My name is Scott Stanley and I’m a gay financial planner who works with LGBTQ+ clients. I’m a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and founder of Pharos Wealth Management, a financial management firm based in the San Francisco Bay Area (specifically, Novato, CA in Marin County).
In a world with marriage equality, you might ask yourself, "can a financial advisor that focuses on helping LGBT clients really be relevant?" Based on my professional focus and my own life experiences, I feel like I may be able to contribute some valuable insight into answering this question. Of course, these thoughts are coming from a financial advisor, but hear me out...
One of the most important components of planning your financial future is working with a financial planner that you trust. Prejudices still exist in a big way so connecting with a suitable financial planner (an LGBTQ+ centric advisor) can be a tremendous help. Financial planning is largely about trust, openness, and transparency, so finding someone that you’re comfortable working with can lead to a more efficient and fruitful endeavor. You may assume it doesn't matter, but it matters a great deal when the personal details can help the professional get to the core issues - it's the core issues that can help lead to the most valuable advice.
Of course, you shouldn’t have to spill all the details of your personal life to anyone and everyone that you come across, but the details can be relevant far more often than most people realize. Too many times have I heard stories of queer people working with a CPA, an attorney, or a financial planner (and other types of professionals) without telling them about their personal lives. This isn't necessarily the fault of the professional giving off a vibe of intolerance, and it's certainly not the fault of the queer person protecting their identity. It's a phenomenon that exists because of years of political persecution and violence that is deeply rooted in the identities of the LBGTQ+ community.
For those who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, it may feel like this kind of prejudice can't possibly exist anymore. Tolerance has improved in certain areas, but we're considered to be in a bubble. As soon as you step outside of that bubble, your guard must go up for survival. It’s not always easy to know how safe you are when you walk into a room, with people you don’t know, to share your most intimate financial details. It’s for that reason that trust is paramount when you’re deciding what professional to work with.
Many queer people are in a unique position to recognize the fragility of financial security. In other words, we know how life can change in the blink of an eye. We’re used to dealing with hardships and unpredictability. We can use that experience as the impetus to start a plan for our future – to create a more stable future knowing that hardships are just around the corner. We’ll be ready for those hardships. More specifically, creating a strong independent foundation can go a long way.
Creating an “independence fund” is a great way to fortify your personal financial situation. An "independence fund" is a term I’ve coined that is akin to an emergency fund, but it’s an additional savings account that can help you weather the additional storms that queer people face. A kind of assurance that you’ll be able to maintain your independence in the face of LGBT hardship.
If you’re looking for a great way to start building a foundational understanding for financial concepts, start with reading a personal financial planning book. Try to avoid the gimmicky presentations and do a little research to find a book that suits your needs. There are also some fantastic thought leaders out there that provide objective truly helpful insights. If you’d like any guidance or suggestions, I’m always happy to send some your way. Send me a note with a brief description of what you’re looking for and I’ll reply with an appropriate resource.
Lastly, and perhaps the most important step someone can take to get a better understanding for building a sound financial future is to consider a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional that you like and trust – one that is willing to help you learn – and lean on them for advice and leadership. Sure, there’ll be a cost associated with this path, but it could very well be better financial decision in working towards your financial goals. Oh, and consider choosing an advisor you work with is held to a strict fiduciary standard (CFP®s are held to a strict fiduciary standard). What exactly does it meant be a fiduciary? It basically means that your interest is considered before anything else...and the fiduciary is held personally liable for the advice they give. It can make a world of difference in your future.