From the February 2015 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Earning Credentials in LGBT Planning

Professional designations are adding topics that address planning for nontraditional couples and families to their programs

Illustration by Pat Kinsella Illustration by Pat Kinsella

What holds back same-sex couples with good incomes from working with financial planners? Conflicting chemistry may be a concern, suggested planner Sharon Rich, president of Womoney in Belmont, Massachusetts. But a key factor, she pointed out, could be that they’re “looking for someone who understands that they may face complex issues, such as their state's position on same-sex marriage, the reactions of their families of origin or workplace biases.”

Education on issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) and other nontraditional clients is currently part of Certified Financial Planner certification, which includes “financial planning for special circumstances” and “estate planning for nontraditional relationships” among its learning objectives.

Since 2009, the College for Financial Planning has also offered a program leading to the Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor (ADPA) designation. The curriculum was developed in tandem with Wells Fargo Advisors, some of whose financial advisors were the first to be ADPA accredited. According to the College, the ADPA program specifically covers “factors and situations that cause financial planning for domestic partners to be different from financial planning for legally married spouses,” including wealth transfer, taxation, retirement planning and estate planning.

The American College has added two classes to the Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) curriculum that are devoted in part to working with LGBT clients, according to ChFC program director Craig Lemoine. Using applied case studies, the classes include retirement planning, investing, Social Security and Medicare, as well as health care and benefits planning. There is also an emphasis on building the team—an attorney, an accountant, possibly a family therapist and often a real estate broker or agent—that planners need in order to help their LGBT clients. “When you work with clients who are faced with an antagonistic government,” said Lemoine, “you need to help clients find the right resources.”

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