LGBTQ+ parents and kids need a different financial education that our heterosexual and gender-normative counterparts. Here's what to teach kids about money in queer families.

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As we close out Pride Month, it's easy to rest on the laurels of our accomplishments as a society. After all, LGBTQ+ representation is becoming more visible every year-and more and more families are realizing how essential LGBTQ+ education is in positive upbringing for children from LGBTQ+ and straight families alike. But pride and inclusion is about more than simply not judging each other for our differences; we should also be empathically examining those differences, and understanding why others' life journeys are not the same as ours. And guess what: That includes our money journeys.

An image of money on top of an LGBTQ+ flag.
Credit: Getty Images. Art: Jillian Sellers.

The money conversation is taboo for many families, even more so than talks regarding sexuality and identity. And with the pandemic still affecting virtually every person's financial future, it's especially essential to teach our children to be financially responsible-today, and for tomorrow. And for queer parents, or hetero parents of queer kids, that also includes highlighting the significant differences in how LGBTQ+ folks experience financial situations-and the unique hardships we face.

Even today, hetero- and gender-normative, different-sex parents are the media default portrayal of a family. They're who buys the house, applies for a credit card, gets first in line to secure a bank loan for a new or used car. And the media portrayals reflect real life; according to the independent research non-profit Movement Advancement Project, 35 states offer no explicit prohibitions for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. And research from the Williams Institute shows that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience unemployment-and don't even get us started on the persistent gay wage gap.

Point being, queer families go through different experiences than their heterosexual and gender-normative counterparts, and it's important to understand why. Here are a few ways teaching kids about money is different in a queer household.

Some states might not allow a queer family to apply for a mortgage-yet.

Since 2021's Equality Act has yet to meet the senate for a vote, there is currently no federal law banning discrimination based on sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation for those seeking credit. This means some states, such as Alabama and Texas, still have the freedom to reject a queer couple's application for a rental or mortgage solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Even if a state does have explicit language banning discrimination, it may not be enforced. According to a 2019 research study, "compared with otherwise similar different-sex applicants, same-sex applicants are 73.12% more likely to be denied, and they tend to be charged up to 0.2% higher fees or interest."

When asked what LGBTQ+ families should know about credit and lending, Colleen McCreary of Credit Karma says "it's important to know your rights and what you can do if you believe you're being discriminated against. It's illegal for a lender to discriminate against you based on certain protected traits like race, gender, religion, or marital status, but that doesn't mean that credit and lending discrimination doesn't happen. This awareness can help you protect yourself from potential credit discrimination cases, but it can also help you feel more comfortable and in control when shopping around for credit."

McCreary urges LGBTQ+ families applying for credit or a loan to learn what lenders can and cannot legally do in terms of information acquisition. For example, a lender can ask you for personal information touching on some protected traits, but there are restrictions on how they can use that information; ie, they can't use it to determine whether to offer you credit-or on what terms.

The ECOA also offers guidance on what a lender can and can't do. Keep these in mind when shopping for a home, to ensure you're treated fairly:

  • A lender can't ask about marital status if you're applying on your own for an unsecured loan (unless you live in a community property state).
  • A lender can ask about race, sex, or national origin, though you can choose not to answer. (This information is intended for the federal government to help ensure the lender is not discriminating against you.)
  • A lender can't ask if you're planning to have children (but can consider your current children when talking about expenses).
  • A lender can't require a co-signer if you meet its standard lending criteria on your own.
  • A lender can't turn you down without providing a specific reason within 60 days if you ask for it (and it can't be something vague like "you didn't meet our criteria").

"And be on high alert for the red flags," McCreary adds. "While there are plenty of prominent examples of what overt discrimination in lending looks like, there are also smaller, subtler methods of credit discrimination." For example, if you're denied credit after your race, sex, disability, or other protected trait is suddenly brought into the conversation, even though you're qualified per the lender's stated criteria.

If queer folks want to have kids, they need to start saving even earlier.

If your children are LGBTQ+ and want their own kids, saving money early is necessary. Many would-be LGBTQ+ parents learn later than they'd like just how high the costs of family-building through IVF or surrogacy can be. It wasn't until 2020 that New York even passed the Child-Parent Security Act allowing same-sex couples to have gestational surrogacy.

Adoption can be more accessible, particularly adoption through foster care. However, the price of some adoptions can cost up to $30,000; meanwhile surrogacy (if allowed) can reach around $100,000. This can leave many would-be parents unable to grow their families with the method-or on the timeline-they want. That said, there are programs to offset the costs of things like IVF, adoption, or surrogacy. Help Us Adopt and Men Having Babies are examples of non-for-profit agencies that can help LGBTQ+ families understand the adoption and surrogacy process better-and provide financial support in some cases.  

Educating your children on these issues and differences early can help them understand all the various paths to parenthood, and how options differ for LGBTQ+ versus hetero folks.

Even if you have access to healthcare, it might not cover the needs of trans folks.

In March of this year, Arkansas enacted a ban on gender-affirming health care for trans youth. Similarly, in Montana, a bill was legislated blocking any gender changes to your birth certificate and only through a court order. Seventeen anti-LGBTQ+ laws have been passed since May.

The ban in Arkansas means that trans children will not receive essential care, including puberty blockers and hormones. And if government healthcare doesn't cover things like puberty blockers, they can cost $1,200 per month for that trans child's family. Coupled with a mortgage or rent, having no insurance can cause LGBTQ+ families quick debt. It's crucial to educate kids early so they understand the importance of having a financial safety net for healthcare that should-but might not-be covered.

It's even more important to donate to LGBTQ+ causes.

Just because LGBTQ+ rights have come far doesn't mean they can't be reversed (just look at Arkansas). Supporting the right causes helps keep the community activism rolling, and puts your money where your mouth is.

As part of teaching your kids to volunteer and give back to their community, teach them to make charitable donations to LGBTQ+ causes, such as The Trevor Project or Covenant House, which provides shelter to homeless LGBTQ+ youth. Without donations, these organizations would struggle to survive, causing irreparable damage to the community and our youth.

Demystifying the topic of money has to be taught earlier.

Brandon Cardet-Hernandez is an LGBTQ+ parent and the executive director of Ivy Street School, a non-profit organization providing wrap-around services to neurodiverse students. He tells Parents that "it's important to teach all kids about money. From honest dialogue about spending, including young people in payment transactions (even just for the thrill), structuring allowance, and cultivating a practice of philanthropy-there is real learning in financial literacy."

Cardet-Hernandez reminds parents that even though money talks with our kids can be less than fun, "we need to lean in and move past the discomfort. Money is complicated, but it doesn't have to be secretive. Our kids will grow to make smart financial choices if we demystify money. Through our spending habits and the open dialogue around consuming, saving, and supporting others, we can not only reinforce functional math skills, patience, and empathy, but also strengthen justice-thinking that will help us raise strategic and community-focused adults."

And perhaps most importantly, "teaching young people helps hold us, as adults, accountable to best practices, and that is a beautiful thing," Cardet-Hernandez adds. "Every kid, regardless of their family status, financial background or disability should be allowed to [develop] a healthy relationship with spending, saving, and giving."