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For Many In The Trans Community, Basic Financial Goals Are Out Of Reach




Imagine for a moment that you’re faced with a choice: Hide your true identity so you can afford to survive, or risk everything from your job to your home in order to live as your authentic self.

For many transgender people, this situation isn’t imaginary. On top of all the societal and emotional hurdles trans individuals face, there are a disproportionate number of financial challenges. Even the most basic goals, such as saving money or investing in a 401(k), are often out of reach.

A 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 29 percent of transgender people live in poverty. That’s more than double the 14 percent of the general U.S. population. The report also found that the unemployment rate among transgender individuals is 15 percent ― three times the national average at the time of the survey. Thirty percent have been homeless at some point in their lives.

“It’s a pretty grim landscape,” said Dru Levasseur, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal and director of the organization’s Transgender Rights Project. Levasseur noted that many trans people must rely on a “survival economy” to get by.

It seems the transgender community is being recognized and celebrated more than ever in popular culture and entertainment, but the financial future remains bleak.

Discrimination in the workplace leads to lower earnings.

The NCTE survey above found that 30 percent of respondents who were employed during the previous year said they had been fired, denied a promotion or experienced mistreatment because of their gender identity or expression. Seventy-seven percent of respondents took steps to avoid workplace mistreatment, including delaying their transition, hiding it or quitting their job.

Further, 8 percent of respondents said they had no individual income. Nearly a quarter reported earning less than $10,000 per year, versus 15 percent of the general U.S. adult population.

“I was fired from a job once in a retail store when a new store manager took over and was cleaning house of all the various employees that didn’t fit his ideals,” said Riley Silverman, a comedian, writer and trans woman.

Silverman was early in her transition at the time but would wear eyeliner at work. It wasn’t against the dress code, but her employer clearly didn’t like it. “I got fired for something unrelated, a completely trumped-up customer complaint. When they want you gone, they find a reason.”

Now working in a creative field, Silverman said she wishes she could pursue comedy and writing exclusively. However, the security of her day job is tough to give up. “It’s harder for me to feel comfortable leaving a steady job that keeps a roof over my head and helps me pay for health insurance,” Silverman explained.

“I’ve had the phrase ‘Jump and find the net as you fall’ repeated to me so many times by cis straight people who don’t have to fear not even being able to go to a temp agency to make a quick buck,” she said. “I can’t leap and find the net because I have no reason to believe there will be one.”

Levasseur noted gains have been made in making workplace discrimination laws more inclusive of transgender individuals. For instance, a federal appeals court recently rejected the Trump administration’s position and ruled that transgender individuals are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex.

Despite this, discrimination is still an all-too-common problem, according to Levasseur. “The reality is that a lot of people don’t know the law. They don’t feel like they can exercise their rights.”

The cost of transitioning can reach six figures.

For many trans individuals, though not all, transitioning physically is often an important ― and expensive ― step in the journey to living as the gender they identify with.

The cost of gender-affirming surgery can easily cost $100,000 or more, according to Reuters. Less complex procedures, such as facial electrolysis, run about $20,000. And there are other medical costs associated with transitioning, such as counseling, which can cost around $100 a session.

Often people who transition are left to foot the bill themselves. Mary McDougall, a wealth management adviser at Merrill Lynch, has worked with trans clients who were preparing to transition. Often it meant sacrificing other goals or taking on debt.

“You just had to figure out ways to pay for it,” McDougall said. “Someone would basically spend their entire retirement savings in order to accomplish this. But it was such an important thing for their lives.”

Today, more health plans cover surgeries related to gender. However, McDougall noted, even when a trans person is able to get surgery covered, there are still additional costs. “If you don’t have the family support, you may not have some of the financial support that you need or some of the care post-surgery or some other therapy that you might find beneficial,” she said.

And, of course, it’s tough to get low-cost health insurance without a full-time job that offers it ― something many trans individuals struggle to obtain.

Access to medical care is limited and expensive.

Health care is another arena in which transgender Americans are largely left out.

Kellan Baker, a doctoral candidate in health services research and policy at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in LGBTQ issues, told NPR that it’s difficult for a lot of transgender patients to even find a primary care provider who’s willing to work with them.

And even in states where extensive transgender discrimination protections do exist, some people still have to jump through many hoops to get the care they deserve. Levasseur recalled a groundbreaking 2011 case in which Lambda Legal sued the state of Oregon as an employer on behalf of a transgender man, Alec Esquivel.

“He needed a medically necessary hysterectomy, and the plan denied that,” said Levasseur. “So we brought an employment claim [against the state] saying that you’re compensating cisgender women more and compensating Alec less because he’s transgender ― because you’re not covering his health care.”

Myles Lawter, an LGBTQ career services specialist at the University of Chicago who goes by they/them pronouns, said, “Ever since I graduated from graduate school, I’ve actually been employed full time with a salary, with benefits, and have still struggled tremendously in terms of accessing medical care.”

Lawter, who has been pursuing what is casually known as top surgery, said they’ve faced numerous financial roadblocks. “For example, I consulted with a surgeon outside of the state because he was able to take patients sooner, but insurance only covered so much,” Lawter explained. “And so there was going to be about $2,000 to $3,000 left over that needed to be paid. And he wanted all of that up front.”

When previously living in South Carolina, Lawter would have to drive an hour and a half away to visit a facility where they qualified for free hormone treatments. “Then I had to drive another hour and a half the opposite way to see one of the only therapists in South Carolina that would willingly work with [trans patients].”

Friends have encountered similar challenges. Lawter said one of their best friends from high school moved from South Carolina to Connecticut with no job and no plan, solely because the state expanded its Medicaid coverage to include top surgery at no cost. It was “at great personal sacrifice,” said Lawter. “They gave up literally everything they’ve ever known.”

Homelessness is a huge problem.

What’s perhaps the most unfortunate reality is that some people are unwilling to accept transgender individuals for who they are, even if those people are family. That means many members of the trans community are rejected by their own parents, siblings or other relatives, sometimes ending up on the street.

A 2012 study found that running away because of family rejection over sexual orientation and gender identity was the top contributor to homelessness among LGBTQ youth. Second was being forced out of their family homes after coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Housing discrimination is also a major contributor to homelessness among trans people. The NCTE found that nearly 23 percent of respondents experienced housing discrimination within the past year, including being evicted or denied an apartment because they were transgender. GLAAD reported that close to one-third of people who are homeless and trans are turned away from shelters.

Unfortunately, homelessness can compound the discrimination trans people may already face when looking for work or launching a career.

Don’t lose hope.

There’s no doubt that these statistics and personal experiences paint an incredibly stark picture. And the current presidential administration isn’t doing anything to improve it.

“We had so much success with the Obama administration, and a lot of the work that we had done in terms of changing policies and laws has been undone,” said Levasseur. “Trans people are in the crosshairs of this administration.”

Levasseur added that, although it’s great that there’s progress being made in terms of changing laws to protect trans people, “I think there’s a lot of work to be done.”

So how can transgender Americans work toward their financial goals when the cards seem to be stacked against them?

Find a support network. “I would say that the No. 1 thing that helped me to keep my head on straight when I’m not having access to things and just really struggling financially is having a support network,” said Lawter. This can include friends, support groups, online communities and even Facebook groups where trans members are able to ask questions without judgment and know they’re not alone.

Plan ahead. McDougall said that no matter your financial goal, whether it’s paying for surgery, sending a child to college or retiring, you have to start planning for it as soon as possible. “It really is just a math problem,” McDougall said, noting that you might have to put off retirement and work longer to make up for the costs. “But even then, people are happy to do that because it means that they’ll be so much happier in their life.”

Give back if you can. It’s also important for those in the community that have the means to give back when possible. Levasseur has encouraged transgender seniors to leave at least a portion of their estate to the Jim Collins Foundation, an organization he co-founded that funds gender-affirming surgeries. “We were able to do 20 surgeries in 10 years because, in part, multiple trans people passed away and left their legacy to the foundation.”

Know that it’s OK to be pissed off. Finally, while it’s easy to tell people to be positive, “it’s also OK to have bad days and be upset about your situation and the state of the world,” said Lawter. “We deserve equal pay, we deserve to be employed … we do deserve all those things, and your situation is not your fault.”


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4 things kids need to know about money




(NC) Responsible spending includes knowing the difference between wants and needs. Back-to-school season, with added expenses and expectations around spending, is the perfect time to not only build your own budget for the year ahead, but also to introduce your own children to the concept of budgeting.

The experts at Capital One break down four basic things that every child should know about money, along with tips for bringing real-life examples into the conversation.

What money is. There’s no need for a full economic lesson,but knowing that money can be exchanged for goods and services, and that the government backs its value, is a great start.
How to earn money. Once your child understands what money is, use this foundational knowledge to connect the concepts of money and work. Start with the simple concept that people go to work in exchange for an income, and explain how it may take time (and work) to save for that new pair of sneakers or backpack. This can help kids develop patience and alleviate the pressure to purchase new items right away that might not be in your budget.
The many ways to pay. While there is a myriad of methods to pay for something in today’s digital age, you can start by explaining the difference between cash, debit and credit. When teaching your kids about credit, real examples help. For instance, if your child insists on a grocery store treat, offer to buy it for them as long as they pay you back from their allowance in a timely manner. If you need a refresher, tools like Capital One’s Credit Keeper can help you better understand your own credit score and the importance of that score to overall financial health.
How to build and follow a budget. This is where earning, spending, saving and sharing all come together. Build a budget that is realistic based on your income and spending needs and take advantage of banking apps to keep tabs on your spending in real-time. Have your kids think about how they might split their allowance into saving, spending and giving back to help them better understand money management.

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20 Percent Of Americans In Relationships Are Committing Financial Infidelity




Nearly 30 million Americans are hiding a checking, savings, or credit card account from their spouse or live in partner, according to a new survey from That’s roughly 1 in 5 that currently have a live in partner or a spouse.

Around 5 million people — or 3 percent — used to commit “financial infidelity,” but no longer do.

Of all the respondents, millennials were more likely than other age groups to hide financial information from their partner. While 15 percent of older generations hid accounts from their partner, 28 percent of millennials were financially dishonest.

Regionally, Americans living in the South and the West were more likely to financially “cheat” than those living in the Northeast and Midwest.

Insecurity about earning and spending could drive some of this infidelity, according to industry analyst Ted Rossman.

When it comes to millennials, witnessing divorce could have caused those aged 18-37 to try and squirrel away from Rossman calls a “freedom fund”.

“They’ve got this safety net,” Rossman said. They’re asking: “What if this relationship doesn’t work out?”

As bad as physical infidelity

More than half (55 percent) of those surveyed believed that financial infidelity was just as bad as physically cheating. That’s including some 20 percent who believed that financially cheating was worse.

But despite this, most didn’t find this to be a deal breaker.

Over 80 percent surveyed said they would be upset, but wouldn’t end the relationship. Only 2 percent of those asked would end the relationship if they discovered their spouse or partner was hiding $5,000 or more in credit card debt. That number however is highest among those lower middle class households ($30,000-$49,999 income bracket): Nearly 10 percent would break things off as a result.

Roughly 15 percent said they wouldn’t care at all. Studies do show however that money troubles is the leading cause of stress in a relationship.

That’s why, Rossman says, it’s important to share that information with your partner.

“Talking about money with your spouse isn’t always easy, but it has to be done,” he said. “You can still maintain some privacy over your finances, and even keep separate accounts if you and your spouse agree, but you need to get on the same page regarding your general direction, otherwise your financial union is doomed to fail.”

With credit card rates hovering at an average of 19.24 percent APR, hiding financial information from a partner could be financially devastating.

But, Rossman adds, it’s not just about the economic impact but also the erosion of trust.

“More than the dollars and cents is that trust factor,” he said. “I think losing that trust is so hard to regain. That could be a long lasting wedge.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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7 Examples Of Terrible Financial Advice We’ve Heard




Between television, radio, the internet and well-meaning but presumptuous friends and family, we’re inundated with unsolicited advice on a daily basis. And when it comes to money, there’s a ton of terrible advice out there. Even so-called experts can lead us astray sometimes.

Have you been duped? Here are a few examples of the worst money advice advisers, bloggers and other personal finance pros have heard.

1. Carry a balance to increase your credit score.

Ben Luthi, a money and travel writer, said that a friend once told him that his mortgage loan officer advised him to carry a balance on his credit card in order to improve his credit score. In fact, the loan officer recommended keeping the balance at around 50 percent of his credit limit.

“This is the absolute worst financial advice I’ve ever heard for several reasons,” Luthi said. For one, carrying a credit card balance doesn’t have any effect on your credit at all. “What it does do is ensure that you pay a high interest rate on your balance every month, neutralizing any other benefits you might get from the card,” Luthi explained. “Also, keeping a 50 percent credit utilization is a surefire way to hurt your credit score, not help it.”

Some credit experts recommend keeping your balance below 30 percent of the card limit, but even that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Keeping your balance as low as possible and paying the bill on time each month is how you improve your score.

2. Avoid credit cards ― period.

Credit cards can be a slippery slope for some people; overspending can lead to a cycle of debt that’s tough to escape.

But avoiding credit cards on principle, something personal finance gurus like Dave Ramsey push hard, robs you of all their potential benefits.

“Credit cards are a good tool for building credit and earning rewards,” explained personal finance writer Kim Porter. “Plus, there are lots of ways to avoid debt, like using the card only for monthly bills, paying off the card every month and tracking your spending.”

If you struggle with debt, a credit card is probably not for you. At least not right now. But if you are on top of your finances and want to leverage debt in a strategic way, a credit card can help you do just that.

3. The mortgage you’re approved for is what you can afford.

“The worst financial advice I hear is to buy as much house as you can afford,” said R.J. Weiss, a certified financial planner who founded the blog The Ways to Wealth. He explained that most lenders use the 28/36 rule to determine how much you can afford to borrow: Up to 28 percent of your monthly gross income can go toward your home, as long as the payments don’t exceed 36 percent of your total monthly debt payments. For example, if you had a credit card, student loan and car loan payment that together totaled $640 a month, your mortgage payment should be no more than $360 (36 percent of $1,000 in total debt payments).

“What homeowners don’t realize is this rule was invented by banks to maximize their bottom line ― not the homeowner’s financial well-being,” Weiss said. “Banks have figured out that this is the largest amount of debt one can take on with a reasonable chance of paying it back, even if that means you have to forego saving for retirement, college or short-term goals.”

4. An expensive house is worth it because of the tax write-off.

Scott Vance, owner of, said a real estate agent told him when he was younger that it made sense to buy a more expensive house because he had the advantage of writing off the mortgage interest on his taxes.

But let’s stop and think about that for a moment. A deduction simply decreases your taxable income ― it’s not a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax bill. So committing to a larger mortgage payment to take a bigger tax deduction still means paying more in the long run. And if that high mortgage payment compromises your ability to keep up on other bills or save money, it’s definitely not worth it.

“Now, as a financial planner focusing on taxes, I see the folly in such advice,” he said, noting that he always advises his client to consider the source of advice before following it. ”Taking tax advice from a Realtor is … like taking medical procedure advice from your hairdresser.”

5. You need a six-month emergency fund.

One thing is true: You need an emergency fund. But when it comes to how much you should save in that fund, it’s different for each person. There’s no cookie-cutter answer that applies to everyone. And yet many experts claim that six months’ worth of expenses is exactly how much you should have socked away in a savings account.

“I work with a lot of Hollywood actors, and six months won’t cut it for these folks,” said Eric D. Matthews, CEO and wealth adviser at EDM Capital. “I also work with executives in the same industry where six months is overkill. You need to strike a balance for your work, industry and craft.”

If you have too little saved, a major financial blow can leave you in debt regardless. And if you set aside too much, you lose returns by leaving the money in a liquid, low-interest savings account. “The generic six months is a nice catch-all, but nowhere near the specific need of the individual’s unique situation… and aren’t we all unique?”

6. You should accept your entire student loan package.

Aside from a house, a college education is often one of the biggest purchases people make in their lifetimes. Often loans are needed to bridge the gap between college savings and that final tuition bill. But just because you’re offered a certain amount doesn’t mean you need to take it all.

“The worst financial advice I received was that I had to accept my entire student loan package and that I had no other options,” said Gina Zakaria, founder of The Frugal Convert. “It cost me a lot in student loan debt. Now I tell everyone that you never have to accept any part of a college financial package that you don’t want to accept.” There are always other options, she said.

7. Only invest in what you know.

Even the great Warren Buffett, considered by many to be the best investor of all time, gets it wrong sometimes. One of his most famous pieces of advice is to only invest in what you know, but that might not be the right guidance for the average investor.

In theory, it makes sense. After all, you don’t want to tie up your money in overly complicated investments you don’t understand. The problem is, most of us are not business experts, and it’s nearly impossible to have deep knowledge of hundreds of securities. “Diversification is key to a good portfolio, and investing in what you know leads to a very un-diversified portfolio,” said Britton Gregory, a certified financial planner and principal of Seaborn Financial. “Instead, invest in a well-diversified portfolio that includes many companies, even ones you’ve never heard of.”

That might mean enlisting the help of a professional, so make sure it’s one who has your best interests at heart.

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