6 Strategies for LGBTQ+ Financial Prep to Move to a Safer Place

Legislation targeting LGBTQ+ communities is intensifying across U.S. states. Since 2022, the number of states banning gender-affirming care has risen from four to 23, and 21 states banned or restricted abortion. Two-thirds of states also currently have laws on the books that criminally penalize certain activities based on a person’s HIV-positive status.

Recent Washington Post analysis of FBI crime data reveals that hate crimes in K-12 schools have more than quadrupled in response to restrictive laws.

In 2017, long before the most recent legislation, a survey by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found more than half of the LGBTQ+ community regularly reported experiencing threats, harassment or violence due to their sexuality or gender identity.

It stands to reason that community members may wonder how to plan for their safety and well-being. If you need to move due to safety concerns — and have some time to prepare for the move — any financial planning you can do beforehand will go a long way. Consider the following six tips from financial and LGBTQ+ experts around the country.

How to financially prepare for a move (if you can)

1. Evaluate your assets and expenses

Taking stock of your income, expenses and assets can help you figure out what it will take to make your move a reality. Lindsey Young, a certified financial planner in Baltimore, says reviewing regular expenses, moving expenses and any costs you may face from temporary unemployment can help you understand where your money is going and plan where you want it to go.

Moving is expensive, and the LGBTQ+ community already tends to earn less than straight and cisgender workers on average, according to a Human Rights Campaign analysis of full-time LGBTQ+ workers and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Transgender men and women, LGBTQ+ people of color and LGBTQ+ women face even more pronounced pay gaps and discrimination.

However, the LGBTQ+ community also has a rich history of supporting one another through mutual aid. So, check with your support network to see what’s available. Be aware that seeking help and support is normal, especially during challenging political moments.

2. Acquire cash on hand

Once you know how much money you need, consider how you might get it and create cash flow, says Young. For example, can you take on extra shifts at work? A second job? Can your chosen family or a GoFundMe make up the difference?

If you need to move but don’t have cash, says Young, consider what existing lines of credit you can access, such as a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, or credit card.

Also, consider whether you would want — or be able — to take on repaying new debt over the next several months or years. Are you more comfortable taking on debt to make a move happen, or would you prefer to tough it out where you are? Young says there is no correct answer, and it’s a matter of “understanding what their priorities are to really figure out what the right path forward is.”

3. Assemble your documents and back them up 

Wherever you are, it’s always helpful to get your important documents together in one place. Make photocopies of anything important, such as medical records and personal IDs, and upload them to a safe cloud location so you can access them anywhere.

4. Specify your power of attorney 

Officially designating who will make medical and financial decisions on your behalf is essential to putting someone you trust in charge if something happens to you. Make your will and choose your power of attorney so one isn’t chosen for you.

This step is crucial for anyone concerned that their biological family members (or the state) might try to challenge their wishes, even if they’re married. If your situation is complicated, finding an attorney who specializes in LGBTQ+ clients can help ensure that your wishes are followed despite any contentious family relationships you may have.

The risk of not planning can include that your wishes and loved ones aren’t honored, says Frank Summers, a certified financial planner in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I know of situations in which the estate of somebody who passed away went to a family member who did not approve of their relationship, who didn’t like gay people and proceeded to make the life of the surviving partner extraordinarily difficult when that person is dealing with a tremendous and profound grief,” says Summers.

5. Connect to members of your community, old and new

Connecting to an LGBTQ+ organization or group in a new city might make you feel safer, as well as possibly open up connections to new jobs, health care providers and relationships.

As director of transgender services at The Center on Colfax in Denver, Sable Schultz has seen a significant uptick in people connecting to peer support group services in person and online as they prepare to move to Colorado. Considered a “refugee” state, Colorado has sheltered thousands of newcomers in 2024, and its Medicaid coverage includes gender-affirming services.

Summers sees particular groups of people impacted by legislation — trans and nonbinary people, people wanting to start families, people with children and people who require ongoing care. Needing to access care and not knowing if you’ll be able to get it (or, if you can get access, not knowing if you’ll receive care with respect) can be overwhelming and scary, especially in a state like North Carolina that recently banned gender-affirming care and severely restricted abortion.

So wherever you’re headed, identify a support group, Queer Exchange, Facebook affinity group, or a social service provider that can connect you with housing, medical care, community or other support nearby.

6. Plan a safe travel route

If you’re getting on the road, consider how you can safely get from one place to another, including where you can use the restroom. Be sure to check in with local queer groups to identify where travelers have successfully stopped and stayed in the past.

If moving or traveling requires you to go through states targeting the LGBTQ+ community, particularly trans and nonbinary people, make a plan for how you can drive along large interstates and stop in larger towns and cities, or at least places that identify themselves as allies to the community.

What to do if you have to move and can’t prepare

Conversations about money aren’t usually related to an immediate life or death scenario, but for too many members of the LGBTQ+ community, that is the current reality. Safety is top of mind, especially given the ongoing rise in hate crimes.

Schultz describes Colorado as a refugee state because it mandates health care protections — including requiring gender-affirming care of Medicaid services — as well as general protections around gender identity and gender expression.

Other states where gender-affirming care is practiced include Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming; and Washington, D.C.

If you’d feel safer in any of these states, it’s possible even a lack of financial planning shouldn’t keep you from making the move. For those who are currently unhoused or living out of their car, says Schultz, sometimes “it’s at least safer to be unhoused here [in Colorado] than it would be to be wherever they were. And they can at least get the health care that they need.”

There’s no shame in doing what you must to get to a safer place where you are valued and wanted. And if you’re an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, check in on your loved one. Consider what emotional, financial or other support you can offer them during this challenging time.