Melissa joins us from Queercents:

This week, Jean Chatzky has an article in Money magazine about the particular perils of single finances. I’m sure it will comes as a shock to all Queercents readers that financial structures and tax, real estate and health care law are all designed in favor of the legally married.

The article talks about some of the important ways to work a will and living trust if you’re unmarried–including those who are unmarried in long-term committed relationships. As I looked into it, I found this older Money article that contains a very simple outline of how joint tenancy works for unmarried couples, friends, or partners who own property together. None of it’s comprehensive financial advice, but it’s all a good place to start. These arrangements are important for single straight people, but they’re even more important for LGBT people who can’t rely on the law to protect their unions.

To me, one of Ms. Chatzky’s most interesting assertions was that many of the steps toward financial maturity take place around traditional, heteronormative milestones: “Get married: Merge your financial lives. Have a child: Buy life insurance and start saving for college. Stay single: ummm.”

Sure, if you’re in your forties and unmarried you need to make these special considerations in arranging your finances, paperwork and estate–you’ve probably accumulated a lot more assets to protect than someone in her twenties. But that doesn’t mean financial maturity is only for the grown ups! Don’t wait until you’re in your mid-thirties, look around, and discover that nothing in your life has forced you to get your finances in order so you might as well do it yourself.

Here is something true: finances are the only thing about which I act like a sensible person. In areas like alcohol and romance and gchattng at work–oh, there are just years of stupid choices ahead off me, I’m sure. But homie doesn’t mess around with things like living within my means, saving 10%, or designating the cosigners of my student loans as life insurance beneficiaries. A broken heart is some drama, but I’m guessing eviction is way worse–and once you’ve made sure you’re not going to get evicted, you can go out and get that heart broken all you like! Too many people dig themselves into deep holes of consumer debt and empty 401ks in their early twenties because there’s no social pressure for responsibility until marriage or bankruptcy, whichever comes first.

Over Thanksgiving, my roommate asked her older family members for advice on how to invest five- to ten-year, moderately risk-tolerant savings. Her dad said he’d have just bought a flatscreen TV. She’s thinking a Vanguard STAR fund. There aren’t enough people in the world talking about young, single finances–probably because there aren’t enough young, single people listening. But this is when it’s so important to lay a good foundation and avoid those later freakouts.

In the same way I think the concerns in the original article are even more important for LGBT people than unmarried straight people, I think laying that strong foundation is especially important for young LGBT people. The farther off the beaten path you want to live, the more secure you need to be on your own road. As long as financial systems are working against you, as long as it’s still legal to fire and evict you for your sexuality or gender identity, as long as you need to write up legal documents to secure benefits most people don’t even have to think about, it’s even more important to know how to take care of yourself.

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