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The LGBTQ generational wealth gap

Family rejection, inheritance exclusion contribute to problems

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It’s no secret that LGBTQ+ people face a range of financial challenges that heterosexual people simply don’t need to contend with. Less discussed are the effects of financial discrimination on building LGBTQ+ generational wealth. The stereotypical view of a wealthy gay couple with no children and a sizable disposable income is just that — a stereotype. 

In reality, the “American Dream”— buying a home, getting married, having kids, finding a good job and investing in a 401(k) — is out of reach for many LGBTQ+ people, according to a survey by TD Ameritrade. Almost two thirds (35 percent) of LGBTQ+ millennials say they are unlikely to achieve these goals by age 40, compared to fewer than half of straight millennials. The same survey found that while the average annual income for a straight household is $79,400, the average LGBTQ+ household earns just $66,200 a year.

LGBTQ+ people are being left out of generational wealth for many reasons including family rejection, systematic barriers and a lack of financial education. With almost half of LGBTQ+ adults saying they have been excluded by a family member or close friend as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, a lack of familial financial support is a common problem for many in the community. 

This combination of unique financial barriers that LGBTQ+ people face is what has led to generational wealth gap. It’s a problem that will only affect more queer people if we don’t address it now. 

Legacy financial exclusion

At every stage of life, it’s not uncommon for LGBTQ+ people to encounter financial challenges that their heterosexual counterparts won’t face. Being kicked out of their homes as teens due to unaccepting parents, not receiving financial support from family for college, being removed from an inheritance — the financial cost of being LGBTQ+ can be substantial.

With the average inheritance reaching close to $177,000 according to a HSBC survey and Cerulli Associates forecasting that up to $68 trillion will trickle down to younger generations within 25 years, LGBTQ+ heirs could collectively lose trillions through inheritance exclusion. 

“Even much smaller amounts could help folks pay off debt, pay off a home, send their own kids to college and help them with their own retirement. Many LGBTQ+ kids aren’t getting these benefits,” explains John Auten-Schneider. Auten-Schneider is the co-owner of The Debt Free Guys blog and host of the Queer Money podcast, a leading gay money blog and podcast for the LGBTQ+ community run by him and his husband, David.

Raising a deposit for a house or apartment can be a difficult task for all people, but without financial support from family, many would not be able to fund a deposit. When David’s parents pass away, David’s sister will likely be inheriting upwards of $1,000,000. Yet, David says, he won’t receive any of this money, solely because he’s gay. “His parents have every right to do with their money what they want, but it’s a particular disappointment that they’ll do this only because he’s gay. This, of course, means we need to plan differently for our retirement than his sister does,” explains John. 

Just because David and John are LGBTQ+ financial experts doesn’t mean they don’t deal with many of the same systematic challenges that impact other members of the community. Younger LGBTQ+ people also face challenges directly related to their sexuality or gender identity.

A disproportionately high number of young people experiencing homelessness identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. According to research from the Williams Institute, between 20 percent and 45 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+. Lacking access to basic housing or financial support from family can set up a young person up for economic disadvantage before they even graduate from high school.

LGBTQ+ students also shoulder a larger student debt burden than their straight peers to the tune of an extra $16,000. “This has been attributed, in part, to LGBTQ+ college students assuming more debt simply to leave hostile home lives. In some cases, parents may forgo helping their queer children in favor of helping their straight children,” explains John.

Knowledge is power

At the start of 2020, Michigan-based Lexa VanDamme was at her financial rock bottom. Stuck at work after a 70-plus hour work week with no money in her bank account, bills due the next day and a broken down car, she decided to make a change. “I realized that I needed to face my financial situation,” says VanDamme. “I dove deep into the online world of personal finance to learn about budgeting, debt payoff methods, saving and investing.”

After her crash course in finance, VanDamme refinanced her credit card debt into a lower-rate personal loan, created a workable budget and started a side hustle to make extra income. There were a few bumps on her journey: “I actually cycled back into credit card debt three different times. I would pay it off, then eventually max it out a few months later,” says VanDamme. Still, she managed to pay off her debt by following the financial rules she had set for herself.

While trying to learn about personal finance on her own, VanDamme realized there was a need for accessible and relatable content that appealed to a wide range of people. She decided to create The Avocado Toast Budget (The ATB). Starting out as a blog just over a year ago, The ATB now counts more than 400,000 followers on Tiktok.

“For the longest time, the loudest voices in the personal finance community were cis, straight white males and, as a queer woman, I wanted to share information and tips that were often overlooked by those creators,” says VanDamme.

For many LGBTQ+ people like VanDamme, after spending so long hiding who she really was, she wanted to live as true to herself and be as free as possible. “This led to me ignoring my spending habits and being stuck in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. Airing my financial dirty laundry brought up similar feelings of anxiety and concern I felt when first coming out. How would people react? What would they think?” says VanDamme.

There is already a heavy stigma around talking about personal finances, especially when you may be struggling financially. “Since queer people often spend our lives fighting for the world to accept us and our queerness, we may be less apt to talk about our financial insecurities and struggles,” says VanDamme.

Genuine representation goes beyond just diversifying the financial content creators who receive media platforms, with the advice given by these experts also needing to be fully inclusive. “Advice tended to ignore how systems of oppression affect people of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community and more. We know statistically that it’s easier for some to build wealth than others,” she adds.

VanDamme has an ongoing series on Instagram focused on the intersectional nature of many financial issues. The series helps shed some light on the economic realities that often contributes to minority community challenges. From financial inequality that disproportionately impacts disabled people to wealth inequity and racism and the cycle of poverty, VanDamme works to educate her audience on pressing topics that matter to them.

 “It’s especially important to talk about the financial challenges that trans people in our community face. This includes increased reports of lower wages, limited and more expensive housing options, and twice the rate of unemployment. This heavily impacts their ability to build wealth,” she explains.

Intersectional challenges

While being LGBTQ+ can underpin unique money issues, queer people of color and queer women often experience additional difficulties around financial matters.

In addition to the financial barriers faced by LGBTQ+ people, queer people of color also face a racial wealth gap. Employment discrimination, systematic inequalities and disparities in financial education all contribute to this unequal financial playing field.

According to research from the Federal Reserve, the average white family’s wealth is eight times higher than the wealth of an average Black family. The gender pay gap also contributes to excluding women from building generational wealth, according to the latest statistics compiled by Pew Research, which show that women earned 84 percent of what men earned in 2020.

Carmen Perez, creator of Make Real Cents, a personal finance blog dedicated to helping people achieve financial independence, believes it’s important to have experts who are more representative of the people they’re speaking to. “I heard a quote a while ago: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ I think that’s really important because eventually, if you don’t have a model to follow, either you have to be the first, or it’s never going to happen,” she says.

As a woman of color and a lesbian, Perez knows firsthand how important it is to address the absence of representation in financial education. “It’s definitely one of the things we have to step back and look at in the LGBT community,” says Perez. “There’s a compounding effect because not only am I part of the LGBT community as a lesbian, but I’m also a minority, and I’m also a woman, and there’s a lot of hurdles up against a lot of folks in this space,” she adds.

With more than 60,000 people following her Make Real Cents account, Perez is playing a part in democratizing access to finance. There, she does everything from break down the cost of credit to explain 401(k) company matches with easy-to-read graphics and Insta stories. Her methods are a world away from the complexity of some traditional financial advisors and tools.  

“Millennials are starting to change the money game because we’re delivering advice in a way that isn’t super technical. It can be so overwhelming to watch CNBC with all these screens and tickers that don’t mean anything to you personally,” says Perez.

Increased representation in the finance space means a light can be shone on vital issues, resulting in deeper conversations that make money less taboo. “We’re finding instances where historically people who have been locked out of the finance industry, by design, are speaking up. Unlike some traditional financial advisors that give out all this jargon and talk in all these terms that many may not understand,” says Perez.

Future generations

Despite the long-standing barriers facing LGBTQ+ people in gaining access to financial education and financial services, LGBTQ+ personal finance content creators now offer a way for many to improve their financial literacy in more convenient ways than ever before. While investing early and regularly is one of the most effective ways to secure a financially comfortable retirement, it’s never too late to build wealth and support for the next generation of LGBTQ+ people.

“[You can] create legacy wealth within the LGBTQ+ community by setting up your estate plan to donate to LGBTQ+ causes that will help homeless youth and [by] giving to local, younger LGBTQ+ folks you know personally,” adds John.

Negotiating the LGBTQ+ generational wealth gap is no small feat. But continuing the discussion around both financial literacy and taking steps to combat systematic financial issues can go a long way to address the financial challenges impacting the LGBTQ+ community.

“The stronger we are as LGBTQ+ individuals and allies, including our financial strength, the stronger we are as a community,” concludes John.

Finbarr Toesland is an award-winning journalist committed to illuminating vital LGBTQ+ stories and underreported issues. His journalism has been published by NBC News, BBC, Reuters, VICE, HuffPost, and The Telegraph.

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Autos

Surprise rides of 2022

Fun, frugal, and full of frills

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Nissan Frontier

Each January, I list my top vehicle picks of the year. But with so many contenders this year, the focus this time is on surprise rides: Three solid choices that are unexpectedly fun, frugal and full of frills.

NISSAN FRONTIER
$29,000
Mpg: 18 city/24 highway
0 to 60 mph: 7.3 seconds

Sure, Tesla, Rivian and other newcomers may be garnering lots of press these days. But other automakers also have been upping their game. Cue the Nissan Frontier pickup, completely redesigned with bold, bad-boy styling. This includes a pugnacious grill, menacing headlights and sleek LED taillights. Inside, new laminated side windows reduce wind and road noise. Refined, soft-touch surfaces are a pleasant surprise, as are various clever storage spaces. And then there are the zero-gravity seats, built to alleviate driver fatigue. Despite the space-age description, these NASA-inspired seats have a traditional design but are built with 14 different pressure points to reduce stress on tired muscles. They may not be as fancy as massaging seats in luxury vehicles, but they feel just as effective. Other cabin niceties include large easy-to-read gauges and an optional 9-inch touchscreen, along with wireless charging, Wi-Fi and 10-speaker Fender stereo. One minor annoyance: the steering column tilts but has no telescopic function. While there may be a few less-expensive pickups on dealer lots, none come with as many features. As for performance, the 310-horsepower V6 is the best in its class, and overall handling is more akin to a well-mannered SUV than a workhorse hauler. For off-road enthusiasts, a Pro-4X model comes with heavy-duty Bilstein shocks, electronic locking rear differential for better grip and beefy all-terrain tires.

JEEP WAGONEER
$60,000
16 city/22 highway
0 to 60 mph: 7.3 seconds

Jeep Wagoneer

While oversized rides don’t really fit my urban identity, the all-new Jeep Wagoneer had me almost pining for a Brady Bunch lifestyle in the burbs. Out of production since 1991, this resurrected land yacht made me feel safe and secure on the road. It also tapped into my love of a beloved cruiser: the Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon that I drove across country in my 20s. (Alas, those tawdry travel tales are another story.) But while such behemoths may be described as big and boxy, the Wagoneer is definitely chic, echoing many of the more sculpted elements of a ritzy Range Rover. Powered by a gutsy V8 Hemi engine, this super-sized SUV quickly hustles down the road. A mild-hybrid system not only helps conserve fuel but also adds some extra oomph. Front-wheel drive comes standard, though many buyers will prefer one of the four-wheel-drive options for even better drivability. Air suspension lets you raise and lower the Wagoneer, which has up to 10 inches of ground clearance and can trek through two feet of water. Along with offering more standard features than most competitors, there’s also more second- and third-row legroom. The rich interior, with contrast piping and stitching on the seats, includes a wraparound dashboard with up to three large screens. Two more screens are available for rear-seat passengers, who can stream thousands of programs via the Wi-Fi. Notable amenities include automated parking, rear-seat monitoring camera and premium 19-speaker McIntosh stereo. Fully loaded, a Wagoneer can reach $75,000. That’s still less than the primo Grand Wagoneer ($89,000), which can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in a wickedly fast 5.7 seconds. That glam model, with goodies such as a refrigerated front console and a hidden touchpad safe to store valuables, can easily top $100,000.

MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER
$28,000
Mpg: 24 city/31 highway
0 to 60 mph: 8.6 seconds

Mitsubishi Outlander

Of the three vehicles reviewed here, the updated Mitsubishi Outlander was the biggest surprise. After all, the automaker isn’t the most popular or reliable brand on the block. But like a washed-up diva making a stunning comeback, the Outlander is now taking its star turn in the highly competitive crossover market. The overall styling is dazzling, with sheet metal that has been stretched and pulled into an edgy origami design. Built on the same platform as the Nissan Rogue, this new Outlander is taller, wider and longer than that popular compact. It also offers a third seat, even if legroom here is miniscule. And despite what is a capable but rather tepid engine, the Outlander handling is crisp and spirited. Driver visibility is especially good, and I found the cabin to be pleasantly quiet. But most notable are all the amenities, including head-up display, wireless smartphone integration, 10-speaker Bose stereo, panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, heated steering wheel, heated seats (both front and back), a full slate of the latest safety gear and much more. Another plus: the 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty. All in all, it’s nice to see Mitsubishi start to regain its footing—with the Outlander center stage.

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Real Estate

Is cash always king?

How to stay competitive in the face of all-cash offers

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With more all-cash offers these days, there are still ways to stay competitive if you need a mortgage.

One of the frequently asked questions I get as a real estate agent serving the DC Metro area and Delaware beaches is: How can I be competitive in a market that is seeing an increase in all-cash offers? 

I get it, the real estate market is super competitive, but it’s not just because of the low inventory, it’s also because of the cash offers sellers are seeing.

Money is money right? Why would a seller be inclined to take a lower all-cash offer versus a higher offer with a mortgage. Let’s break it down a bit. 

An all-cash offer usually comes with very limited contingencies in addition to the more important piece, which is the timing. A cash sale can close in less than a week whereas a sale with a conventional mortgage can usually only be expedited to a 21-day close. Don’t lose hope! There are still a few ways you can have a competitive edge over cash offers with a few steps your agent can advise you through:

OFFER CASH – THEN ACQUIRE FINANCING: If the stars align and you are purchasing a home that the sellers currently reside in, you can expect that they will need some time to gather their items and move — they also have to gather their great great grandmother’s wedding dress and Uncle Fester’s golf clubs that they just HAVE to keep. This will allow you time to go the conventional mortgage route. Please note that this is a very detailed alteration and it is recommended fully that you speak with your real estate agent prior to doing this to ensure that you are fully educated with the pros and cons of this method and what is at risk. The biggest item to highlight is that a mortgage comes with the infamous appraisal. The appeal of an all-cash offer is that there is no appraisal. With a mortgage an appraisal is required. If the appraisal comes in low, you will need to be ready to come to the table with the difference in appraised value – in cash. For example: Appraised value is $100,000 and you are under contract for $200,000 – that is a delta of $100,000, which you will need to come up with in cash in order to continue with the transaction, separate from any other monies you have already placed down.

OFFER $$$ OVER LOW APPRAISAL: Following up on the appraisal aspect here – you can write a contract with financing in place from the onset and provide an addendum that you will pay the difference in low appraisal (referencing the example above) or you can offer an alternative that would be to pay up to XX over a low appraisal. In this example of paying a dollar amount over a low appraisal, you write into the contract that you are going to offer $50,000 over the appraisal if it is a low appraisal. So if the contract price is $150,000 and you offer to pay $25,000 over a low appraisal value and the property is valued with appraisal at $125k then you would have to pay a total of $150k for the home and that $25k difference would, again, need to be in cash. This allows a bit of leverage with lower cash amounts on hand – but again similar to the example of acquiring financing above, the sellers must allow for the timing of a mortgage application process to occur.

GIFTS FROM FAMILY: What is family for if it isn’t for providing you large sums of cash!? In all seriousness – this is a fully accepted method of cash funds. You will want to speak to a financial planner/tax individual to fully understand tax implications for both parties (giftor and giftee) to fully understand what this means, but there is always the ability to be gifted funds from parents, aunts, uncles etc., to ensure that you are liquid and can purchase the property of your dreams.

OFFER “RENT BACK” TO SELLERS: Following the guise that the sellers must find a property to purchase or perhaps they are moving across the country and need a month or two in order to get their affairs in order. This allows you to provide a “rent back” to the sellers and basically become their landlord. In this scenario you would typically charge them rent, which would be equal to your carrying costs for your home expenses. For the purposes of being competitive in this market, you can offer a “rent FREE rent back” where you afford them the ability to sell the home to you and they still reside in the home for an established time post closing at no cost to them. This sounds silly — why would you let someone stay in your new home rent free for two months when that means that you are paying for your mortgage and other expenses in addition to rent for an apartment or maybe shacking up with mom and dad again? 

It’s important to remember that in order to get a property in this market there is the need to think creatively if you don’t have all the cash in the world — you can still be VERY competitive.

Justin Noble is a Realtor with Sotheby’s international Realty licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Delaware for your DMV and Delaware Beach needs. Specializing in first-time homebuyers, development and new construction as well as estate sales, Justin is a well-versed agent, highly regarded, and provides white glove service at every price point. Reach him at 202-503-4243, [email protected] or BurnsandNoble.com.

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Real Estate

Leather and lace in your home decor

From couches to countertops, add some flair

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Leather isn’t just for couches anymore; you can find it in countertops and a wide range of décor.

When I was very young, I would visit my maternal grandmother and marvel at the hand-tatted and crocheted doilies that adorned the arms and backs of her sofa and chairs. They were also found on her dressers and side tables, and on the dining table as coasters and placemats, to prevent scratches on the furniture. Like snowflakes, the designs of the doilies were both intricate and individual.

I’m convinced that people had better posture in the early 20th century, because I never saw the remnants of men’s hair tonic, Macassar oil, or pomade on Nana’s doilies, even though they were there to keep the furniture from absorbing those hair products. Certainly, people weren’t the couch potatoes lounging on sofas then that we are today. Being able to Netflix and chill was a long way off.

I was impressed with the amount of work that had gone into such a little piece of fabric, so I later tried to learn to crochet. Sadly, all I was able to accomplish was string after string, never having been taught how to join those strings together to resemble a doily. At least with knitting, I was able to form squares large enough to be blankets for my Barbie.

In my mid-century childhood, doilies were put away and saved for grandchildren who, years later, would neither want them nor appreciate their historical value. The ‘50s saw polyvinyl chloride (PVC) go from a commercial substance used frequently in post-WWII construction to a residential fabric that we now refer to fondly as “pleather.” I can still remember the sound of my thighs peeling off the vinyl banquette at the diner when I would get up to leave a booth.

To be without a leather couch in the ‘60s was déclassé and, although styles have changed, such a couch remains a timeless piece. These days, if you are looking for a little more leather in your life and in your home, you can look beyond that couch and chair, where options range from the subdued to the highly decorative.

While vinyl is still the least expensive leather-look fabric, we now have “bonded” leather, made with scraps that are bonded together using polyurethane or latex. As you can tell from the prices of such furniture, the actual leather used in the process can vary from 10-90 percent.

Of course, top grain leather is the most expensive, and we have suede, die cut, embossed, patent, and a variety of other techniques used to change the look of a hide. In addition, there is now vegan leather.

For something unique for your kitchen or bar, check out the tooled leather countertop from Kosel Saddlery (koselsaddles.wixsite.com/marty) in Montana. They also make saddles and chaps.

Instead of the shiny granite counters that we all know, MSI Surfaces (msisurfaces.com) makes honed and leathered granite finishes for a more subtle appearance and has dealers throughout the DMV. 

For a do-it-yourself application, Amazon sells the Aspect brand eight-pack of leather glass, peel and stick subway tiles for backsplashes in five neutral colors for less than $20 each.

EcoDomo (ecodomo.com) in Gaithersburg offers a variety of custom leather treatments, including countertops, door and cabinet panels, floor planks and tiles, and wall systems. Your color choices aren’t limited to black or brown either. They can manufacture pieces in blue, red, green, and even in custom colors to match other items in your décor.

Many online stores such as Wayfair and Overstock carry real and faux leather headboards, footstools, poufs and benches at affordable prices. 

There’s always something in leather at Pottery Barn, even for the conservative budget: pieced leather pillows, tufted stools, basket collections, and even a leather-bound coffee table book for cigar aficionados. 

If you’re looking for small accent pieces, try a leather coaster, placemat, napkin ring, or my personal favorite, a cutlery pouch for your tableware collection from Lucrin Geneva (lucrin.com). They also offer office accessories such as crocodile desk sets, wastebaskets and storage boxes.

And for the connoisseur of leather, vinyl, rubber, or even neoprene items of a more personal nature, head to the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency this Friday through Sunday for Mid-Atlantic Leather weekend. With plenty of specialty items, high-impact fashion, toys and games for all ages and yes, even custom-made furniture among the vendor exhibitions, you’re sure to find something that will tickle your fancy.

Just remember that you (and your puppy) must both be vaccinated and masked to attend. We take COVID (and rabies) very seriously here in D.C.

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate.  Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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