If you thought the arrival of same-sex marriage has solved everyone’s problems around partnership rights, you are sadly mistaken.
I’ve been researching the subject as we set up Equality Wealth Management. We discovered a ticking retirement time-bomb for LGBTIs who are generally unprepared for their old age.
But perhaps even more shockingly, many of us have failed to take basic steps to protect those we love most.
Why do we see partnership differently?
We’ve found that being part of a ‘couple’ is still perceived in a different way in the LGBTI community than in the straight world.
You don’t have to be a very old LGBTI person to remember a time when being open about having a partner could prove difficult. Being able to marry the person you loved seemed an impossible dream.
I was born in the 60s when it was still illegal to be gay. For much of my younger life the only thing we heard about being gay was there was something wrong with us and we were queer, weird and potentially a criminal.
Many people of my generation have spent much of their life in the closet – some never felt comfortable to come out. It’s hardly surprising that so many of us still find it difficult to talk openly about our sexuality. Even those of us running an LGBT business!
It’s also no surprise we don’t follow the ‘normal’ straight lifecycle. Meet a boy/girl, settle down, marry, have kids. The take-up of marriage or civil partnership is still quite low among same-sex couples. So most partnerships are still not covered by the legal protection that marriage offers.
Financial protection for same-sex couples
Because we don’t always take those steps, we often forget to do other things to protect our partners too.
Many couples keep their finances separate, which can be a significant issue for protecting our partners. You may expect older couples to have had the time to sort it out. But in fact, they are even less likely to have a joint financial plan or even a joint bank account.
Older LGBTIs still don’t seem to be used to talking to expert advisors about their sexuality. So as a result, they often don’t get advice on how to protect their partners. Financial advisors aren’t used to asking the right questions either, making it worse.
If that problem doesn’t scare you, then I’m afraid it should. I have come across people in long-term, loving partnerships who lost their home and assets when their partner died. They simply had not considered protection and maybe weren’t open to their partner’s family.
Even marriage doesn’t solve everything
The rights we enjoy in the UK now put same-sex and opposite sex couples on a level playing field.
But even if you marry, you may not be treated the same out of the country. If you travel or move overseas to a location that doesn’t recognise your marriage or partnership, you may find you have less or no protection.
Problems for all partners, gay or straight
Some issues that LGBTIs face are the same as those faced by everyone else.
A lot of these can be simply solved, if you go and get good advice. These include:
- Insurance protection on mortgages or loans to cover both of you, not just one.
- Protection in the event of being unable to pay mortgage due to illness.
- Having a will in place and assets held correctly to ensure your partner gets when you die.
- Planning your retirement with enough protection to make sure you can live your older years as you want.
Same-sex couples face particular issues
But there are also issues you are more likely to face if you are in a gay or lesbian couple.
- LGBTI retirement can cost more than for straight people and yet we are often less prepared for it.
- Because fewer same-sex couples are married, fewer are protected legally. In a worse case, you may lose your home when you lose your partner because of this.
- Inheritance tax in the UK could be a big issue and even if you are in a formal partnership, you may need extra planning to avoid a nasty shock.
How to protect yourself and the person you love
There are several things you can do to fix this. The most important step is to start talking about it.
- When buying a home make sure you get advice from someone who truly understand your situation. You need to be fully open with them.
- Ask how to get adequate protection for you and your partner on mortgages and loans.
- Planning for retirement with your partner is important. You want to spend your lives together, so have a joint target and plan to reach retirement goals.
- Even if you are married, get advice on protection and future planning. This is true for everyone but doubly so if you plan to move to a location that doesn’t recognise your same-sex couples.