Financial Literacy, more than just a buzzword

 In: Articles

“Financial literacy,” “financial resilience,” “navigating the financial landscape.”   

We hear these phrases discussing the everyday decisions individuals make about their spending, saving, and borrowing, but how many of us really know what they mean?  

Does being “financially resilient” mean that you have the savings needed to pay an unexpected, emergency medical bill? Is “financial literacy” another way of saying you have a financial plan that will allow you to retire by the national average retirement age? So much of the way that banks, financial institutions, and service providers talk about finances and the process of financial decision-making is cloaked in the ambiguity of these buzz words.  

But even if the language used to talk about one’s ability to make financial decisions that enable them to be safe, secure, and happy is not clear, the need for it is unquestionable. This is especially true when discussing LGBTQ+ elders.  

50% of single LGBTQ+ elders believe they will have to work well beyond retirement age, compared to 27% of single non-LGBTQ+ people. Retirement aside, 51% of LGBTQ+ older people are very or extremely concerned about having enough money to live on, as compared to 36% of non-LGBTQ+ older people.  

These conditions are only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which centered a harsh spotlight on the fact that disproportionately large numbers of LGBTQ+ elders face high levels of underlying health conditions like HIV and diabetes, high levels of poverty, food and housing insecurity, low access to and engagement with health care and supportive services, thin support networks, and high rates of social isolation even before the pandemic. To top it off, many have a significant mistrust of government and other institutions based on historical and current discrimination and mistreatment.  

So, when we talk about “increasing financial resiliency within the LGBTQ+ community,” it isn’t about shifting a statistic up by one or two percentage points. It’s about truly and consistently improving the quality of life available for some of the most marginalized, at-risk, and deserving people in our society.  

SAGECents is a partnership between SAGE and LifeCents, developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. SAGECents is a free digital wellness platform made specifically for LGBTQ+ elders to increase financial stability and reduce economic stress.  

Let’s break this down without the buzzwords.  

At its core, SAGECents is a website that you can open on a phone or computer that provides free and safe access to tools, information, and resources that will help LGBTQ+ elders make the financial decisions that are right for their life.  

When individuals register, the platform prompts them to answer a series of questions about who they are, what their life looks like, and what kinds of changes they would like to see. The individual is then directed to tools, resources, and information that is curated to their specific needs and interests; information such as what benefits are available to them through Medicare, and how to create a health proxy and a living will. If an individual would rather explore on their own, they also have access to the complete resource library and can go through it at whatever pace best fits their lifestyle.  


This grassroots approach has yielded enormous results. Within the platform’s first year, nearly 900 individuals in 47 states and Puerto Rico accessed LGBTQ-specific resources over 1500 times. And notably, more than half of the users surveyed reported increasing their savings by at least $200.  

One individual living in Washington, D.C. shared: “SAGE and LifeCents have been a lifesaver for me, especially during the pandemic. Having to cut back on things, staying within my budget. I have cut back over 50% on a lot of bills—I don’t have any big bills, vehicles are paid off. I’ve been working more on my savings, having more saving in there, which I do have now.”  

The design of this platform prioritizes individualized improvement, and the fact that it is accessible from any web browser means that it can reach subsects of LGBTQ+ elders who are often outside of the reach of direct services, such as those who live in rural or remote parts of America.  

As one SAGECents user aptly stated: “SAGECents gives you a roadmap, or a blueprint so that you can have a life journey that’s going to include financial management and help you move forward. It doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter how far behind you think you are. There’s still an opportunity for you to do better and plan financially for the future.” 

At the end of the day, regardless of how unclear or ambiguous a buzzword may be, there is a real and critical need for LGBTQ+ elders to feel informed, supported, and empowered when it comes to making decisions involving their finances and their futures.  

This Financial Literacy Month, take some time to think about your goals and examine your finances. If the two don’t feel like they line up, you can change that. SAGECents is a great place to start.