With financial opportunity comes responsibility, says John Schneider of the Debt Free Guys. The financially stronger we are as queer individuals, the stronger we are as a community—and the better equipped we are to fight for equality.

Now more than ever, it’s important to change the gay cliché of the fabulous, care-free, and successful gay couple. For one, it’s inaccurate. Two, it’s damaging to our finances. Three, it’s limiting. It’s time the queer community embraces its own diversity and accepts the responsibility of our new place in society.

The federal legalization of same-sex marriage in June 2015 brought the queer community into a more mature age. In the 1920s and 30s, we were the clowns in movies, plays, and literature. From the 50s through 70s, we were villains who led dark and seedy lives. In the 80s, because of the HIV/AIDS crisis, we were victims. In the 90s and early 2000s, we were party monsters.

With advancements in queer rights and the legalization of same-sex marriage, we’ve entered the age of being viable contributors to society with valid relationships. With this opportunity comes responsibility. It’s mutually important that we are recognized as individuals, not stereotypes. For the sake of our families, the queer community, and the country, we must take financial responsibility seriously.

We Need a Change in Perception

The problem is, however, that if you identify as queer, you likely identify as a spender. Prudential’s 2016-2017 LGBT Financial Experience research report shows that more than 48 percent of the queer community identifies as spenders. On the other hand, only 32 percent of the general population does.

Consider the following:

Taken together, this should indicate that the queer community is financially well. Despite our higher incomes, stronger purchasing power, and fewer responsibilities, though,

We Need to Advance Our Rights

A pillar of a strong queer community is financially strong queer individuals. Financial strength gives us both the money and time to continue to fight for equality. We must donate our time, money, and presence to the organizations and causes fighting for us.

We can’t be distracted by student loans, excessive mortgages, and financial insecurity. The financially stronger we are as individuals, the stronger we are as a community—and the better equipped we are to fight for equality.

We Need to Be Aware of Risks

While we can legally marry in all 50 states, we can be fired in 28 states for coming out of the closet. Worse, only 14 of those states include transgender protections.

Therefore, we must adequately fund emergency savings accounts with at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Queer people who live in states with fewer protections should make this savings a top priority. Those of us who don’t live in these states should fund organizations that help queer people in these states.

We Need to Take Steps Today

What can we do to better serve ourselves and the queer community? Here are four steps to take today:

  • Save more – Have emergency savings and save enough in your employer-sponsored retirement plan to get your employer match.
  • Avoid debt – Don’t spend on credit. Pay off all debt, including student loans, as fast as you can.
  • Spend within the community – Do business with queer businesses by using the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce directory.
  • Vote with your money – When you can’t spend within the queer community, spend on companies that support us.

Financially strong queer individuals and allies build a financially strong queer community that helps to further advancements in our rights. By ditching the cliché of the fabulous carefree life and creating a new cliché of financial responsibility, charity, and empowerment, we’ll build a stronger community for all.

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Read more stories from John Schneider and David Auten at DebtFreeGuys.com.

Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under Society of Grownups control. Society of Grownups cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites.

While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.

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