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When Gay Clients Retire, Big Financial Challenges Collide

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If ever there was a population needing plenty of help with financial issues in their golden years, it’s the LGBTQ+ community.

Laura LaTourette, an independent advisor in Dahlonega, Georgia, specializes in serving retirees and pre-retirees in this segment. And in interview with ThinkAdvisor, she reveals the challenges of older gays.

For example, the Silent Generation, born between 1928 and 1945, have challenges exacerbated by advanced age, like discrimination by the health care industry, estate planning issues and the decision of whether or not to marry.

Many lifelong gay partners miss out on spousal financial benefits because they’re fearful of family rejection if they wed and/or are unaware of the financial advantages marriage will bring. 

LaTourette, principal of Family Wealth Management Group, whose broker-dealer is LPL Financial, is an out and outgoing lesbian who is a passionate advocate for helping other LGBTQ+ people get the financial guidance they need.

She helps other advisors serve that market by sharing best practices and suggesting “how to come out in the very conservative financial services industry,” as she puts it.

In the interview, the CFP, 60, talks of how her personal transition from a heterosexual life led to a career as a holistic wealth advisor.

She and her eight-person team, located in the town of Dahlonega (population: about 6,800), at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, manage assets of about $52 million. Clients are mostly LGBTQ+ and folks who have family members who are gay. 

LaTourette started as an insurance sales rep in the 1980s, expanded into financial planning and opened her own advisory firm in 1998.

ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed the Michigan-born, Milwaukee-bred financial planner by phone. She was speaking from the farm she and her wife, Susan, own 10 miles outside of Dahlonega.

LaTourette is a member of the Financial Planning Association’s PridePlanners Knowledge Circle and works with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards to encourage younger advisors — particularly lesbians and people of color in general — to earn CFP certification.

Here are excerpts from our interview:

 THINKADVISOR: Why did you choose to specialize in LGBTQ+ retirees and pre-retirees?

LAURA LATOURETTE: There are three generations of queer folks to think about, and you have to look at each through a different lens. The Silent Generation — the elders — are having a real problem because they have nowhere to go to feel safe and be taken care of in their final days — whether that’s five years or two weeks.

They’re really scared. As they get older, they have difficulty finding help with home health care; and a welcoming elder-care facility is hard to find.

What about the two younger generations?

I’m not worried about the millennials. They’re coming to terms with their self-identity very quickly. The Pride Generation, of which I’m a part, is used to fighting and advocating; so we’re going to push the limits and create what we need.

What specific financial concerns do your older gay clients have?

They’re worried about how to leave their partners their wealth without having large tax consequences. Some have never married but have been together for many years. One client couple I have who’s in their 80s have been partners for 46 years and are [just now] going to marry.

They’re having a secret wedding because they want to avoid dealing with family rejection. As I’ve been telling them, now they’ll be able to transfer wealth, Social Security and pension benefits without tax complications since spousal wealth transfer is a benefit of marriage.

What other financial challenges do LGBTQ+ people face?

Discrimination in housing, credit and wages; lack of career advancement; lack of access to health care. Many hospitals don’t recognize the partners as family if they’re unmarried.

Do you have clients who have experienced that last issue?

Yes. A couple were partners for over 15 years, and when one of [the men] was hospitalized, he was [resuscitated] five times in six weeks. His partner wanted to take him off life support, but the doctor wouldn’t allow it even though he had a health directive [authorizing his partner to make like-or-death decisions if he were incapacitated].

I went down to the hospital as a friend — not a financial advisor — and threatened legal action. LGBTQ+ partners should have the love and respect [from the medical establishment] that they give to heterosexual couples. 

What other financial needs do your LGBTQ+ clients have that may be different from your heterosexual clients?

Estate planning can present complexity for married [gay] clients. For example, family dynamics such as limited acceptance or rejection can impact their plans about establishing beneficiaries and also affect planning for charitable giving.

What are challenges for younger LGBTQ+ clients?

Many couples need guidance about starting families. The financial implications of adoption and fertility treatments need to be addressed. Many adoption agencies are religious-based and reject applications from same-sex couples.

How did you get interested in working in financial services?

In the 1980s, I was a life insurance sales rep, and in 1993 became a licensed agent. Then, in 1994 I moved into working with a Nationwide agent who mentored me in estate planning. We were able to use mutual funds since the company allowed us to use other products [not only Nationwide’s]. That opened my horizons to business planning and retirement planning. 

What prompted you to launch your own practice in 1998?

I was transitioning out of the heterosexual life. When I divorced after 10 years of marriage, I had two kids [who would be living with me] and needed to think about how I was going to build my retirement. So I had to understand the financial services industry.

That prompted me to understand it for my [gay] friends who were [similarly transitioning] — because we don’t want [to talk to FAs] who don’t look or sound like us.

But didn’t you have retirement savings with your husband?

I left everything behind. I didn’t want to take his money. We were divorcing because I felt I needed to live a more authentic life. It wasn’t anything he had done or hadn’t done. I didn’t feel I should put him in that financial jeopardy. I felt it was better for me to start over.

Was there anything specific that started your transition?

I met Susan and decided to divorce and start a new life in Dahlonega. So in 1995, I moved from Atlanta, and we got married in 2016. We’ve been together for 26 years now.

Has being gay ever impeded your career as a self-employed financial planner?

I’m sure it’s helped to, maybe, stifle my growth. I had a client who said, “If you didn’t wear it on your sleeve, you could get more people to become clients.” I said, “Why would I want clients who have a problem with my sexuality because I love Susan?” I’m a scrappy kid from Milwaukee, and I’m going to be who I am! 

Have you ever encountered discrimination from the industry because you’re gay?

Sure. One of the things we do every day is decide [depending on who we’re talking with]: Do I come out, or do I not? When you’re speaking to someone at a conference [and you come out], you hope they won’t reject you. If so, the conversation ends, they leave, and you find someone who’s friendly.

How do you personally help other FAs who want to serve LGBTQ+?

I suggest that they be authentic and truly hear and understand the clients’ challenges. I’m always happy to share best practices. I post stuff all the time on social media. A lot of LGBTQ+ contact me, and I give them a tour of my website.

One of the things I talk about is how to come out in your community. A lot of queer people are so afraid to come out in the very conservative financial services industry. They’re afraid to come out to their bosses. So I give them advice and help them validate things.

You regard establishment of the LPL Advisor Inclusion Council in September 2018, of which you are an inaugural member, as an important crossroads in your career. Please elaborate.

It’s been very meaningful to be part of such a large public company’s efforts to change the culture within and then, the culture of the financial services industry. LPL is light-years ahead in DEI [diversity, equity, inclusion]. It’s been leading the industry in implementing several steps for nearly the last three years. 

Just how did you become one of the Council’s first members?

I’d been vocalizing for many years at [LPL’s] women’s conferences that there was no focus specifically on lesbians.

But when Andy Kalbaugh [LPL managing director & divisional president] announced they were going to have a diversity and inclusion council that would be a big initiative, I told him, “I want to be on that council because I’m a woman and a lesbian, and I have a lot to say!”

So you felt this was a great opportunity?

Yes, a big opportunity and a big responsibility to help move the financial services industry, the foundation of which doesn’t talk about progressive things — we’re back in the 1950s.

What did the council do right off the bat?

First we worked on marketing. Lesbians weren’t anywhere on the marketing pieces. I said, “You say we’re welcome, but you aren’t showing us in the literature that we give to clients.” So they sent us some photos to [consider]; but I said, “These aren’t lesbians; they’re [just] friends. When you look at a picture [of lesbians], I want people to know the women are in love, and the same thing with gay guys.”

How do you publicly advocate for LGBTQ+?

I speak at webinars and am part of the Financial Planning Association’s PridePlanners Knowledge Circle. I’m a SAGE [Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders] Ambassador and provide guidance on challenges facing elders. I’m also an ambassador for the CFP Board.

I’m working to advance the Board’s DEI efforts and encourage younger people, particularly [lesbians] and also people of color [in general], to become CFP professionals. Whenever I’m interviewed, I bring up LGBTQ+. My focus is that if I keep bringing it up, it will normalize the conversation and one day when I say, “my wife,” I won’t get that look that’s like a double-take.

How do you prospect for clients?

I don’t proactively market. Usually I get [client] referrals. So when you walk through the door, you [already] know I’m gay. If you don’t, I make sure you do! But we’re a small town. We know who’s gay. We just, kind of, know everybody’s business.