Saving money is difficult at any point in your life, but it is essential to aging well especially when you have limited income or are retired. Sage the world’s largest and oldest organization working with older adults in the LGBT community recognized that this can be particularly challenging for their demographic.
David Vincent, Sage’s Chief Program Officer, “Stats about LGBT and aging are alarming. When we survey 50% will have to work beyond retirement age compared to 27% non-LGBT retirees. And many of those surveyed (42%) fear they are going to outlive the money available to them (compared to 25% of non-LGBT surveyed).”
There are very limited statistics even available to show the true needs of LGBT older adults. However, what little data is available shows that financial health is a big concern for the aging LGBT population and there are needs for intervention around financial wellness and financial health.
SAGE serves about 4,000–5,000 people a year and partners with 31 affiliates throughout the country (including Puerto Rico) to provide Sage Centers (senior centers) that function as multifunctional community centers with meals, social activities, recreation, care management, and other assistance. Special housing assistance and programs for those with HIV and other specific underserved populations are available to help members age successfully. Plus the organization focuses on advocation to build policy and educate legislators on issues LGBT elders are facing. As the national resource center on LGBT aging, they help train on care for these adults in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and municipalities.
Recently SAGE has decided to tackle the issue of financial health and well-being for its cohort through truly innovative methods.
According to Vincent, “Financial wellness applications are designed for non-LGBT folks. The elements often don’t align with their lives. We realized we needed an app that spoke to the lives of our older adults.”
This became even more critical during COVID-19 where many LGBT older workers in the entertainment or food industry were laid off — further exacerbated some of their vulnerabilities. Since many older adults don’t have pensions and don’t have the longtime savings history that they need to age comfortably without working about their finances.
Never Fear SAGECents is Here
SAGEcents is an app designed to work with all smartphones, computers, or tablets. SAGE recognizes that not everyone has access to wifi at home, so they tried to design an app that interfaces with whatever device you have access to when you have access to wifi.
The tool isn’t meant to track finances alone.
“It really focuses on assessing someone’s financial health while building education and depending on how each person responds there are immediate pop-ups for local resources,” said Vincent.
The application pop-ups might highlight a user’s eligibility for rental assistance or other discounted services specific to the user’s region. Then after completing the questionnaire users get to connect to a free financial coach!
“Our goal was to specifically design the tool for folks over the age of 60 but we are getting people as young as 30 using it,” noted Vincent.
Unfortunately, many similar apps created by banks focus on owning a home and saving money which is not the reality for most people over 60 who are just trying to make ends meet, said Vincent. That means the reality for many people over 60 is they are focused on getting consistent food and medication, not looking to save a nest egg. Traditional bank institution apps just don’t speak to the real-life of many older adults.
Positive Financial Planning
A lot of wordsmithing went into making the app judgment-free.
“We spent a lot of time working on the language to try and take out the shame of financial questions. When you say, do you own a home? Or how much do you have in saving? This can be seen negatively by people who were not close to this reality,” highlighted Vincent.
Thus SAGECents spent lots of time in the pilot phase of the app getting feedback to assure that the language the app used was welcoming.
“I think a lot of people don’t fully appreciate that the financial systems that we have are tied to marriage. When you don’t have those traditional pieces available to you the resources are not available. If you don’t have spousal benefits, then you lose a lot of opportunities to build wealth,” said Vincent.
For many of the aging LGBT community, marriage was not possible in their youth. The situation has changed now for folks who are 25 and 30 and can marry. However, the LGBT communities continue to face underemployment and prejudice in the workplace, which can make it difficult for them to build up to incomes. This continues to be particularly disproportionate for some communities of color and especially for trans people. Shifting is happening slowly but unfortunately, discrimination still makes it difficult for many LGBT people to build wealth for their later years.
That’s why SAGECents launch August 14, 2020, to help LGBT older adults with their financing. With just one month outside the pilot, the app already has 400 folks actively engaged. It will be getting a social media boost nationwide by SAGE here soon!
Check out SAGECents to see how it can help you with your finances.