Money Stories is a new series designed to start the conversation about how being LGBT+ has affected our financial lives and hopefully help people feel inspired to talk more openly about money! Share your stories with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, we’re chatting with Ali and Alison Walker from the blog All Options Considered. Ali and Alison met in 2004, got married in 2006, reached financial independence in 2017, and retired in 2018. Ali retired from her career in marketing and business development for A&E firms at the age of 44, and Alison worked as a Photoshop expert managing image retouching of high-end catalogs until she retired at age 54.
After reaching financial independence and retiring early, these lesbian members of the FIRE community now spend their time coaching others on financial independence and blogging about their experiences with personal finance, travel, and being good global citizens.
When was the first time you thought about money?
Ali: I learned about money as a little kid by watching my grandparents give my mom money every month to pay rent, buy food, and keep gas in the car. I didn’t understand why my parents didn’t have jobs or money, but it was clear that they were both unbanked, uninterested in earning money, and carefree/careless about accruing debt. So instead of learning about money from my parents, I focused on learning about money from my hard working grandparents.
Alison: When I was about 12 years old I had a savings account and I had several things I wanted to save for all in that one account. I kept a ledger for each item I was saving for so I could track my progress. The funny thing was that my Dad was a CPA and never really talked to me about money, because talking about money was considered taboo in my family. So I came up with my childhood accounting process on my own. If my Dad had taken the time to educate me about money instead of assuming my future husband would take care of our finances, I would have been more ready to handle my finances once I was out on my own. I made it my mission to give myself a financial education and though it took a long time, I did get there.
What was your “aha” moment with money?
Ali: When I was 26 I got my first job that paid over minimum wage. At that point in my life I had $43k in student loan debt, a car loan, and some credit card debt. I was very excited to have a decent paycheck, to start investing in retirement accounts, and to start paying off my debt. That’s also when I started letting go of my guilt and shame about being in poverty as a kid, and decided I was ready to start working harder on my own financial education.
Alison: My moment was back in 2005 when I realized money and investing did not have to be scary or exclusive. I was determined to educate myself to a level where I wouldn’t feel stupid when I was meeting with a loan officer at a bank, or my human resources manager at work to talk about my 401k choices. Learning about personal finance was empowering for me, and opened the door for me to set my own financial goals. Realizing it was possible to take control of my future gave me confidence and helped me see past boilerplate, average ideas about personal finance.
How has being LGBT+ impacted your relationship with money?
Ali: When I was 18 I was fired from a job for being a lesbian, and for not looking like my heteronormative bosses. That experience stuck in my memory as a reminder that huge numbers of people in the LGBT+ community have faced discrimination from their employers and suffered financially because of it.
Alison: When I was younger I was not as confident about being an out lesbian in the 1980s. I didn’t speak up as much when I had questions. I was nervous about the prospect of standing out or bringing attention to myself at work. I felt uninformed and excluded from the world of money, and I hate the idea that so many other people in our community still feel that way today.
What are your financial goals for the future?
Both: Our financial goals today are focused on sticking to our budget, and planning carefully for our future. We want to maintain an emergency fund of three years of living expenses since we no longer have job related income to rely on, and we no longer have employer provided health insurance to help cover our medical costs. Our other financial goal within the next year or two is to find a new home base to purchase somewhere in the USA. We want to make a home and a safe space for ourselves and a member of our chosen family where we can spend time with the people we love.
Favorite LGBT+ business (online or IRL)?
There are so many businesses out there that support the LGBT+ community in different ways. Here are some of our favorites:
Mental Health: When we lived in Seattle Ali was on the board of Seattle Counseling Service. This amazing organization is focused on the mental health and wellness of Seattle’s LGBT+ community. SCS is the oldest LGBT+ focused community mental health agency in the world, and we are very proud to support them.
Debt Reduction: We love John and David of the Debt Free Guys. They have made it their mission to serve the LGBT+ community by creating the tools and support system people need to get out of debt and reach financial security. We are proud to support the work that they do in any way we can.
Travel to Ecuador: In 2019 we traveled to Ecuador for a financial independence conference hosted by Cheryl Reed of Above the Clouds Retreats. We had an amazing time with the 28 person group, and Cheryl handled all of the logistics. She showed us the best of Quito, Otavalo, and took us on a bunch of fun side trips as well. It was an unforgettable experience. We also spent a week at Cheryl’s Guest House in the Choco-Andino Biosphere Reserve, and we loved being out in the wilderness while we were there. Cheryl is one of the best global citizens we know, and we look forward to future trips to Ecuador because of her.
Restaurant: When we lived in Seattle we loved Terra Plata in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. We look forward to returning on Paella night the next time we are in town!