These Debt-Free Guys Want to Make Change in the Queer Community

David Auten & John Schneider — Queer Money

Seventeen years ago, we met on a dance floor in Denver. We were in our late 20s and early 30s and had just entered our prime social years—finally financially independent and on our own. The bullying of our high school days and our parent’s disapproval of our “lifestyle” were far behind us.

As gay kids, we didn’t have the dating and social experiences at the same ages as our straight peers. We pretended, even convinced ourselves, that we wanted girlfriends in high school. Dating was always uniquely awkward for us.

Like many in the queer community, we sought the validation we didn’t get in our youth from stuff we couldn’t afford as adults. We tried to make up for feeling inadequate in our youth with the things we owned and our outward appearance. When we finally found our queer people, we tried desperately to fit in by having the same clothes, going to the same clubs, and traveling on the same vacations—even when we couldn’t afford them.

Despite having had 13 years of combined experience in the financial services industry, when we decided to move into a basement apartment together, we had over $51,000 of combined credit card debt. We were not living our dreams.

When we realized the gravity of our financial situation, we created a plan to pay off all our debt in two and half years. As life partners, we’re now debt-free. As business partners, we’re the Debt Free Guys. We use our personal and professional experiences with money to help the queer community live debt-free, have fun, and be money conscious through, books, public speaking, and writing for sites like Make Change.

We also host the “Queer Money” podcast, where we discuss the financial nuances facing LGBTQ people. Our goal is to build a financially stronger queer community so that more of us can become leaders in our society, continue our fight for equality, and live our best lives.

Why we do what we do

We think it’s more important than ever today to change the cliché that gay people have fabulous, carefree, and successful lives. For one, it’s largely not true. Two, it’s damaging to our finances because many of us try to live up to this ideal. And, three, it’s limiting because we have so much more to offer than how we look and dress.

The federal legalization of same-sex marriage in June 2015 brought a more mature queer community to mainstream American culture. In the 1920s and ‘30s, we were the jesters in movies, plays, and literature. Between the ‘50s and ‘70s, we were the villains, with our dark and seedy lives. In the ‘80s, because of the AIDS crisis, we were the victims. In the ‘90s and early 2000s, we were party monsters. Now we are finally seen as typical adults: raising children, being neighbors, and growing old.

As queer rights continue to advance, it’s on us to keep pushing back against limiting, offensive stereotypes so that we’re recognized as individuals with a lot to contribute to society. For the sake of our families, the queer community, and the country, we need to stop spending and managing our money in stereotypical ways.

A tenacious queer community requires financially secure queer individuals and allies. Financial strength gives us both the money and time to continue to fight for equality. Our personal and career successes give us powerful voices in society.

The more queer business leaders, entrepreneurs, and community leaders we have, the more we can continue advancing our rights and the rights of other marginalized people. The more we come out as experts in ever more diverse fields, the more we’ll show our value to society, and the less our sexual orientations and gender identities will be an issue.

We can only achieve this kind of momentum when we’re not distracted by financial insecurity: buried in credit card debt, carrying over-sized mortgages, or burdened by student loans that will take 30 years—at best—to pay off.

What you’ll get from us

In this column, we’ll discuss new tax concerns for same-sex spouses, family planning, and retirement planning without kids. We’ll also cover investing, financial planning, and other money issues that hit the queer community particularly hard. We’ll mix the serious with the fun and always give you value that makes your investment with us worthwhile. We invite you to come back to our column regularly to be inspired to live a successful, money-conscious life.