6 Tips for Managing Money in a Same-Sex Marriage

Here's what same-sex couples need to know about financial planning.

Like Cinderella before midnight, in June 2015, when same-sex marriage was finally legalized in the U.S., many in our queer community tied the knot without knowing if our wedding shoes fit.

It wasn’t until these couples said, “I do,” that many asked, “And what about money, retirement, children, career and life goals?” Unlike in fairytales, happily ever after isn’t the end of the story.

If there’s anything we learned from The Knot’s 2016 LGBTQ Weddings Study, it’s that between June 2015 and June 2016, Prince Charming and Prince Charming’s marriage looked similar to Snow White’s.

By avoiding the money talk like a poisonous apple, are same-sex couples casting their marriage in a spell destined to “mirror mirror” their straight peers? Will money be a main cause of divorce?

By following these six steps, same-sex couples can make their marriage a fairytale.

1. Hope for Fairy God Mothers, Plan for Big Bad Wolves

It’s an unfortunate fact that in 28 states, queer people can be fired for being queer. While it’s legal for us to get married in all 50 states, those who live in these 28 states without LGBT workplace protections risk losing their jobs if they put a picture of their spouse on display.

This risk reaffirms the age-old advice of having an emergency savings account of enough cash to cover between three to six months’ worth of living expenses. When we were living paycheck to paycheck, this seemed impossible. What’s more impossible is surviving without a paycheck when you’re living paycheck to paycheck.

Even by putting just $10 of each paycheck into an emergency savings account, you’re replacing a house of straw with a house of bricks.

2. Be Transparent Like a Glass Slipper

Before two become one, make sure the math works. With escalating student loan and consumer debt, it’s important that each person knows the financial benefits and burdens they’ll adopt when they get hitched.

Not until we talked honestly about each of our financial situations did we have clarity on where we stood. When we learned that we had $51,000 in credit card debt between the two of us, it made sense why we were living in a friend’s basement apartment.

Both people should disclose the good, bad and ugly about their pre-marriage financial condition. This includes student loan debt, credit card debt, bankruptcies, liens and other financial infractions. This also includes credit scores and credit history, annual income and tax brackets. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.) Don’t forget health and life insurance coverage, retirement and other savings.

With a clear picture of what each party brings to the marriage, both ensure they’re making wise decisions. The likelihood that either would terminate an engagement because of the other’s financial situation is low, but at least neither will feel they were deceptively given a poisonous apple.

The best scenario is that with clarity they can come up with a plan to fix their financial problems.

3. Whistle While You Work … Together

Successful marriages are a team effort. It’s helpful to divide and conquer in some parts of marriage. Money is not one of them. The best reason of all to talk about money is because couples that talk about it are often happier.

We’ve tried dividing and conquering our money management, but we’re never as successful as when we collaborate on it. Even just a 15-minute monthly meeting to assess income and expenses keeps both parties aware of their financial progress. As they make progress, they’ll see the value and the fun.

As Mary Poppins said, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.”

4. Learn From Your Past

Unlike the future of cars, it’s never good to put one’s finances completely on auto-pilot. All too often, most people avoid ensuring they’re staying within budget or their retirement contributions and investments are keeping up with their goals.

With our own finances, we usually feel these emotions of avoidance when we think we’re off track. When we know we’re off track, we feel compelled to make corrections.

As with many in the queer community, we were afraid that adjusting our financial plan meant we couldn’t maintain the appearance of having a fabulous life. Many of us grew up in a time and a place when it wasn’t OK to be queer. Therefore, we spend our adult lives making up for lost time and seeking validation through outward appearances.

The most memorable movies have great endings. Make sure you have one with frequent checks and balances on your financial progress.

5. Be Like Ohana

Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” — Lilo and Stich

Family members, even same-sex partners, don’t need to have the same financial goals, but they do need to support each other.

If one partner tries to save money while the other spends, it won’t be long before a disagreement happens. Likewise, it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of one partner to achieve a mutually beneficial goal.

The fact that we can support each other’s financial goals has made all the difference in our ability to pay off our credit card debt and achieve our mutual and individual financial and life goals. Neither of us antagonizes the other.

6. Plan for a Visit From the Stork

Unlike our straight peers, having children in same-sex relationships is never a surprise. Building a family in a same-sex relationship can be exorbitant. Because the cost of having a child can range from free (foster adoption) to the hundreds of thousands (gestational surrogacy), it’s important to determine why you and your spouse want children. With this information and your budget, you can then determine how you want to have children. When planning a visit from the stork, it’s never wise to bury your head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich.

With same-sex marriage being relatively new, many of us are only just now learning of the unique financial nuances of our same-sex marriages, such as employment protections and family planning. Our advice is to understand the nuances before walking down the aisle, otherwise you’ll just be happy for the moment.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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4 Things That Are More Expensive for the LGBT Community

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The road of progress is never straight. The queer community has made great progress over the last several years, both in public relations and with rights and protections. But over the past few weeks, there have been stinging losses in North Carolina, Mississippi and Puerto Rico that have set the queer community back.

Even with as much progress as the queer community has made, there are still 28 states in which sexual orientation and gender identity can be used as a means to fire someone from their job. The threat of possibly losing our jobs is stressful. Consider when your employer was going through downsizing or layoffs. Whether you survived or not, it was stressful.

Now add that some states are making it legal to deny certain citizens basic services based on religious principles. While the argument has been dumbed down, we all know the debate is about more than cakes and pizza.

The queer community has faced headwinds in many facets of life. Finance is no exception. Here are four things that are more expensive for the queer community.

1. Having a Family

Queer couples that want to create a family of their own have their work cut out for them. According to the Human Rights Campaign, private agency adoptions can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $40,000. And many same-sex couples have to pay for second adoptions, which cost between $2,000 and $3,000.

For couples who want a biological child, the costs are higher, especially for gay and lesbians couples that aren’t able to bear the child. Surrogacy can cost the couple between $70,000 to over $150,000 per child.

Starting a family as a queer couple is one of the highest expenses the couple can undertake. This doesn’t include the $245,000 it costs to raise a child to the age of 18 in the U.S., according to estimates released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2014.

2. Long-Term Care

In our later years, we all want to live our lives the way we choose. For most, they have the support of their family. For the majority of older queers today, a family wasn’t a part of the plan. Thus they must rely on themselves and their money to live out their later years. Moving away from your home may be necessary. The average annual cost for a basic nursing home comes in at around $80,000, according to Genworth’s 2015 Cost of Care Survey. This cost can eat up a lifetime of savings quickly.

Since queers don’t want to go back into the closet when transitioning to a care facility, we have a limited number of facilities from which to choose. While the Equality Act is still making its way through Congress, many long-term care facilities don’t currently offer sexual orientation and identity protections. This limits the number of facilities to which queer people can go for the care they want and need.

3. Career Advancement

Many industries are surrounded by white, patriarchal walls. Minorities are tearing down those walls, making the working world a more diverse and efficient place. Much progress has been made, even for the queer community.

However, while open discrimination wanes, soft discrimination remains. Someone who’s not part of the “boys’ club” doesn’t get the same time and attention of their boss as someone who is.

While many marginalized groups aren’t consciously shut out, they simply don’t get the same face time.

With all else being equal, queers are often overlooked for raises and promotions that cost a lot in the long run. A recent study showed that gay white men in the U.K. must spend about $54,000 getting extra degrees and work experience to have the equivalent opportunities and career advancement as their straight white male counterparts.

Just remember — coming out at work could still cost you your job in 28 states. For this reason alone, many queers avoid career choices that may suit their skills or passions, simply because they cannot afford to lose their job.

4. Housing

Housing is not necessarily more expensive for the queer community. However, in states such as North Carolina and Mississippi where someone can be refused housing because of their sexual orientation, this limits their supply of housing. With the risk of being evicted at any moment, queers in these states should consider a larger emergency savings than they otherwise would. This is money that might have been spent on a higher standard of living or investments, both of which better serve the broader community.

An additional cost is associated with physical security. Precautions, such as alarm systems and living in more accepting, but more expensive areas of town, may provide some in the queer community with a higher sense of physical security. This comes at a cost. For some this also means moving away from friends and family to live in those more accepting, usually more expensive, cities and states.

To know better is to do better. Therefore, it’s incumbent for queer people to assess their situation and plan accordingly. Wanting to start a family, choosing a career, planning for retirement and deciding where to live affects everyone. For queer people, such costs are higher and may be prohibitive to their wants and desires.

We encourage creating a financial plan to address unique needs, which may include the nuances of their sexual orientation. Whether we’re in the heart of Mississippi or San Francisco, it’s up to us to build the life we want.

[Editor’s Note: You can monitor your financial goals, like building a good credit score, each month on Credit.com.]

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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The Biggest Money Moments of 2015

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Suffice it to say 2015 was a big year for money — not just in terms of how we spend it, but how it’s managed by other entities, namely online dating services, healthcare providers and Uncle Sam. Here’s a look at the year that was in America’s finances.

1. Ashley Madison Gets Hacked

When millions of cheaters were exposed online, infidelity dating site Ashley Madison found itself in hot water. Most users weren’t worried about their credit cards being stolen, but their fidelity was broken and so was their reputation. Many couples wound up filing for divorce and other users even committed suicide. High-profile celebrities like Josh Duggar were also caught in the scandal. Said Lisa Sotta, a cyberlaw expert at Hunton & Williams: Extortion demands, which forced victims to pay for their valuable data, became noticeable during this hack and things will only get worse.

2. Gay Marriage Is Legalized

It was history in the making when the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage was constitutional in June 2015. But as LGBT couples rushed to their local courthouse to file marriage certificates, they began to ask themselves the same questions straight couples have been asking for years: Can we afford to get married? Many in the LGBT community had never believed they’d ever get married, so the idea of planning a wedding took a major mind-shift — and a budget adjustment.

3. Anthem & Premera Are Hacked

Computer criminals stole a treasure trove from health insurer Anthem in February, putting consumers on edge. Not only did the info include names, birth dates and medical IDs/Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment info were also taken. It was a recipe for serious identity crimes, wrote consumer advocate Bob Sullivan, including creating new accounts in a victim’s name, bypassing security measures, or in a worst-case scenario, resetting passwords. Not more than three months later, Premera Blue Cross suffered a similar cyberattack.

4. Startup Bros Post Ad for $500-a-Month Crawlspace

The world’s creepiest crawlspace hit the Internet by way of Craigslist on Dec. 15, marking a new low in San Francisco rental prices. For $500 a month, an eager startup employee could live with two 20-somethings — so long as he was willing to sleep an uneven dirt floor and keep his dresser “in the garage.” With median rent in San Francisco topping $4,354, per Zillow, it’s no wonder Craigslist took the post down.

5. Card Issuers Switch to EMV Chips

Okay, so this may have not been a money moment, but card issuers’ decision to eliminate cards with magnetic stripes for cards with fraud-fighting computer chips was still a pretty big deal. On Oct. 1, new rules went in effect making merchants not equipped to accept chip cards responsible for fraud. Of course, not everyone fell head over heels for the new cards. Some consumers were so annoyed, they began avoiding stores that require them.

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