Achieving financial independence is paramount for the LGBTQ+ community
A traditional path doesn’t always apply. There are many ways to reach key milestones while staying true to yourself and inspiring others.
Hear from individuals who’ve achieved professional and financial success, and are now paying it forward.
For this associate broker and trans activist, financial freedom means moving past survival mode
Financial stability allows this retiree to give back to his community
For this CEO, charting her own course makes her feel free
The definition of financial success depends on who you ask. Here’s what the LGBTQ+ community members we surveyed had to say.
11% more likely to chart their own path, rather than following an established plan.*
21% more likely to identify close friends as family.*
“Supporting our community”
45% more likely to view giving back to their community as a top priority.*
“Living our authentic lives”
4% more focused on living life how they want.*
*compared to affluent general population
Diverse Viewpoints: Exploring Wealth in the LGBTQ+ Community
We spoke with thousands of individuals from different backgrounds and professional experiences – hearing a wide range of stories of success and wealth creation.
Our panelists share personal stories, advice and discuss our research findings.
LGBTQ+ VIDEO ROUNDTABLE
Financial Advisor Development Program Executive, Merrill
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Diverse Viewpoints Exploring Wealth in the LGBTQ+ Community
Please see important information at the end of this program. Recorded on July 30th, 2020.
SHELLEY SARANITI: Hello, and thanks for joining us. My name is Shelley Saraniti. My pronouns are she, her and hers, and I'm an executive in the Financial Advisor Development Program here at Merrill.
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She / Her / Hers
- Financial Advisor Development Program Executive, Merrill
- Co-chair Bank of America’s LGBTQ+ Executive Leadership Council
SHELLEY SARANITI: I also co-chair Bank of America’s LGBT+ Executive Leadership Council. As part of our commitment to understanding the needs of all of our clients, Merrill recently conducted a major study looking into the experiences and financial concerns of the LGBTQ+ community.
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To better understand the financial needs of all of our clients, Merrill commissioned:
Exploring Wealth in the LGBTQ+ Community
SHELLEY SARANITI: Today, I'm really honored and privileged to be talking about some of the key findings of that study with our four esteemed guests.
With us we have Carlene (CJ) Jadusingh.
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Carlene (CJ) Jadusingh
She / Her / Hers
- General Civil Litigation and Immigration Attorney
- SAGE USA Board Member
SHELLEY SARANITI: CJ is an attorney in New York City with a general civil litigation and immigration practice and also serves on the board of directors at SAGE USA, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of older LGBTQ adults.
SHELLEY SARANITI: We have Tammi Schaeffer with us.
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She / Her / Hers
- Physician, Emergency Medicine and Medical Toxicology
- Johnson & Johnson Consumer Safety
- Medical Director of the Northern New England Poison Center
SHELLEY SARANITI: Tammi is a physician, who specializes in emergency medicine and medical toxicology. She works in medication safety for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products and she’s also the Medical Director of the Northern New England Poison Center.
SHELLEY SARANITI: Sterling Cruz-Herr with us.
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They, Them, Theirs
- Founder of the trans-rights organization TransClue, a training and consulting company
- 30+ Years of experience in philanthropy, fundraising, diversity, and inclusion
SHELLEY SARANITI: Sterling is the founder of the trans rights organization TransClue and has more than 30 years experience in philanthropy, fundraising, diversity, and inclusion, and marketing and communications.
SHELLEY SARANITI: And, Thomas Prol.
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- Attorney & Past President of the New Jersey Bar Association
- Active in the fight for gender and marriage equality
SHELLEY SARANITI: Tom is an attorney and past President of the New Jersey Bar Association and has been active in the fight for gender and marriage equality throughout his career.
SHELLEY SARANITI: Thank you all for being with us and for that great work.
Let's go ahead and get started. And you’ve all had an advance look at our new study. Did any of the findings strike an especially strong chord with you in terms of your own life experience? Who’d like to begin?
TOM PROL: Well, I’ll start. You know, I found the report was well-informed with data. It spoke to this issue of how acceptance in a family and other issues in the LGBT community specific to that community actually inform sort of our world view on our own personal finances and how we act in the professional space. So, I did find that very helpful. It’s informed by how we grew up and the discrimination of our past, which was quite ugly for many people on varying levels. But now, here we are with a study that’s looking optimistically to the future about the next frontier, our economic equality, which is so critical for the social justice movement in the LGBT community and this study gets into that and I think that’s important.
STERLING CRUZ-HERR: Yeah. So, I identify as transgender and non-binary and yet most of my life I identified as lesbian. You know, when you’re growing up, you think you’re not going to get married and so you think that you have to take care of yourself. And so, throughout my life, I really thought about financial independence and committed to that. And I was lucky enough to get married 14 years ago yesterday, but I didn’t expect it.
SHELLEY SARANITI: Congratulations.
STERLING CRUZ-HERR: And so, that’s really shaped my — yeah. And so that, I think the report really nailed that and also nailed that we’ve got different types of milestones. And so, thinking about eldercare, long-term care and elder planning is certainly something for those of us who don’t have kids that we really have to think about.
TAMMI SCHAEFFER: I really enjoyed looking at that data to sort of see how my experience fits among people who identify differently than me. This financial aspect was new to me and I really enjoyed sort of seeing my place in the world. So, I thought that was useful.
CJ JADUSINGH: One of the things that struck a chord with me was the idea of becoming — needing to become financially independent and housing secure before you came out to your parents, although I didn’t have that specific issue of being worried about being kicked out of my home when I came out, fortunately that wasn’t part of my experience, I can identify with that experience, because I did have to — I actually found an apartment when I was 21 and signed a lease, because I knew when I came out to my mother or even when I told her I was moving out, she’d guilt me into not moving, to not leaving, to staying home. But, I knew that in order to be — to live my life and come out with my life the way I needed to and wanted to, I needed to be out of the apartment, needed to be out of my mom’s house. But that is a very important and significant issue that faces the LGBT community, having to be homeless if you come out to your parents.
SHELLEY SARANITI: The participants had some interesting things to say about family in the study.
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[IMG ALT TEXT: Animated graphic starts at 4:46. Text at the top reads: Respondents who included close friends as members of their family. The animation shows a long dark blue bar scrolling from left to right on the screen, with text on the bar reading: LGBTQ+: 47%, then a shorter light blue bar scrolling from left to right on the screen, with text on the bar reading General Population: 26%. ]
SHELLEY SARANITI: For instance, almost half, 47%, included close friends in their definition of family, as I personally would as well. But that’s compared to only 26% of the general public. What do you think’s behind this broader view of what family means for the LGBT+ community?
CJ JADUSINGH: Well, you know, the word family and the institution of family, like the word marriage and the institution of marriage has had to evolve over the years, has been forced to evolve because of the LGBT community. My family includes my close friends, my wife, and the people that I choose and the energy that I choose to have around me, people who love me and care about me and who I want to share and, you know, to celebrate with and to, you know, share my sorrow. And we’ve, like I said, we’ve had to create our own families for a number of reasons, in addition to people being kicked out of their homes when they were younger because they came out to their parents, because they don’t have children or whatever the reasons. There are myriad of reasons. But, you know, the fact is family and marriage means something different to us because it’s had to over the years.
TAMMI SCHAEFFER: Yeah. I would agree. I think that you surround yourself with those that make you safe. You surround yourself with those that give you that sense of belonging and community and perhaps it is your blood relatives and perhaps it’s those people that you’ve met in the world who are able — without sharing blood — to give you that same feeling. I'm hopeful that eventually the world around us will come around to the fact that our family can encompass all of it, our blood family and those that we’ve chosen to be our family.
SHELLEY SARANITI: So, let’s talk a little bit, pulling on this thread of family, about the landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling
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2015 Supreme Court Decision
On June 25, 2015 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality and grants same-sex couples nationwide the right to marry.
SHELLEY SARANITI: on marriage equality and how that changed your attitudes and expect – expectations about family. And Sterling, I know you mentioned you just celebrated your anniversary with your spouse. So, congratulations. Why don’t we start with you?
STERLING CRUZ-HERR: Loved, obviously loved the decision. That was, even more than the more recent decision about employment discrimination.
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2020 Supreme Court Decision
On June 15, 2020 the Supreme Court ruled that employers may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
STERLING CRUZ-HERR: I think we all know that this decision that we just got this year around employment discrimination was probably much more important to our community. I think the emotional impact of marriage equality was very, very powerful, but I don’t think it necessarily changed our lives.
TOM PROL: You know, I come at the marriage issue as a lawyer. I know in New Jersey, we held town hall meetings; we brought the community together and we made them aware that marriage at its heart is really a contract and it’s where one person comes to another person and they say we agree to support each other, to develop this family. But it was so important for government, because it provides a safety net that we now have this contractual relationship that, hey, if something goes wrong for you, I'm there for you. Marriage equality brought that peace and comfort. So, I do hear you that, though stock with employment law was important in so many more ways for the LGBT community, but it really set the family structure for our community at ease that we now have these protections in such a central element of who we are as a community.
SHELLEY SARANITI: Yes. We have definitely touched on the most recent Supreme Court case in June about the Civil Rights Act and that expanding and protecting gay and transgender employment rights, which of course is an enormous victory. The study found that a large, a far larger percentage of the LGBT+ community has experienced workplace discrimination than the general public, which unfortunately I think most of us probably know firsthand. And respondents also said that they felt that they had to work far harder to succeed in their career. You all here are all very successful in your careers. So, I do want to talk a little bit about the challenges and obstacles that you have faced in your careers and what advice you would give to anyone who encounters that discrimination. So, Sterling, let’s start with you and then, CJ, I would love your take from the civil rights attorney background and some of the other pieces. Sterling?
STERLING CRUZ-HERR: What we’re seeing with this ruling is a lot lower tolerance on behalf of LGBT people for discriminatory behavior. But I think, more importantly, what we’re seeing is that incoming generations aren’t willing to tolerate intolerance toward people based on sexual orientation, gender identity, racial identity, that they expect their workplaces to be inclusive. And so, this was the imprimatur legally, the mandate for businesses to become more inclusive. I think the second part as we talk about the ways that our community is different, there’s great research by Lily Zeng, who talks about how the way we present in the workplace makes us more or less successful. So, for me presenting as a masculine person means that I was rewarded for those behaviors, whereas feminine presenting, particularly trans people, experience greater discrimination. But, I do think that I'm very aware that I have benefited from my masculine presentation and I think that as we look toward the next frontier that this ruling makes the way for, we’ve really got to think about what that inclusive — inclusivity looks like in a much more nuanced way.
CJ JADUSINGH: The only thing I would add is that, you know, the law has always been a haven for minorities, whether, you know, as a black woman, the civil rights laws allowed us to have a, you know, a degree of dignity and to demand respect from others. And these laws now do the same thing that, you know, even if there’s a psychological component, it allowed me to — and others to — expect a greater degree of respect from others and demand to be treated a certain way and gives us now a remedy. And so, that’s an important factor in giving people the confidence to, you know, be able to have the financial future that they want in their roles, their career, the particular job that they’re doing. That's definitely a really important factor for me as well.
TOM PROL: Well that, what you're talking about is really powerful for the psychology of who we are as a community, because it gives a freedom. I mean the report speaks to the ability to be your authentic self. You can live your truth now and with the protection that the law has provided, it really opens up that pathway to financial freedom, the economic equality that the movement is proceeding to. So, it’s really an important protection for many other reasons besides just keeping your job, but because of the psychology behind what those protections mean to the individual, to the family and our community.
SHELLEY SARANITI: That's right and the financial freedom is a great segue into our next question. And as many of us know, one of the main reasons why anyone works is so that we have the money to pursue our goals. And here, according to this study, the LGBT+ community values financial independence, as we very much talked about the reasons behind that when we were talking about family, talking about some of that support. But that being said, the LGBT+ community is also more likely to experience financial stress and paying for healthcare is the top concern. So, Tammi, I know you mentioned healthcare as a concern for you and your wife, obviously in the medical field as well. Can you talk a little bit about that?
TAMMI SCHAEFFER: Yeah, certainly. You know, one of the reasons I went into emergency medicine, is the fact that as an E.R. doc I can take care of anyone, anytime, for anything. So, from a financial standpoint, I want to be able to take care of myself and my wife, and let me cover her with my insurance, let her cover me, whatever we need. And I think that’s important. But, it’s not just the financial aspect. It’s also the decision aspect. It’s the relationship aspect and it’s the right to be able to make those decisions and choices for my spouse, for my wife, and for myself.
SHELLEY SARANITI: Yeah, absolutely. And I do think, going back to this, specifically this need for the cost of healthcare in the LGBT+ community, especially for our transgender community maybe has very, you know, necessary gender confirmation surgeries, other healthcare needs that are, you know, in the six digits of cost that are very, you know, prohibitive for many people. And Sterling, in your work with TransClue, I don’t know if you’d like to add on top of that, that thought. But I think it’s definitely an area that poses a significant challenge, especially for our transgender brothers and sisters.
STERLING CRUZ-HERR: And beyond brothers and sisters, right, all those in between.
SHELLEY SARANITI: Siblings, yes, absolutely.
STERLING CRUZ-HERR: Yeah and also the parents of trans kids. So, it’s hearing a major consulting firm that they were — or one of the senior employees was living, was housed and – or had an office in Mexico City where they didn’t have pubertal suppression blockers. And so, the company made arrangements to move them into the U.S., into a town where a doctor could prescribe that for their child. And so, for employers that want to be inclusive and banks that want to serve us and really show their leadership, which Bank of America is a strong leader on trying to create trans-inclusive workplaces and is really ahead of the pack in terms of non-binary identity, that that’s super-important. So, it’s broadly considered what those needs are when it comes to healthcare and inclusion broadly.
SHELLEY SARANITI: Another top concern in the financial space is saving and investing for retirement, right?
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[IMG ALT TEXT: Animated graphic starts at 15:46. Text at the top reads: Financial Goals. A key shows that LGBTQ+ is represented by the dark blue color, and the General Population is represented by the light blue color. The animation starts with the words Saving for Retirement at the bottom left side of the screen. A dark blue column scrolls up, with a number on the bar reading 45%. Next to it, a light blue column scrolls up, with the number reading 64%. Next, the text on the middle of the screen appears, reading Building Savings. A dark blue column scrolls up, with a number on the bar reading 35%. Next to it, a light blue column scrolls up, with the number reading 39%, and the text on the right side of the screen appears, reading Paying for health care or long-term care. A dark blue column scrolls up, with a number on the bar reading 24%. Next to it, a light blue column scrolls up, with the number reading 17%.]
SHELLEY SARANITI: That's the top financial goal according to the study. Yet, in the LGBT+ community it is prioritized much less in the general public by a margin of 64% to 45%. And CJ, I'd like to start with you. I know through your work with SAGE and some of your other work, elder care needs are top-of-mind for you. So, would love to get your perspective.
CJ JADUSINGH: Well, you know, one of the goals, one of my goals when we talk about elder care or planning for, I guess, this is past retirement, but you know, planning for a time when we might not be able to live as independently as we can now is to keep my wife and myself out of nursing homes. That's a goal is to just keep us out of nursing homes. My experience with nursing homes in the last couple of years with our family has been poor at best and in this pandemic even more so, much more so. One of the reasons I joined the board of SAGE is because I began — I came to realize that our pioneering elders, the people who have made it possible for me to live my life out, loud, and proud, have been discriminated against, bullied, separated, and forced back in the closet in the nursing home, which is, you know, it’s outrageous. It’s outrageous and it just drives me nuts to under — to realize that, you know, they spent their lives fighting to live their true authentic selves and have allowed me the rights that I have now and they, they’re now going back in the closet, And, you know, that’s wrong. It’s just really wrong. SAGE has been advocating and fighting to correct that wrong.
SHELLEY SARANITI: So, we’ve talked a lot about some of the financial goals, whether it be with healthcare, whether it be with retirement. I’ll leave us with this one final question for each of you, which is: What’s the single most important piece of information that you would give our LGBT+ youth? Let's start with you, Tom.
TOM PROL: I'd say learn to read a balance sheet. Learn about financial and how to calculate things and understand the bigger scope of things. Learn to be business smart and, most importantly, to save.
SHELLEY SARANITI: CJ?
CJ JADUSINGH: To vote.
SHELLEY SARANITI: Yeah, indeed. Sterling?
STERLING CRUZ-HERR: I'd say get to know an LGBTQ elder, and I count myself as an elder. I’ll be 58, and we’re the ones that you can come to encourage you about your career and encourage you about your financial planning. And we're there and we want to be supportive.
SHELLEY SARANITI: Tammi?
TAMMI SCHAEFFER: I think I'm going to channel Mr. Rogers, and I'm going to say look to the helpers. Look to those who had – whether it’s about coming out, whether it’s about finances, whether it’s about career, look to those people that you’ve come across in your life that have done what you think you want to do, whether, again, it’s about living your most genuine life, or what college you want to go to, or what you want to invest in. And get to know them, and let them get to know you, and understand that, you know, we always talk about how life is difficult and hopefully it gets better. And even those in front of you that where everything looks great, they've probably been through a few things that weren’t so great and they can help you navigate. They can help you find ways through the maze of life, again, financial, personal, work-related. So, look to the helpers. We’re out there. They’re out there. Sometimes, it’s hard to find, but keep going.
SHELLEY SARANITI: Well, thank you all. This has been such a phenomenal discussion, covering so many topics in such a limited amount of time. I can’t thank you all enough for sharing your thoughts, your ideas, and yourselves with us. To our viewers, thank you for spending time with us, and thank you for watching. Thank you, everyone.
TOM PROL: Thank you.
CJ JADUSINGH: Cheers.
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Ipsos is the third largest market research company in the world, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people. Merrill or any of its affiliates are not affiliated with Ipsos. In partnership with Merrill, Ipsos conducted multiple waves of research throughout 2019, employing a variety of research methodologies, starting out by interviewing Merrill stakeholders who serve and represent the diverse communities. In parallel, they synthesized and reviewed an array of publications and academic research on the topics of diversity, wealth and inclusion in financial services and beyond.
· The Online Community and the In-Home Qualitative research was conducted from July to September 2019. We spoke with n=6 respondents from each of the three affluent communities in their homes and hosted an Online Community of n=20 respondents from each of the three communities.
· The Quantitative research was conducted from September to November 2019. We spoke with n=450+ members of each of the three communities and compared them to a representative sample of the n=1000 respondents from the affluent general population. We surveyed: n=455 members of the affluent Black/African American Community, n=512 members of the affluent Hispanic/Latino Community, n=509 members of the affluent LGBTQ+ Community.
This video features third-parties not affiliated with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated ("Merrill") and is for information and educational purposes only. The opinions and views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Merrill or any of its affiliates.
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