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August 9, 2017

The Senior LGBTQ Risks That No One's Talking About

Forbes
By John Schneider and David Auten
According to a SAGE study, older LGBT people are more likely to be single, live alone and be childless. As Prudential’s 2012 LGBT Financial Experience Survey shows, the “most pressing concern” for queer people is outliving their retirement money. MassMutual’s recent LGBTQ Financial Security Survey shows that 70% of us, relative to 63% of the general population, attest to being behind in our retirement savings.

What, then, will queer people do when in the twilight years of our retirement? How will we take care of ourselves when there’s a good chance there won’t be anyone to take care of us?

That’s what we talk about on this Queer Money with Tony Ramos, the founder and executive director of Alta Prime Assisted Living, a unique senior residential care facility in Aurora, Colorado that specializes in serving the queer community. Alta Prime is an LGBTQ-friendly assisted living facility, and its model of converting single-family homes into care facilities for four to five seniors allows for customized one-on-one care for all people.

Listen to Tony Ramos on Queer Money

Risks we can’t ignore

The Equality Act is still stalled in the U.S. Congress. Therefore, most states don’t have protections for queer people in institutions such as nursing home and there’s inadequate staff-training to care for older LGBTQ people. Consequently, we can still be separated from our spouses or forced back into the closet when we go into assisted living.

With a Republican-controlled Congress, the Equality Act is not likely to budge, but it doesn’t mean we should give up. The act was recently referred to committee by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). We should give these congressmen our support by pressing our congress people to give Cicilline and Merkley their support.

The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include employment, housing and institutional protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Such protections would eliminate much of the risks our community faces, especially in the 28 states where queer people can still lose our jobs or be denied housing for being LGBTQ and the 36 states where we can still lose our job or be denied housing for being transgender.

Unique facilities for unique people

Ramos shares that there are currently 3 million LGBTQ individuals in the U.S. over 55 years old and that number will double in twenty years. Two-thirds of trans people worry about being denied access to medical treatment and 24% of older LGBT people of color have experienced housing discrimination.

People like Ramos and his Alta Prime Assisted Living facility are providing a safe space for senior LGBTQ people. Alta Prime offers concierge-like services and medical care from outside vendors. In addition to round-the-clock supervision, it provides at least three nutritious meals a day, a hydration program, medication administration, housekeeping and laundry, bathing, exercise and social activities that include brain exercises to minimize the risk of dementia.

There are other LGBTQ-specific facilities around the country. They include Fountain Grove LodgeStonewall GardensRainbow VisionBirds of a Feather and Triangle Square. However, because of the limited options senior LGBTQ people have, it’s critical for queer people to prepare ourselves for our later years better and, in the meantime, push our lawmakers to changes the current laws to serve everyone.

Plan now for later

Ramos urges queer people to plan for retirement and our later years as early as possible. He suggests researching available services and assistance, including long-term care insurance. He says that opening and funding 401(k)s, Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) and other available tools are crucial.

Those who are over the age of 50 should take advantage of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) IRA catch-up contribution limits. It lets individuals make up for the years they didn’t invest at all or enough.

Lower- and middle-income earnings should look into the Retirement Savings Tax Credit. The Retirement Savings Tax Credit is available to single filers with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $31,000 a year and joint filers with an Adjusted Gross Household Income of $62,000. These filers may claim a tax credit up to 50% of their retirement plan contribution with a maximum of $2,000 per single filer, $4,000 for joint filers.

Same-sex couples should consider marriage to avail ourselves to the Social Security Spousal and Survivor Benefits. With the right maximization strategy, these benefits could mean an additional $5,000 a month in income.

Ramos, also, encourages more in our community to buy their own home to assist with their wealth creation. Owning real estate doesn’t guarantee financial success but, as Mindy Jensen of 1500 Days of Freedom recently shared on Queer Money, there are many niches of real estate investing and property ownership can be a worthwhile investment for a retirement strategy.

We can’t control the actions of our state and local representatives, but we can prepare better for retirement and our later years. We do have options, but they only serve us if we take the necessary steps to use the options available to us.

Read the original article online here.

Media Inquiries

Christina DaCosta
Director of Communications
917-553-3328
cdacosta@sageusa.org

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