This organization built an app to boost financial literacy among older LGBTQ+ Americans

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Financial stability is a concern for many older Americans, and challenges can be greater among marginalized groups such as elders in the LGBTQ+ community. But a free financial literacy app called SAGECents is looking to change that.

LGBTQ+ Americans are less likely to feel confident about having enough for a comfortable retirement, according to a 2022 survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.  

What’s worse, 1 in 5 older LGBTQ+ adults faced poverty during the Covid-19 pandemic, a 2023 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law found.   

As part of its National Financial Literacy Month efforts, CNBC will be featuring stories throughout the month dedicated to helping people manage, grow and protect their money so they can truly live ambitiously.

“They’ve faced a lifetime of discrimination and social stigma,” said Christina DaCosta, chief experience officer at SAGE, a national organization dedicated to improving the lives of older LGBTQ+ people. “So they’re at higher risk to face poverty, homelessness and poor health outcomes than their peers.” 

Launched in 2020, SAGECents is a partnership between LifeCents, a financial wellness platform, and SAGE, with financial support from the Wells Fargo Foundation.

The app was developed based on survey feedback from the SAGE community, according to DaCosta. “We know that this is a population in need of support, especially financially,” she said.

How SAGECents works

The app uses a chatbot and gamification — where user interactions are akin to playing a video game — to address topics like budgeting, retirement savings, debt, credit scores and more, with prompts to automate savings or check credit reports, for example. The data isn’t sold to third parties or used to upsell products, according to SAGE.

“We learned so much from different members of the community,” DaCosta said. “And that allowed us to really tailor the app to reach the different micro audiences within the community.”

They’re at higher risk to face poverty, homelessness and poor health outcomes than their peers.

Christina DaCosta

Chief experience officer at SAGE

There are links to customized resources throughout the app, including guides on Medicare for the LGBTQ+ community, Social Security for same-sex couples, estate planning for transgender individuals and more.

SAGECents users also have access to one free session from a financial counselor with the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education designation.

Within its first two years, more than one-half of SAGECents’ 1,200-plus users reported reduced debt and improved credit scores, according to a news release from the organization.

Why LGBTQ+ elders face more challenges

Ilan Meyer, senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law, who co-authored the recent report, said there are several reasons why older LGBTQ+ Americans may face greater financial difficulties than the general population.

Older LGBTQ+ Americans are more likely to be single and to live alone, making them less likely to benefit from a partner’s health insurance or other “social welfare structures,” he said.

“You also have greater potential for alienation from biological families, especially in the older generation,” Meyer said. “And they’re less likely to have children, which is certainly a huge source of support for older adults in the U.S..”

Push for personal finance as a graduation requirement

What’s more, LGBTQ+ Americans are less likely to work with a financial advisor, according to the EBRI survey.

“When you’re a member of a stigmatized group, you’re more likely to be apprehensive or suspicious of services,” said the Williams Institute’s Meyer. “I’m glad to hear SAGE is doing this because I think for some people it might be a trustworthy source.”