Holly Hanson on what queer women should know about money

I’m always amazed at how queer people manage to use their skills and talents to serve their communities. You don’t have to be an actor or a politician to use your career as a service to queer people and Holly Hanson is no exception. Principal and founder of Harmony Financial Strategies located in Los Angeles, Holly Hanson has made it her business–both literally and figuratively–to use her knack for money management to assist LGBT people in ensuring every dime we make is put to good use in planning a successful financial future. To reach LGBTs outside of SoCo, Hanson has released The LGBT & Modern Family Money Manual: Financial Strategies For You and Your Loved Ones, a book which combines her personal story with practical financial advice, geared specifically for those of us who fall somewhere outside of the heterosexual norm.


AfterEllen: Something that impressed me as soon as I began the book was that you included such personal touches about your life and coming out. I love the balance between practical advice and your personal story. What made you decide to be so open about your experiences in the book?

Holly Hanson: When I started thinking of writing this book, I realized that traditional finance books can be very difficult to read and understand and get interested in. But, personal finance for every individual is so important to have the knowledge to create the life they want to live. Part of adding that personal story was to keep the reader connected, so they could learn valuable information, but also to connect with the LGBT community as it is an underserved market and needs to be connected with in an understanding and empathetic way.


AE: I think personal finance is something that concerns people of all sexual orientations, ethnicities, economic backgrounds, genders, etc., but the LGBT community does need its specific areas of concern addressed by financial professionals. I’m happy to see there is a book that addresses these very issues.

 HH: Thank you. That’s definitely the direction I was going. The goal is to have something in the book for everyone to learn. Even if some chapters don’t apply, there will be some that will and could change a person’s life in a positive direction.


AE: I’ve often thought that lesbians in particular may have very specific financial challenges due to the fact that so many young girls are just not socialized to be leaders and in charge of our own lives. A lot of parents presume their daughter will grow up and marry a man, so her husband will be the person who is responsible for financial matters. I think that can negatively affect our ability to maintain control over our finances. Is this something you’ve seen evidence of in working with both lesbian singles and couples?

 HH: Most of the lesbian women and couples we’ve worked with are more hesitant to take charge in this area. I do agree that it is part of socialization, but I also believe the female mind is very different from that of a male. We want to understand and have the knowledge to make good decisions. Females are naturally more planning-oriented. Studies actually show they have better results from investing than their male counterparts.


AE: Oh, interesting!

HH: It’s very interesting to see and a lot of that does come from that they are planners naturally and they’re not really going after what’s hot and new. It’s more about long term and goals; making sure that we’re doing the things that are appropriate to reach those goals.


AE: I love that. That makes a lot of sense, actually. I can totally see evidence of this in women I know.

HH: Exactly. That’s it.


AE: We’re in a unique period for LGBT people–couples in particular. Laws are constantly evolving and changing, which can make navigating finances very confusing. What advice would you give to LGBT couples who are struggling to keep up?

HH: With all the changes within the LGBT community, it is extremely difficult to understand and keep up. This is actually one of the reasons I wanted to write the book–to try to pull things all in one place and at least get people started, so they know where to go to get more information. I would say the best approach is to have trusted advisors around to help direct you in all areas of your life–from financial planning to estate planning. It’s important because some of these changes that are happening aren’t everyday knowledge that we’re used to understanding. We need help understanding it and how it affects us on an individual level. Also, I think your local LGBT center is a great resource. Typically, they have seminars and publications and blogs where you can find information on any subject that you feel like you need to be educated on.