LGBT Seniors Face Challenges in Retirement

There are some 76 million baby boomers who are retiring or soon retiring, and, of those, about 4 million are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. While the recent United States Supreme Court just ushered-in a new era of acceptance and rights, it does little to tackle some of the challenges LGBT seniors face. By the year 2030, the number of LGBT seniors will double to approximately 8 million, according to figures compiled and calculated by The Administration on Aging, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.

While the community is now enjoying new rights, it still faces significant challenges, particularly for those entering into retirement. These problems have been experienced for many, many years, but are now just coming to light in the wake of the adoption of same-sex marriage rights. Largely, LGBT seniors face many of these obstacles alone, and, in a far greater percentage than heterosexuals.

LGBT Seniors Face Challenges in Retirement

The SCOTUS decision does indeed do much for same-sex couples. In fact, as a result of the new nationwide right, LGBT couples can now claim social security benefits of their partners. Spousal-related benefits are available, which certainly is good news, however, the same might not be true for retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, pensions, TRPs, and 403(b)s.

“Government agencies have little understanding of the scope of problems facing the LGBT demographic. The Administration on Aging, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, collects data on aging minority groups such as African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics, but not on gay individuals.” —New York Times

What LGBT seniors retiring or soon retiring will find is that even though marriage equality is here, there are nevertheless some big challenges that lie ahead. Among them are these four, which require planning and action:

  • Financial challenges. One shocking statistic is that compared to straight retirees, LGBT seniors, as a relative percentage, largely live at or below poverty. This is thought to be attributed to the social stereotyping and non acceptance that’s been so prevalent throughout the years. That, however, is changing, as more millennial LGBT individuals are partnering, and, with marriage equality, that trend will continue to expand.
  • Community living. Another challenge facing LGBT couples is where they will live out their retirement. Though there are thousands of retirement communities across the nation, very few are gay-friendly. That too, is beginning to change, and it’s baby boomers that are taking action. Only a handful of open communities exist, created first in the 1970’s, again in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and extending into the 2000’s.
  • Same-sex rights health care challenges. Even though marriage equality is now a nationwide right, there are still states which don’t have laws which help to extend health care rights to LGBT couples. Long term care is one example, as those seniors who are retiring at low incomes will have trouble navigating the many requirements of Medicaid, simply because the program is a joint venture, shared between the federal government and state governments.

What’s more, as mentioned above, more LGBT seniors live alone that straight individuals, as a full 55 percent of all LGBT seniors live alone. With new communities being established and a new tone of acceptance and equality taking shape, these problems will become less extensive over time. For now, LGBT couples nearing retirement ought to be seeking qualified insurance, financial, and legal advice.