Text last updated 16 July 2017
Links last updated 1 January 2018
Doesn’t grow on trees | 17138
What this is about
The impact that high levels of personal debt are having on the gay community and what to do about it.
Many people are having problems with money, especially debt. For some gay men the problems of coping with debt are worse, and the gay lifestyle encourages spending which adds to the problem. Nobody wants to admit they have a debt problem. Debt can have a devastating effect on you.
There has been very little research into the level of debt in the gay community in the UK, but in 1999 a survey in Brighton found that most gay couples surveyed were living on much lower than average incomes, making it harder for them to put money aside for emergencies and the future; and in 2005, the Terrence Higgins Trust found that 38% of gay men over 50 years of age needed help with debt. Those surveys were taken in the good years before the world recession.
In 2012, an American study found that gay, lesbian and trans people can cope with money and debt more successfully than straight people.
Gay activists and community leaders need to be aware of the issue of debt, both for their own security and so that they can help gay people who approach them for help and ideas.
What factors drive gay men into, or further into, debt?
Living on their own. Everyone has to pay rent, mortgage, council tax, service charges and utility bills but if you are on your own you have to find the whole amount, so single living is more expensive than if there was another income earner in the household to share the bills.
The cost of credit – overdrafts, bank loans and credit cards – has gone up.
Interest rates on savings have come down. Even if you have some savings for a rainy day, they are losing value due to the low interest rates on savings accounts, and the value of your savings is being eroded by inflation, which in the UK at 1 July 2017 was 2.9%. If you have a Pension fund its value has been reduced by the recession, and lump sums being relied upon to generate extra income after retirement are producing less income.
Relationships have ended or a partner has died.
Lifestyle costs. Holidays and expensive clothes are very pleasant but they have to be paid for.
Pay or overtime has been cut. Many gay people work in lower paid job sectors such as care work and retail. You can end up in debt through no fault of your own.
Pension payment has been frozen, benefit changed or reduced.
One or more partners may have lost their job.
There has been major change in your health, such as an HIV diagnosis. Debt comes further down the list of priorities after health, family and welfare.
Your sexuality. Trans people generally face more economic discrimination than other parts of the gay community.
Crime – being injured or attacked for being gay, or being robbed or threatened, have devastating effects.
Having a family – Gay men and lesbians with children face higher levels of financial pressures than those without children.
Family breakdown such as being thrown out of your home or excluded from your family.
Dependence on medications, alcohol, drugs and other compulsive behaviours.
How we can help our community
Know what resources are available locally – citizens advice bureau, debt counselling, debt support groups.
Avoid arranging overly expensive functions, and assuming that the members of your group can afford the things you can
Have contacts like a financial adviser who can help
Know something about the welfare system so you can point people who might be eligible for help in the right direction.
Bilerico, 19 July 2007: – The threat of gay debt
Debt.org US, 12 Dec 2012: Study: LGBT Americans Better at Earning and Saving
Gay Net, 2 Jan 2013: The 5 dumbest things you can do if you have too much gay debt
Prudential.com, 2013: The LGBT Financial Experience Report
Debt Free Guys: Four smart money moves for young gay men