Cultivating a culture of compassion – financial advice and the LGBTQ+ community

11th June 2024

In the past, compassion isn’t a word we’ve tended to associate with financial services. However, it is absolutely fundamental when advising the LGBTQ+ community, as SJP’s Chair of SJP's LGBTQ+ network, SJPride, Emma Palethorpe, explains. 

At a glance

LGBTQ+ individuals face unique financial challenges as a result of their sexual or gender identity, from higher medical costs to legacy planning. Yet they have traditionally felt excluded and even discriminated against by the financial advice profession.

Advising with an open mind, an open heart and an open door are key to building trust with members of the LGBTQ+ community, to help them get the right financial advice for their personal circumstances and life choices.

At SJP, we are committed to offering compassionate financial advice.

How do you see your future? Helping people to answer that big question and creating a financial plan to help them achieve it, is the foundation of good financial advice.

Many of us, regardless of our sexuality or gender identity, find it hard to visualise the future life we’d like to live. But for anyone who belongs to the LGBTQ+ community, the question ‘How do you see your future?” can be fraught with uncertainty.

The million dollar question ‘How do you see your future?’

“It’s a very personal question, isn’t it?” says Emma Palethorpe. As she points out, up until very recently, anyone identifying as LGBTQ+ didn’t have the right to marry, adopt children or join the armed forces. Many of the estimated 1.5 millionLGBTQ+ community are still in the process of working out who they are right now, never mind who or where they might be next year. According to the charity Stonewall, 1.5 million is a conservative estimate – the real number may actually be double. Many of those folk haven’t come out to family, friends or work colleagues. “It’s very hard to imagine a future, or even hope for one,” says Emma, “if your present is constantly in flux.”

As a result, LGBTQ+ folk may be nervous about working with a financial adviser to help them achieve their financial goals. Compassion isn’t a word one hears much in financial services, Emma points out, but learning to listen with compassion is the first step towards helping the LGBTQ+ community find the right financial advice for their personal circumstances and choices.

A history of mistrust and misunderstanding

Historically, the LGBTQ+ community may not have thought that traditional financial advice had anything to offer them. They my have felt that financial advisers wouldn’t understand their many different, non-traditional family set ups, or might ask personal questions about their gender or relationships that they didn’t feel comfortable sharing. Sometimes, it might have felt easier to live in the present, not think about the future, and stay away from financial advice.

Older members of the community, Emma explains, have been particularly hard to reach – and with reason. Many experienced active discrimination during the 1990s, when mortgage or protection insurance often had blanket exclusions for anyone who had taken an HIV or AIDS test – regardless of its outcome.

Why LGBTQ+ clients need unique financial advice

LGBTQ+ individuals often face a unique set of financial challenges which impact their personal wealth, savings and even who they may be able to leave money to. They may face higher medical bills if they want to have children or self-fund transition surgery or hormone treatments. And historically, they’ve suffered enormous financial inequalities.

“There was a time when you couldn’t put someone of the same sex on your life insurance or protection policies,” says Emma.

“Gay marriage was only legalised in 2014. Civil partnerships have only existed since 2005. Many older same sex couples didn’t marry, even when they could. They couldn’t see the point, after being together for so long. Which means that a workplace pension may not have passed to their partner, when one of them dies.”

The higher costs of being LGBTQ+

As Emma points out, transgender individuals who want surgery to transition, may have to find large sums of money. Surgery can be eye wateringly expensive – male to female gender affirmation surgery can cost between £10,000 and £20,000 in the UK2. Female to male can be even higher. Facial surgery “just to blend in” can run into thousands too, says Emma. “And you could be paying for hormone therapy for a long time.”

“If you have to self-fund, you could be saving for years. That’s all money that’s not going into your pension – just because you identify as transgender.”

Having a family as a same sex couple carries a high price tag too. Same-sex adoption was legalised in 2005, and while adoption is free, surrogacy can cost up to £50,000 according to the agency Sensible surrogacy3 . A lesbian couple who want to use IVF may, under NHS protocol, need to self-fund up to six rounds of treatment before they’re eligible for a free cycle.4

There’s another sting in the tail for the LGBTQ+ community too. Not all families are supportive. Many are estranged or even disinherited from their families. Losing an inheritance can make a huge difference to someone’s financial future, as well as the emotional trauma of losing the support of those you love.

Advising from the heart, as well as the head

Jamie Lowe founded his LGBTQ+ -friendly practice, True Self Wealth, just over two years ago. “I don't believe that you can be a good financial adviser and not be compassionate,” he says. “How can you get to the bottom of what people want and understand how you can help, without showing someone you care about them?”

Compassionate advice is about knowing what to ask and when – and when not to ask, says Jamie. “I have clients who appreciate the understanding and that I don’t ask them to spell things out or go into detail about their personal life.

Word of an LGBTQ+ friendly practice travels fast among the community.

“One of my LGBTQ+ clients was facing a real dilemma,” says Jamie. “Should they save for transition surgery, or save a house deposit? They couldn’t afford both. We didn’t discuss whether they definitely needed the surgery – it was simply a given.

“My advice for their situation was that both might cost similar sums – and take a while to save for, so just save up for now – and then see how you feel, when you have enough to afford either?”

“Now, they’ve been accepted for free transition surgery under an NHS pilot scheme in Manchester. So they can do both. I’m so pleased for them.”

How to give compassionate advice

Jamie and Emma both have practical advice to share on working with the non-binary community. “You need to get comfortable asking questions that might be outside your comfort zone, such as asking someone what their pronouns are,“ says Jamie.

”Just make it routine. By the time that you’ve asked everybody who walks through the door what their pronouns are, it will feel comfortable. And think about what you’d do or ask in certain situations, for example, what would you ask if a client said they were going through transition?“

“Dial up your empathy, “says Emma, “and keep an open mind. Don’t assume the usual comfort blankets that you have around you are there. LGBTQ+ folk may have different family structures, there may be a history of divorce for those coming out later in life, or they may be estranged from their family.”

“It feels glib to say, ‘try to imagine yourself in their shoes,’ since you can never share anyone’s lived experience. But if you can tap into some part of your own experience that made you feel the same, you can build a bridge between you.”

Towards the future

Building mutual trust and respect between the financial advice industry, and the LGBTQ+ community, will take time. “Life is complicated enough especially when the legal system, financial world and healthcare system wasn’t built for our community,” Jamie concludes.

The financial advice industry is changing, and we know we’re not there yet. But compassion and kindness will get us a long way.

If you think financial advice isn’t for you, please think again. Whether or not you choose SJP, everyone deserves financial advice.

We believe that sensitive financial advice should be available to all, and we strive to create a safe, non-judgemental environment to help you achieve the life you want to live.

If you would like to speak to us, do get in touch.

Sources

12021 Census, Office for National Statistics, accessed May 2024
2Go Fund Me. A Guide to Gender Confirmation Surgery in the UK, March 21, 2023 
3Sensible Surrogacy, accessed May 2024
4NHS-funded in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in England 1 February 2024.

Cultivating a culture of compassion – financial advice and the LGBTQ+ community
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