John and his husband Chris at their wedding.
John and his husband Chris at their wedding.
Diversity & Inclusion
July 12, 2016

Financial planning and marriage equality

New research suggests that, one year later, the Supreme Court’s ruling has affected how LGBT couples consider financial management and marriage equality.

It’s been one year since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage for same-sex couples in all 50 states. For the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, this was a joyful milestone. It was also a reminder that marriage is a big step with financial implications for any couple, and an opportunity for Wells Fargo to discover how the new landscape might affect LGBT customers. In a new Wells Fargo study, we set out to learn how LGBT Americans are adapting to the ruling and how it affects their outlook on finances – and life.

As the LGBT segment leader for Wells Fargo’s Enterprise Marketing, I’m interested in how the study can help Wells Fargo better understand the unique needs of our customers to help them succeed. On a personal level, my husband Chris and I are one of the many same-sex American couples who got married in the past year, and I was curious to see whether our experience was similar to other newly married couples.

91% report marrying the “love of their life.”

According to the study, nearly 90 percent of married same-sex couples say that marriage equality has improved the lives of LGBT Americans, and 65 percent say it has made their own lives better. That certainly rings true for me. For most of my life, I never expected that I would ever have the same legal recognition of my relationship as my parents, who have been married for 54 years. As partners for 18 years, Chris and I were committed to each other, but we were still strangers in the eyes of the law in many ways.

I remember proposing to Chris over dinner at our favorite restaurant. Even after 18 years together, my hands were shaking and my voice trembling — I was so nervous. I asked the question that for so long I had thought was only possible for other couples, and, through tears, he said “Yes.”

John and his husband Chris at their wedding.
John (right) and his husband Chris Lalli married in 2015 after 18 years as committed partners.

Chris and I are not alone in the joy we felt to be engaged and now married. A year after the ruling, the study shows more than half of LGBT couples are still “pinching themselves,” not quite believing that marriage equality is a reality.

Addressing financial needs

As a financial services company, Wells Fargo must understand its customers and their unique financial needs to inform the guidance we provide. On average, same-sex couples have been together for 12 years before tying the knot. And customers who are newlyweds after 12 years together may have much different financial needs than younger newlyweds with fewer assets.

54% of LGBT Americans report that last year’s ruling got them thinking about the financial impact of marriage

LGBT couples are learning more about the rights and benefits of marriage, but fewer than half have a full understanding of how marriage affects finances, according to the study. Of those who have married, many continue to hold assets separately, with substantial numbers not yet making adjustments to important legal or estate-planning documents.

Wells Fargo continues its commitment to provide financial guidance to LGBT customers, and this study will help us do just that. I’m proud to work for a company that is committed to serving the needs of all its customers and to learning what drives their financial decisions.

I stand proudly with the more than 90 percent of married same-sex couples who say they wed the “love of their life.” As we build our life together as a married couple, Chris and I recognize the importance of getting the financial part right to achieve our life goals together.