|By KEN SWEET, AP Business Writer|
Retirement should have been a "slam dunk," the 62-year-old
"If I had been straight, getting widow's benefits would have been a slam dunk,"
For many, decades of workplace discrimination impaired their earning power. The AIDS crisis caused lasting financial and psychological damage, particularly for gay men. And legal pitfalls within
Same-sex couples in general are likely to have saved far less for retirement than their straight counterparts, according to an exclusive analysis of the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances by the
The median retirement savings for a same-sex couple is roughly
This data, as well as other studies, show that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults tend to be poorer, in worse health, and most often, alone — with no family to care for them when they reach old age.
"In the aging world, there has been little regard for even the existence of LGBT older people, let alone their particular social and financial needs," says
When financial firm Prudential asked LGBT adults aged 25 to 68 last year if they were "well prepared" for retirement, only 14 percent said they were, compared with 29 percent of the total population.
And in a sad irony, many of the aging pioneers of gay rights are too old to reap the retirement benefits from the marriage laws they championed.
Gays and lesbians have faced higher unemployment, lower wages and a workplace where discrimination based upon sexual orientation was common. While many corporations have non-discrimination policies now, it is still legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation in 21 states, according to the
Two polls, one by
As a result, gay men and women over 65 are more likely to end up in poverty. Lesbians, who face wage discrimination because of both their gender and sexual orientation, are even more vulnerable.
Being LGBT "just amplifies the financial problems women already face in the workforce," says
MARRIED WITHOUT BENEFITS
Gay couples were only recently extended the core elements of the retirement safety net available to married straight couples: inheritance of a spouse's
When a husband or wife in a straight marriage dies, their spouses can typically collect
Goldwasser's death certificate said "single, never married," even though the couple wed in
In the case of
"I try not to worry about money, but it's about fairness,"
This isn't the first time state marriage laws and
Government agencies have little understanding of the scope of problems facing the LGBT demographic.
"We're not talking about some fringe benefit here," says SAGE's Adams. "
THE SHADOW OF AIDS
Bill C. was never supposed to reach retirement. Diagnosed with HIV in the late 1980s, he spent three years in and out of hospitals with AIDS-related infections, watching helplessly as dozens of his friends died.
The 67-year-old, who did not want his last name used for fear his HIV status would negatively impact his acting career, chose to live for what moments he thought he had left. He cashed in his retirement savings and bought a waterfront home on
He nearly died a handful of times, spending much of 1995, 1996 and 1997 in the hospital. He had to shutter his fabric business.
And the dream house where he was supposed to live out the rest of his life? It was taken by the bank in 1995.
Like Bill C., many long-term AIDS survivors interviewed by the AP talked about poor financial decisions they made in the 1980s and 1990s — when they believed they were facing a death sentence — and are now paying for as they enter retirement.
The advent of life-prolonging antiretroviral "cocktail" therapies in the late 1990s helped end that fatalistic outlook, but by then, HIV-positive baby boomers had lost a decade or more of savings time. Those who had cashed in their retirement funds had to start saving again. Those who had AIDS-related infections went on workplace disability, stunting their savings potential.
"A lot of people who had jobs and financial resources before they became sick were then stuck in some relatively permanent status of financial disarray," says
Diagnosed with HIV in 1987, then AIDS in 1990, Albaugh was in and out of hospitals. But after coming back from the brink of death, he faces a different crisis: He can't work as much as before he was sick and has little savings.
When the 55-year-old former actor does save, "something pops up and it's gone." Recently, he says, he was "lucky" to buy a new pair of shoes. Without the public support programs that help him with his
Albaugh has 10 years before he hits retirement age. But when asked about it, he says: "I don't think about retirement because I don't believe I will have one."
He can't work as much as before and has fallen behind on saving for retirement.
"I was working 40 hours a week and I ended up twice in the hospital," he says. "It took me a long time to realize I couldn't work as much as I really wanted."
Albaugh hopes to wean himself off some public aid programs in the next couple years but acknowledges that he'll need others, like
"I'll work as hard as I can until I can work no more. After that," he says, his voice trailing off, "I don't know what I will do."
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