For those who identify as LGBTQ+, there are often many hidden costs to simply existing and finding spaces that are safe and accepting. Ellyce Fulmore, a queer, neurodivergent financial educator and owner of financial literacy business Queerd Co., knows that well. Her search for a place to live was an arduous process for her and her girlfriend.
“We experienced a lot of discrimination, and not so much outright, not people saying homophobic things straight to our face, but more so just acting very weird around us, being uncomfortable,” Fulmore said in an Instagram Live with The Balance’s editor-in-chief, Kristin Myers. “We were pretty positive we got turned down for multiple places because of the fact that it was two girls instead of a heterosexual couple.”
Watch editor-in-chief Kristin Myer's full conversation with Ellyce Fulmore on The Balance's Instagram here.
Discrimination within the real estate industry can make finding a place to live and owning a home more difficult for people who identify as LGBTQ+. According to 2018 data from Freddie Mac and the most recent data from the Census Bureau, the homeownership rate for LGBTQ+ individuals is 49%, compared to the 65% homeownership rate of the overall U.S. general population. This discrimination in real estate is doubly felt by those who also identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC).
A survey by the Center For American Progress showed that 55% of Black LGBTQ+ individuals reported discrimination in the housing industry negatively affected their ability to rent or buy a home to some degree. Just 32% of White LGBTQ+ respondents reported the same.
For Fulmore, the discrimination she noticed not only kept her and her girlfriend from getting a rental, but their initial unsuccessful attempts to rent homes within their budget meant they were forced to look for places with higher rent.
“So we kept raising our budget higher and higher because at the time we were in a small city,” she said. “We'd kind of gone through everything in that budget, so we kept going higher hoping that there'd be less people applying, and so we would have a higher chance of getting it.”
Fulmore and her girlfriend ultimately had to move to a city that was “more welcoming and accepting, and had more of a queer community.”
“That's another big expense—a lot of queer folks will naturally just flock to larger cities because they're more accepting, but there is of course a higher cost of living [if you’re] living in a major city than if you live out in the suburbs or something like that,” she said.
Financial Literacy and Planning Can Help LGBTQ+ Folks Navigate Hidden Costs of Living
Other hidden costs for everyday purchases can put an added strain on the wallets of folks that are LGBTQ+. Shopping from stores that are inclusive and welcoming might carry a higher price tag.
“Even something as simple as a clothing store—there might be a store that you used to love to shop at, and you no longer feel comfortable there, or you just don't feel like they're welcoming to you, and just the way that you're presenting,” Fulmore said.”Then you might start shopping at a queer-owned, small business, which is amazing but it also might be a higher cost. And if you're someone who is struggling financially, that could be a big difference for you.”
While the ultimate goal is to have more equity and safe spaces instead of discrimination, Fulmore has some ideas on how to help LGBTQ+ folks navigate these costs, both hidden and otherwise.
“One of the biggest things, I would say, is finding safe spaces that you feel comfortable in to learn from and to ask questions, especially when it comes to finances,” she said.
Fulmore suggests following inspiring creators and finding online communities— Facebook groups, for example—that provide solid advice about money and a comfortable setting for sharing long-term financial goals.
Fulmore also emphasized the importance of financial literacy geared toward LGBTQ+ folks to help navigate some of those financial barriers.
“Some of the advice in traditional personal finances won't apply to a lot of queer people, especially when it comes to things like family planning,” she said. “So, having advice that is catered toward, specifically, saving up for things like gender-affirming surgery, or saving up for adoption, or IVF treatment…Having that financial education that is catered more towards queer folks is a big one.”
Another tip? Come up with a budget. Since the word “budget” can sometimes be intimidating, Fulmore suggested thinking of it simply as a financial plan—and it doesn’t have to be a classic spreadsheet either. For example, Fulmore’s version of a budget is automating her money so it goes where she needs it to regularly.
“A budget can literally just be a plan that you have for your money,” she said. “Having a budget also really helps you make the most of your money and plan accordingly.”
Saving money is also crucial since many LGBTQ+ individuals might not have support from their families to build or pass on generational wealth.
“The sooner that you can start saving and investing is really important because a lot of queer folks might not have the support from their family. A lot of them will not get a generational wealth passed on, they won't get inheritance and things like that,” Fulmore said.
A good place to start is auditing finances as they are now, including debt, income, expenses, and savings.
“...Really just getting everything in one spot so that you can look at the full picture of your finances–that's the jumping-off point for you to make a plan,” Fulmore said.
She has seen many of her clients struggle with this first step of looking at the reality of their financial situation. To make the process easier, Fulmore suggested having a friend or partner sit in on the audit and having favorite food or drinks on hand. Fulmore has a free financial audit download on her website, or individuals and couples can create a plan that works for best for them.
Fulmore also suggests examining money mindsets and exploring where some of those mindsets came from. Any financial anxiety or trauma from childhood (such as growing up with adults that had a lot of anxiety around money) might be affecting how someone handles their finances today.
“I think just examining what blocks do you have around finances, what beliefs do you have around money, what beliefs do you have around success and wealth...that can maybe identify some areas that you might need to work on in order to really open yourself up to building wealth, and to taking those steps,” she said.
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