When it comes to most matters in our personal lives, it’s rarely one size fits all. This can be especially true when seeking a financial advisor for the LBGTQ+ community. Sure, there are broad truisms and general tips that can be used by anyone looking to get their basic financial ship on course. But true LGBTQ+ financial planning is much more personalized and, well… personal.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, your long-term partnership with a financial advisor involves vulnerability and intimacy. It’s essential to dig deep to find a financial advisor you truly vibe with. This is a person you will share your hopes and dreams with, your greatest fears, and maybe even feelings of inadequacy around your finances.
Unfortunately, communities like our own LGBTQ+ community have not always had an easy path finding trustworthy professionals with the skills and knowledge to meet our unique needs. It’s critical to find a LGBTQ+ financial advisor that not only understands, but are skilled in working with nontraditional families, gender identifications, adoptions, workplace discrimination, marriages, paying for surgeries or other gender reassignment therapies, loss of family support, and many other concerns that affect our emotional and financial wellbeing.
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Building a Deeper Relationship
These topics are complex and emotional. An advisor for the LGBTQ+ community should be someone who not only understands their clients’ lives, they should be well versed in the often complex nuances of modern LGBTQ+ life.
As you shop for this new financial professional in your life and interview prospects, think of yourself as a modern Dr. Frankenstein, building your own perfect, beautiful “monster” of an advisor. Which parts should you be looking for that will forge a deeper connection? What will make this person the best advisor for you? What will your financial life look like with this person at your side?
As Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, wrote, “The world to me was a secret which I desire to divine.” So let’s gather the parts you need to find the best advisor for you.
Start with a Brain – Knowing What to Look For
Your advisor should definitely have one, yes. That said, even if they are the best and the brightest, do they have the unique skill set you’re looking for? Will they be able to meet your LGBTQ+ needs no matter how “Abby Normal” your life is?
To help determine this, there are three key things to consider: credentials, financial interests, and scope.
1. Know Their Credentials
Financial “advisors” can be many different types of professional – from brokers to portfolio managers to coaches – and not all of them are credentialed in ways you might hope or expect. It’s important to research an advisor’s credentials, experience, and what kind of complaints have been filed against them (if any). There are many kinds of credentials out there. Which ones speak to you and your needs? The top three are:
CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®)
A CFP® is a planning professional who is required to meet strict criteria from a licensing board. They must meet requirements for education and experience, as well as demonstrate their knowledge as a holistic financial planner – meaning, they ensure the many individual parts of your financial life work together in harmony.
Becoming a CFP® professional is the most difficult and stringent process for a financial planner. This certification requires years of experience, completion of a comprehensive exam, an ongoing demonstration of ethics, and completion of a formal certificated education.
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
A CFA is a financial advisor who specializes in advanced, in-depth investment analysis across a wide variety of finance subject matter. After gaining nearly half a decade of experience, this advisor must sit for three intensive exams, often requiring several hundred hours of study. Passing these exams is no small feat, with the pass rate historically being less than 50%. Being CFA certified is one of the most respected designations in finance and is considered to be the creme de la creme in the area of investment analysis.
Personal Financial Specialist (PFS)
This designation allows certified public accountants (CPAs) to expand their expertise and include further fields like wealth management and financial planning. These advisors may offer a flat fee for their work, but they are not prevented from earning a commission either. Why is this important? Because if an advisor is not a fee-only fiduciary, they may end up putting their own bottom line ahead of yours.
2. Work with a Fee-Only Fiduciary
A fiduciary is a professional who is legally and ethically bound to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own. Abacus is a fee-only fiduciary, meaning we earn our money through our fees instead of commissions.
Why is fee-only important? Because advisors and financial firms who aren’t fiduciaries can (and often will) sell you investments or products that end up costing you a lot of money but aren’t in your best financial interests.
Fiduciary advisors are legally obligated to put their client’s interests before their own, and all CFP® professionals are fiduciaries. Abacus prides itself on requiring our advisors to have their CFP® and for putting the needs of our clients first.
3. Identify the Scope of Your Needs
When it comes to your financial life and plans, what do you want to focus on specifically? Do you need ongoing and comprehensive financial planning or just support for a project you are trying to build?
Comprehensive Financial Planning is all about you living your best life and expanding what is possible with money. It’s about your goals, habits, mindset, values, and priorities, and how each of these impact your financial life.
To identify the right LGBTQ+ financial advisor, you must first determine what your specific needs are. Identifying what is truly important to you is key to understanding what is best for you in the long run. For those in the LGBTQ+ community, these needs may include areas of expertise some financial advisors are not fully versed in, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), adoption considerations, or other LGBTQ+ family planning financial considerations.
Once you know what your specific needs are, you can take full advantage of comprehensive financial planning. Comprehensive financial planning doesn’t just look at goal setting and investments for retirement, it looks at tax and estate planning, risk management, financial education, charitable giving, cash flow, and perhaps most importantly – aligning your money with your values.
Now that we’ve got the brain figured out, let’s continue building the best LGBTQ+ financial advisor.
Building the Body – Tips for Finding a LGBTQ+ Financial Advisor
While Dr. Frankenstein began his search in a cemetery, you will be able to get your information in a much less spooky way. A simple web search can point you in the right direction toward an advisor who identifies as LGBTQ+ or one who is an ally well versed in helping members of the community.
While searching for a financial advisor, you’ll likely come across a plethora of viable options. To narrow your search and quicken the process, keep an eye out for the key qualifiers listed above: credentials, fiduciary, and service offerings. Additionally, scan their website for indications that they are LGBTQ+ inclusive.
Is the financial advisor a member of the LGBTQ+ community themselves or does the firm have a team of advisors that specifically serve LGBTQ+ individuals and families? Do they have resources specifically for the LGBTQ+ community? Do they use inclusive language and depict LGBTQ+ families and individuals on their website?
Look for a firm that wears their heart and values on their sleeve. For example, at Abacus, we celebrate diversity with pride. On our website, individuals can easily search our team for LGBTQ+ financial advisors. We have a LGBTQ+ and Money page that hosts resources and information, specifically for our community, and we frequently publish blogs that address the questions and needs of the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year.
Another way to narrow the field is by utilizing online directories that can filter for financial advisors who service LGBTQ+ individuals and families.
Here are three platforms to help jumpstart your search:
- Let’s Make a Plan – Provided by the CFP Board, the Let’s Make a Plan website is an extensive online resource that guides individuals through every step of finding a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Their search tool, Find a CFP® Professional, allows you to search by location, planning service, or by name, and features additional filters that can narrow your search so you can select for LGTBQ+ Individuals/Couples.
- NAPFA – The National Association of Professional Financial Advisors (NAPFA) is a professional association of fee-only financial advisors. Individuals can utilize NAPFA’s Find an Advisor search tool which can filter for NAPFA members that service LGBTQ+ Couples and Families.
- The Horizon Foundation’s Directory – The Horizon Foundation is a community foundation of, by, and for LGBTQ+ people that makes grants supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Check out their Directory of Professional Advisors curated for the LGBTQ+ Community.
Adding the Heart – How to Interview a Prospective Advisor
Once you’ve found an advisor, your journey is nearly complete. But before you flip the switch and bring your financial creation to life, you’ll want to ask these remaining questions in your first interview to ensure the best future relationship:
- How do they get paid? Their fees should be transparent. Look for a “fee-only” advisor and not “fee-based”. As mentioned, fee-only means a firm only makes money on the services they provide, not on sales and commissions. Fee-based advisors are still allowed to make commissions on other sales products and are only required to sell “suitable” products to clients, which is a lower, less protective standard.
- Are they a fiduciary? As discussed earlier, fiduciary advisors are legally obligated to put their client’s interests before their own. Abacus is a fiduciary and all CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERS™ are fiduciaries.
- Who are they online? What are their specialties? Do their blogs, articles, and websites talk about topics that pertain and appeal to you? Are they someone you would want to associate yourself with? Are they an ally online and when it counts? If you don’t suspect there is authenticity or feel the company is simply paying lip service to your needs, that feeling will likely not go away.
- How does the first impression feel? An advisor should answer all of your questions and be invested in your answers. They should be interested and excited about the planning you need. An advisor should be excited about working with you, and should have a values alignment with you and your world view.
- Am I being honest with myself? Is this a person you want to share this part of your life with? You both want to be good fits for each other. It is absolutely okay to shop around until you find the right advisor.
Flipping the Switch – Time to Get to Work
When all the pieces come together and you’ve built your perfect financial companion, you’re ready for your new adventure in financial empowerment and excelling in all areas of your fabulous life. When you get down to it, it doesn’t take a mad scientist to help you thrive.
If you’re looking for an LGBTQ+ financial advisor who can help you expand what is possible with money, reach out today to schedule a free 15-minute call.