How to Market to, and Meet the Needs of, Same-Sex Couples

Now that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been overturned by the Unites States Supreme Court and new regulations are being drafted to implement the ruling, it may be time to align your marketing strategy to support same-sex couples’ financial issues. Whether same-sex couples are new to your practice, or your clientele already includes many same-sex families, be prepared to guide them through the many changes coming on both the federal and state level. 

In this, the third in a series of posts (see part 1: What Repeal of DOMA Could Mean for Clients and Your Practice, and part 2, Prepping Your Practice to Meet the Needs of Same-Sex Couples), on how advisors can respond to meeting the needs of same-sex couples who are members of the new modern American family, we focus on marketing and meeting those couples’ unique needs. 

How do you successfully market to and build a same sex client base? As you will see, same-sex couples have unique needs. Incorporate a few of the following tactics into your marketing strategy for a positive outcome.

  • Take the time to learn about same-sex couples’ needs—get the training to earn a relevant designation. 
  • Become more involved in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community—sponsor booths or offer seminars during events.
  • Invite same-sex couples to all your marketing events—not just same-sex centered events. By doing this, you may educate couples not yet open about their relationship to new topics.

Same-sex couples may need a higher level of support from you as a financial professional; they often have more income and different financial needs compared to their opposite sex counterparts. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 40% of same-sex couples had more than $100,000 in household income, compared to 17% of opposite sex couples. On average, same-sex couples make almost $42,200 more per year than opposite sex couples. Beyond having more money, they may also leave different legacies because these couples are 24% less likely to have children in the home than opposite sex couples (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey 1-year data file).

Three Key Issues

Now that you know why these clients are unique, let’s discuss some of the financial issues that may occur in light of the June 2013 Supreme Court ruling. Consider three key issues: income taxes, retirement preparation, and estate planning. The actual financial strategy you develop depends on how your client’s state regulates same sex marriage.

Issue 1: Income Taxes

Be aware of the income tax filing status requirements of the married same-sex couple along with the possibility of claiming other(s) as a dependent, such as a partner or child(ren). As of August 29, 2013, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, same-sex spouses can now file federal taxes jointly regardless of their residential state. If they are domestic partners, they may want to talk to their tax advisor about managing income tax liabilities through gifting.

Issue 2: Retirement

Determine what employer-sponsored retirement benefit options are available. In some cases, employers do not give benefits to same-sex spouses or partners. Review the beneficiary designations on assets and life insurance contracts to understand same-sex spousal options. Also, be aware of Social Security retirement benefits now that same-sex spouses may be eligible to claim them.

Issue 3: Estate Planning

For a same-sex couple’s financial future, discuss their wealth and property transfer strategies upon death. Also encourage them to review their cohabitation and domestic partner agreements with an attorney in the event of a separation, especially in states that prohibit same sex marriage. They can also work with an attorney to create a will, health care directive and other important legal documents, if they haven’t done so already.   

If your practice is in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, use the tips included below in the financial checklist for domestic partners (click on the image below to download the checklist).

This document also offers discussion items to give the best results for the customer. Team up with a local attorney who understands the intricacies of same sex laws along with a well-versed tax preparer. With the right preparation and marketing strategy, you can create a lasting same-sex client base and make a difference in their financial legacy.

-- Want to learn more about how you can use social media to grow your business? We invite you to a free ThinkAdvisor webcast on Oct. 1 featuring social media experts Amy McIlwain, Clara Shih and Hardeep Walia.

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