Ten Money Questions for Walter Schubert
Walter Schubert gave a face to gay money when he started the Gay Financial Network a decade ago. GFN.com recently re-launched in the form of a web-based finance magazine. As Walter explained, “GFN.com has not had a face lift in over 4 years, and well, the old queen was looking (and feeling) a bit…well…old.” Break out the Botox! The new site is cleaner looking, easier to navigate, and upgraded with financial blogs and new content sections. Go check it out. In the meantime, Walter gets personal below about making money, spending money and why queers still need a financial destination like GFN.com.
1. Did coming out early on help your career on Wall Street?
I really didn’t come out that early, though in retrospect I wish I had. I had been on the trading floor of the NYSE for 15 years, and was 36-years-old before I finally took the risk. There were many reasons why I decided to come out so late, but primary among them was the depression I was experiencing for not living honestly and working in an environment that prided itself on “integrity and honest dealings.”
Coming out didn’t really help my career, but it helped me on personal level to integrate the various components of my life. But coming out was quite scary, at least initially. I had just put a 15-year career in jeopardy and there were no guarantees that my clients or colleagues would embrace the new information about me. After about six months, everyone seemed to have gotten over the initial shock, and started to integrate the more complete picture of who I was, and then things began to get back to normal.
So, I can’t honestly say that coming out helped boost my career, but it boosted me as a human being, and ultimately that’s given me the most satisfying and long lasting result.
2. What is your most significant memory about money?
I grew up the son of a stock broker, a member of the New York Stock Exchange, and money as a boy was never really an issue for the family. When I became a teenager, the way my father had earned a living changed dramatically — in the mid 1970s, he pretty much went bust. So life suddenly changed for us in a riches to rags story. He passed away in 1979 leaving six children and a wife with very little by way of savings. I became the family breadwinner out of necessity.
At 22, I went to the NYSE trading floor (its youngest member at the time), and picked up where my dad left off and started building a career.
The moral of the story is that money can be made and lost very quickly on Wall Street. The key to becoming wealthy is to save some of what you earn. After over 30 years of trading stocks, I found that having a personal financial planner, like having a personal physician, was indispensable to strengthening my savings habits. It has been invaluable to me to get that call once a month from my advisor checking in, to make sure I’m putting something away in my investment account. It’s nice to be reminded that keeping an eye on the long-term objectives is what it takes to becoming wealthy and retiring early.
3. What is your worst habit around finances?
Not saving enough when the times are good. I’ve got a real sweet tooth for the finer aka more expensive things in life. While I know that I can possibly find a less expensive way of traveling -– economy instead of business class, or staying in a 3-4 star hotel — I have this bad habit of the ‘5 Stars’-– which usually has me seeing stars at the end of the month when my AmEx bill arrives.
4. The Los Angeles Times recently declared gay as the new straight. If that’s the case, why is there still a need for segmentation with the Gay Financial Network?
That’s a great question, and I’ve heard that! I laughed when I read this, and thought to myself: If gay is really the new straight, I’ll have to talk with some of my straight male friends and see if they’ve changed their thoughts about sleeping with me.
Kidding aside, identifying the “need” for anything begs the question: where does it hurt? Until the LGBT community achieves full equality, the pain of discrimination and the various harmful financial inequities that come with second class citizenship will necessitate a Gay Financial Network. As a prime example, the over 1,000 pieces of federal legislation that have the words “husband,” “wife” or “spouse” contained within the statutes. This means that every gay couple is deprived of — and hurt by — their inability to obtain the benefits that accrue to married couples.
As such, gay couples need to employ countless legal and financial strategies that married couples never have to think about in order to 1) protect their assets and 2) take advantage of tax opportunities afforded married couples with children just to name a couple.
5. Did your parents ever disagree about money? Are there any similarities with how you handle and negotiate finances in your personal relationships?
My parents at times disagreed about what was necessary to obtain and at what price to pay for the articles being sought. Price consciousness was important.
In a relationship, I think financial matters are a collaborative affair. I’m usually the take-charge one in the relationship when it comes to planning and saving. I believe that ones’ financial objectives change when one is in a relationship, and as such, the planning process must take into consideration the viewpoints of two people and not just one. Most people I’ve had relationships don’t have my background, and they usually defer to me in that way, and that’s just fine with me.
Again, the bottom line is to have a plan, and try to stick to it.
6. What is the secret to wealth accumulation?
I’m a believer in two basic principles: first the 10 percent rule. No matter what, pay yourself first, 10 percent of what you earn and save it. Put some money into it into an interest bearing investment account – call it a “rainy day fund.” Have another account labeled “emergency funds.” This is money that you never touch, unless you are in an emergency. My rule of thumb here is to have enough money to pay six months of household expenses. The other account is a “mad money” account, where I can trade stocks if I want to. These three accounts are away from my financial adviser accounts, my “long term” investment accounts.
7. In your line of work, how often do you see money doing anything good?
I must say that the traders on the NYSE trading floor were some of the most generous human beings I have ever encountered. If there was a tragedy, or someone in need, a hat was always passed around and 2000 people would chip in. I remember many times when over $100,000 would be collected for various needy and worthy causes in a matter of minutes. Literally minutes! I am very proud of that group of people for their unflinching willingness to step up to the challenge of raising money when asked.
One of the proudest charities at the NYSE was the Exchange Christmas Dinner Fund, which feeds over 150,000 people each Christmas, a real Dickens style Christmas dinner with turkey, and all the trimmings. Sadly, today now that the trading floor’s technological advancements that’s all but a whisper of its past, and this charity isn’t nearly what it used to be.
Because I’m single, I tend to give away a larger percentage of after-tax dollars because my needs aren’t that great. I suppose PFLAG, and the United Church of Christ, (the only protestant denominated church which will marry gay people). Beyond those two organizations, I support a few others like The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, HRC, and Service members Legal Defense Fund, and the Garden State Equality organization.
8. What are your plans for retirement?
I’m never going to retire. But as I segue into working a bit less, I intend to be working on things that feed the fire within me, and that usually means doing something that helps other people in need. Going back to my charitable giving habits, my work with PFLAG is something I derive a great deal of satisfaction and fulfillment from. The feeling of helping families stay together as they work through the coming out process is incredibly rewarding to me personally.
9. The wage gap in the US continues to expand between the rich and middle class. Is that just the luck of the draw with capitalism?
This is a big question, and a growing problem for American society, the most unfettered version of capitalism in the world.
All the data points to this widening gap between the middle class and the upper 1 percent of American society. Adam Smith, the famous economist, wrote in the Wealth of Nations about this “invisible hand” whereby supply and demand would naturally find its own balance. Not often mentioned was his concern about monopolies and the formation of them.
I might proffer that there has in effect been a monopolization of capital in our society. Great sums of money held in the hands of a few. Examples of this would be hedge funds, Private Equity Funds, Managers of Retirement Funds, and Global Banks. In my humble opinion this is a form of monopolization and is a partial cause prompting adverse consequences exemplified by ever growing volatility in the markets. This concentration of wealth is also I believe playing a role in widening the gap between the classes.
While Smith generally despised any form of government interference in the economic process, I believe he would take issue with the Bush tax policies. Let me cite a rarely quoted passage in the Wealth of Nations which I believe if the U.S. tax policy adhered to would go a long way toward diminishing this gap between middle class and the top 1 percent:
The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state. The expense of government to the individuals of a great nation is like the expense of management to the joint tenants of a great estate, who are all obliged to contribute in proportion to their respective interests in the estate…. In the observation or neglect of this maxim consists what is called the equality or inequality of taxation.
So, the Bush Tax policies have been particularly “unhelpful” (to use a Rumsfeldian term), in narrowing the gap. Middle class today is just barely getting buy.
10. How has wealth enriched your life beyond material things?
My life has been enriched through giving, and sharing what I have been blessed to receive. The value of my life experience has never really been dependent on how much I earn, because I have seen both fat and lean times. Whether it be a great deal of money or a little, it’s giving to others whatever I can afford that I derive the greatest fulfillment in my life.
More about Walter Schubert
Walter Schubert, a third generation member of the New York Stock Exchange is the Founder and CEO of GFN.com: The Gay Financial Network™ He is also the Founder, Chairman and CEO of The Schubert Group LLC, a global management consulting firm, and Schubert Group International, LLC (SGI)., a NASD broker/dealer.
With over 30 years experience on Wall Street in the Financial Services Industry, and as the first openly gay member of the NYSE, his extensive knowledge and experience in the securities business, coupled with his initiative in creating The Gay Financial Network have earned Schubert a well-deserved reputation as a recognized leader within both the U.S. financial service and LGBT communities.
In 2000 Walter Schubert was elected to the National Board of Directors of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG). He currently serves as Board Treasurer.
In 2003 Walter Schubert was a Founding member of the Board of Directors of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, a non profit organization whose mission is to serve the interests of America’s LGBT owned and operated businesses. He currently serves as its Chairman.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.