How to Use Asset-Map for Inclusive Planning
By Adam Holt, CEO & Founder, Asset-Map
There’s no argument about it: Financial services has a diversity problem.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that there’s a concerted effort underway to create a more inclusive profession.
This year, the CFP Board will spend more than $9.5 million on an ad campaign to reach a more diverse audience with ads featuring a single Asian woman and a lesbian couple.
Along with the profession itself becoming more inclusive, those who are already financial planners need to have a broad view of the increasing diversity among the families they serve with financial advice. In particular, the LGBTQ community has been too often overlooked among financial professionals.
A Look at Finances in the LGBTQ Community
Since the Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling that guaranteed the right to marriage for same-sex couples in 2015, the dynamics of managing finances within a marital relationship have shifted for LGBTQ couples.
An illustration of the change can be seen in how same-sex marriage has quickly grown since the 2015 decision. In 2017, the number of same-sex cohabitating couples grew to 61% from 38% before the ruling went into effect.
I spoke with Mark Seebeck, a CFP® based in Texas with more than twenty years of experience in financial planning for diverse and non-traditional families, to get a better sense of how the ruling has impacted the LGBTQ community.
The decision to marry or not has no small effect on finances, as anyone who’s gone to the altar can attest, and that decision is heightened even more for LGBTQ couples.
Mark shared with me that household incomes are much higher in the LGBTQ community when compared to the typical opposite-sex couple.
On average, gay men make $63,000 more than their opposite-sex counterparts; lesbian couples make an average of $11,000 more annually than hetero-couples.
To go along with higher incomes, the purchasing power of the LGBTQ community is tremendous. In 2017, consumer buying power was estimated to be over $917 billion and when taking business owners into account, the contributions to the economy would make LGBTQ Americans the tenth-largest economy in the world.
In tandem with those higher incomes, same-sex couples also tend to have more disposable income due to a lower rate of children in relationships.
Clearly, it is important for financial professionals to recognize the need that LGBTQ Americans have for sound financial advice, and also to understand what unique challenges the community may have as well.
Mark also emphasized that another consideration financial planners need to understand is that the 2015 marriage ruling means that same-sex couples now face all the same challenges that same-sex couples have dealt with for years — but the issues may be fresher and contain more unknowns for same-sex couples.
For instance, now that same-sex couples can claim social security benefits as a couple, decisions that were once out of scope now need to be at the forefront of their planning conversations.
One of the reasons the LGBTQ community has been underserved by financial planning is because traditional advisors were not familiar with how modern laws and rights differed when applied to their unique situations.
But with the ability of same-sex couples to marry, and the ability to readily access information to gain a better understanding of those not like themselves, financial planners have no excuse to remain closed off to purposefully assisting LGBTQ couples.
As one of the top professionals in the nation in his broker/dealer, Mark sees this as an extraordinary opportunity to play a niche role in financial services and bring comprehensive planning to underserved populations.
Best Practices for Building Inclusive Financial Technology
At Asset-Map, we built our software platform from day one to be inclusive of diverse families, including LGBTQ families.
As a financial professional, it’s important to identify and understand how the tools you use may or may not support the needs of the diverse family you serve.
There are three keys we believe in for best practices that technology companies should observe (and financial professionals and their clients should benefit from) when it comes to building technology that works for everyone:
Technology shouldn’t force the use of gendered nouns in a relationship. For example, if you begin with client A who’s a man, the tech shouldn’t only allow you to add a “wife” when a spouse/domestic partner is selected.
Advisor tech should drive positive client conversations. With Asset-Map, account ownership and beneficiary issues are easily revealed within its visual structure. When you review accounts and investments that may have only been viewed as “individual” assets before for a couple, those new avenues of discussion are critical for bringing them together in a combined view. Beneficiary and estate defaults are severely limited for non-married households, making this a critical discussion to be had for any couple who has been together for years, or even decades, and is trying to decide if marriage should be their next step.
Any household composition should be programmed for and respected. From non-traditional families to blended mixed families, significant others, and life partners regardless of gender (even gender-neutral), we planned Asset-Map to accommodate those discussions from its beginning. By laying out each person’s assets visually, you can better explain how they complement each other and note how each vehicle can be used in both individual and joint goals.
Financial Planning Should Be for Everyone
We need to remember that financial planning should be for everyone; regardless of their circumstances, everyone can benefit from solid advice and guidance, and the profession will be better the more that each professional practices from that starting point.
As you work with your clients, whoever they may be, pay attention to the unique circumstances of their lives and focus on engaging in open, honest conversations.
If you don’t currently work with any LGBTQ clients, educate yourself on the unique challenges different people may face so you can help yourself become a more effective, and prepared financial guide for investors in all walks of life.