in a way that fits your lifestyle.
The Challenges You Might Face
Depending on where you live, there might be certain legal protections and benefits in place that can help you with financial planning. However, not all states offer those protections, which can do more harm than good and create a few challenges for you as you plan for your financial future.
For example, if you’re not legally married, you aren’t eligible for things like inheritance laws and social security benefits. No matter how long you’ve been with your partner, it’s required by law that you be married to receive those protections. Furthermore, many states have not yet established anti-discrimination laws. This means that, depending on your location, you might not have protection against things like:
- Housing costs
- Access to credit
- Healthcare access
Putting a strong, legal-approached financial plan in place now will not only help to prepare you for the future but will give you a better idea of the challenges you might have to face as you get older. It’s often worthwhile to find a financial advisor who specializes in working with LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples. They’ll be able to help you make smart decisions with your money and keep you up-to-date with the laws and protections in your state.
A financial advisor can also help with roadblocks you might face if you’re on a budget and need money quickly. For example, pulling money out of a retirement account early generally isn’t a good idea. If you make early withdrawals, a 10% early distribution tax is added. However, if you have a permanent disability, qualifying medical costs, or need financial assistance with caregiving, you may be able to draw from it early without penalty. A financial advisor can point you in the right direction and protect you from penalties.
Making Investment Purchases
While you may have more disposable income without children to provide for, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do your due diligence when making larger purchases. These larger, investment purchases may not always follow the same trajectory as traditional, heteronormative purchases do — e.g., weddings, big houses, and then family-sized vans. Of course, you can choose to follow this trajectory or stray from this path according to your specific lifestyle. In any case, you want to watch out for discrimination when making any big purchases. Make sure to vet the company you are working with. Look at reviews and ask around in the community. Also, do your research on protections against discrimination.
For example, find out what U.S. laws protect LGBTQIA+ homebuyers. Anti-discrimination laws can only build on federal housing laws, so check your state for extra protections. When buying a car, make sure you don’t fall victim to scammy sales tactics. Even though LGBTQ+ credit discrimination is illegal, there are still systemic issues that cause credit issuers — including car dealerships — to have misconceptions about the community. It’s best to remain vigilant just in case.
For instance, you may have just one income to rely on and are in the market for a used car. When purchasing a used car, ask smart questions to avoid financial mistakes. Consider asking the car salesperson:
- What is the vehicle’s history — including service records, wrecks, or even reported theft of the vehicle?
- Are there any previous or current problems you have noticed with the vehicle?
- What services were done to prepare the car for sale?
- What is included with the car — including any preinstalled upgrades, warranties, or the number of keys on hand?
- What is the policy to return a car after purchase?
These questions may seem invasive, but they are actually investigative and, often, necessary. Avoid covert discrimination in the form of “pulling the wool over your eyes” because you are unfairly perceived as uninformed at the car dealership — come prepared. This goes for any costly purchase, so do your research and prepare for any curveballs that come your way.
Starting Fresh Financial Habits in the New Year
No matter the challenges you face — either legally or personally — one of the best ways to boost your financial wellness in the new year is to create healthier habits. Create a budget for yourself that allows you to live the lifestyle you want while preparing for the future. Maybe you’re thinking about having children someday and want to start saving now. Maybe you know that parenthood isn’t for you but you want a comfortable retirement. Some of the best ways to save, even when you’re on a tight budget, include:
- Cutting down on excessive expenses
- Finding a side gig
- Asking for a raise at work
- Chipping away at debt
- Eating at home more often
- Adjusting your paycheck withholdings.
It’s never too soon to start planning and preparing for the future — whether you live alone, with roommates, with a partner, or with a spouse. Keep these tips in mind to overcome financial hurdles and make the most of your financial vision, this year and beyond.