JAMES MARTIN, SJ, NOTES IN HIS BOOK BUILDING A BRIDGE, “IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPERIENCE A PERSON’S LIFE, OR TO BE COMPASSIONATE, IF YOU DO NOT LISTEN TO THE PERSON OR IF YOU DO NOT ASK QUESTIONS.”
Monday, June 15th, 2020, marked a watershed victory for the movement of LGBTQ equality in the United States. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ workers from workplace discrimination. “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote for the majority in the 6-3 ruling.
The Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling on same-sex marriage was a powerful confirmation of a cultural and political shift occurring in the United States. Yet, the implications of this decision could touch more Americans’ lives than any gay rights decision by the court thus far.
To my fellow LGBTQ friends, peers, and clients, harness this momentum!
If you have feared you may lose your job because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you may not have felt a sense of urgency when considering that all of your financial, health and estate affairs are in order. Allow yourself this opportunity to understand and commit to taking full advantage of your company’s benefit options available to you and your family.
Recognize the amount of time, energy, and mental resources we have channeled towards our own visibility at work. Whether consciously or not, we cover, mask, and deflect to avoid discomfort or discrimination at work. According to a 2017 Out & Equal Workplace Equality study, LGBTQ people who are not comfortable openly discussing self-identity at work are 73 times more likely to say they will leave their companies in the next three years.
Set a goal over the next two weeks – 15 minutes each night – to prioritize your and your family’s long-term wealth, health, and planning needs.
Overwhelmed? We get it, and you are not alone. We all are guilty of kicking the can of our personal affairs down the road. To help alleviate some of that pressure, we have created a checklist of high-priority items for you to consider, broken down into three categories: Finances, Health, and Estate Planning.
- Emergency Fund
- Commit to saving 6-12 months’ worth of expenses. Consider how COVID-19 impacted your cash flow and determine how much you (and your partner/spouse) need in reserve.
- Retirement Accounts of Current Employer (401(k), 403(b), 457(b), TSP, SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA, Solo 401(k), Pension)
- Identify your company retirement plan provisions, including:
- Company Match
- Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP)
- Restricted Stock Units (RSUs)
- Maximize your retirement plan contribution
- The 2020 contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $19,000 to $19,500.
- The 2020 catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in these plans is increased from $6,000 to $6,500.
- The limitation regarding SIMPLE retirement accounts for 2020 is increased to $13,500, up from $13,000 for 2019.
- Understand the potential consequences of an early withdrawal (before age 59 ½), including owing both federal income tax (taxed at your marginal tax rate) and a 10% penalty on the withdrawal amount, plus any relevant state income tax.
- Rebalance and utilize tax-loss harvesting strategies amidst market whipsaws
- Volatile markets provide opportunities to readjust your asset allocation according to your risk tolerance, time horizon, and liquidity needs.
- An investment loss can be used in taxable accounts to offset capital gains tax on realized gains in an investment portfolio. It can also be used to offset taxes on ordinary income. According to the IRS, for a married couple filing jointly, up to $3,000 per year in realized losses can be used to offset ordinary income on federal income taxes.
- Tax-loss harvesting only applies to taxable accounts. Retirement accounts (IRAs and 401(k) accounts) grow tax-deferred, so they are not subject to capital gains taxes.
- Leverage Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)
- HSAs have a triple tax advantage: contributions go in on a pre-tax or tax-deductible basis, savings grow tax-free, and withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax-free.
- FSAs work on a “use it or lose it” basis; as such, you forfeit any funds not spent by the end of your plan year.
- Consult HR regarding a same-sex spousal, partner, and family benefits
- If you consider expanding your family, review your options around adoption, IVF, surrogacy, and alternative family planning options, including maternity/paternity leave.
- Discuss End-of-Life planning
- Determine insurance needs, including long-term care insurance policies.
- Identify LGBTQ-friendly healthcare providers, including those focused on eldercare needs.
- Assess end-of-life housing, including assisted living facilities, in-home care, nursing homes, and each’s potential costs.
- Name primary and contingent beneficiaries on all retirement accounts and transfers on death (TODs) on non-retirement accounts.
- Create Powers of attorney for both partners, if applicable
- This document authorizes an individual or organization to represent or act on your behalf in property, financial, medical, or other private affairs if you cannot do so.
- Draft a Will
- This document coordinates the distribution of your assets after death and can appoint guardians for minor children.
- Draft a Living Will, or Advance Medical Directives
- This document specifies an individual’s wishes regarding medical treatment should they become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make medical decisions on their own.
- Your employer may offer a Legal Benefits Plan, which you can adopt to complete these legal documents. Typically, the plan costs several dollars a month, and you can drop the coverage the following year once your Estate Plan is finalized.
Greenspring Advisors is here to help, and we encourage you to reach out as you check off the items on this list. Speak with your HR or Benefits manager to seek further clarity on your options. This is just a start, and there is no better time than now to prepare for the future you want.
As a colleague so and eloquently stated, we are not just people; we are first. Collectively, this resonates. We seek to be heard and understood, live in a community with others, and elevate those around us. To our allies – our families, friends, and coworkers – thank you for your compassion, questions, and continued support.