Gay Affluence“Spending is quick, earning is slow.” – Russian proverb

According to a new national survey conducted online by Harris Interactive, nearly half (48%) of gay and lesbian adults report they like to keep up with the latest styles and trends. This is compared to only 38 percent of heterosexual adults.

Taking a look only at gay men in the sample:

  • More than half (53%) report they like to keep up with the latest styles and trends, compared to fewer than one-third (30%) of heterosexual men.
  • Nearly half (49%) report they tend to upgrade to the latest model or version of a product, compared to 35 percent of heterosexual men.

Apparently, the image of gay affluence lives on. But what do these spending habits reveal? Are gay men wealthier than straight men? Or do they just have the queer eye for shopping?

In a Queercents interview in 2006, Bob Witeck and Wes Combs provided an explanation:

Because only about 20 percent of gay and lesbian households have children in them, we tend to have more discretionary income. What others spend on child care related costs we often spend on ourselves (or save.) In many cases we are also dual income households, which coupled with no children gives us more money to spend than the average consumer.

But John W. Stiles at OutSmart begs to differ and gives his take on the myth:

So we get all of the harm of appearing wealthy, without any of the fun (or security) of actually having the money in our pockets and bank accounts.

Appearance can be deceiving. Consider this guest post from an enterprising twentysomething gay guy in Houston:

I’d probably be rich (really rich, not just rich in appearance) right now if I’d learned earlier that I must live on far less than what I make, and invest the difference, if I ever want to achieve financial security.

Most of my friends are in the same boat – actually, most of my friends are in worse shape (simply because they haven’t stopped to think about their situation.) I have several buds that earn far above the national income average, they drive Lexus and Mercedes cars, and live in trendy downtown lofts or townhouses. But, many of them owe thousands of dollars in credit card debt – just keeping up with the interest payments on those cards keeps them from getting caught up financially… I believe that gay guys are particularly prone to the “keeping up appearances” syndrome. Gay men just seem to really, deeply worry about what their peers think of them – whether it’s how they dress, their physical appearance, or their financial situation.

In the case of finances, keeping up appearances can be very dangerous. Instead of truly striving for financial security by avoiding consumer debt and paying down mortgage debt, many gay men feel compelled to “show off” their relative “wealth” by purchasing cars and clothes and homes and trips and all kinds of things they can’t afford. I’ve done it myself, and you probably know others who’ve done the same thing. You may even be doing it right now.

This tendency isn’t confined to the US. In the UK, a writer at GayFinance ponders the same:

Luxury used to be something that was exclusively for the rich. That’s not the case any more. With increasing affluence, more of us can afford the kind of things that used to be strictly for the Rockefellers. We don’t just go abroad, we go on adventure holidays to New Zealand or Africa. We don’t buy clothes, we buy designer labels…

But too many of us have a “live today, pay tomorrow” attitude. Keeping up with the Joneses can be costly and it’s all too easy to max out the credit card – especially on holiday or at Christmas. If you’re in serious debt or think you might be a “shopaholic”, you should seek help from a debt counsellor.

But even people who don’t have a problem with debt may be spending all their income without thinking about the future. Yes, you can afford the things you like now, but wouldn’t you like to be able to afford them when you’re 60 as well? All too often I meet guys in their late 30s who earn good money and enjoy an affluent lifestyle but who have no savings or investments at all. What do they think they’ll live on when they’re older?

What do you think? Why are gay men different than their straight counterparts when it comes to keeping up with the latest trends and styles? And what does this mean in regards to their wallet?

Photo Credit: iofoto