Due to loopholes in the Social Security system and several other factors, many LGBT individuals are heading into retirement severely strapped for cash.
According to an analysis by the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, gay and lesbian couples have saved far less for retirement than their straight counterparts. There are a number or explanations for this, the Associated Press reports, among them longstanding discrimination in the professional world and the AIDS crisis, which for years left many members of the LGBT community figuring they’d never live to see old age and therefore neglecting to sock away rainy-day funds.
These days, of course, many are living past retirement, and even if they get married, they’re not assured the protections straight individuals enjoy. The federal government only pays out Social Security survivor benefits to gay and lesbian widows in states where same-sex marriage is recognized. That’s problematic for people like Kathy Murphy, a 62-year-old retied Texas resident who’d be receiving far more money each month if only she and her late wife, Sara, had lived in neighboring New Mexico.
“Social Security is the most important financial resource for older Americans in this country, and this is just as true for LGBT older Americans,” says Michael Adams, executive director of the national LGBT advocacy organization SAGE.
Social Security is especially vital for LGBT couples due to their relative lack of savings. According to the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research data, which was drawn from couples aged 19 to 95 from 2001 to the present, the median retirement savings for a same-sex couple is approximately $66,000, compared to roughly $88,000 for a straight couple.
“In the aging world, there has been little regard for even the existence of LGBT older people, let alone their particular social and financial needs,” says Adams.