We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: the cost of living is higher for gay people. And it’s not just because we buy $30 pairs of underwear. That is a stereotype, you bigot. Andrew Christian Trophy Boys are only $23 a pop.
(I originally had a gif here from an Andrew Christian marketing spot. I decided to omit it for the sake of anyone reading this at work. The arrestingly bouncy nature of the model’s package as he pelvic-thrusted across the screen was designed to catch a manager’s eyes from fifty paces. I will replace it with a seemingly work-related gif to facilitate more subtle on-the-clock browsing. See? I’m always looking out for you, beloved readers!)
In our classic article Ten Ways That Sexual and Gender Identity Affect Finances, we highlighted a few of the complex social and institutional structures that make it harder for queer people to accumulate wealth. But one thing we didn’t really touch on? Location, cost of living, and their outsize impact on queer people’s finances. But thanks to a letter from a righteously pissed-off Patreon donor, we’re diving into that today.
For our eighth episode of this season, we’ve chosen another letter from a Patreon donor. Patron Jordan asks…
Hello lovely Bitches! Something has been really bothering me as my spouse and I try to plan our future. We’re both looking toward early retirement, and every single bit of advice I see for where to retire… just doesn’t take into account being gay. At all.
All the “retire here for the lowest taxes and best chance at a good life” advice points to states with awful track records about all queer stuff ever (looking at you, Florida-Alabama-Louisiana-Montana). My queer heart is so frustrated that I’m essentially ignored in this advice again and again. Pretty standard in personal finance, I know…
I would just love your combined take on what to look for in a place to retire to that takes into account social safety nets and not literally trying to legislate my spouse and I out of existence. I guess I am feeling pretty disheartened about the idea that I have to retire to a state that’s going to possibly harm my rate of return and make early retirement harder just because I am queer. Do I suck it up and move to Florida? Are those taxes worth it to support those broader social safety nets and so we just suck it up and pay those in the queer haven of upstate New York-and-or-Vermont? Help, I guess?– Patreon Donor Jordan
Phew. Jordan is right.
Cost of living has a massive impact on everyone’s long-term future. And many, many personal finance gurus advocate moving to a lower cost of living area as part of a retirement plan. Doubly so if you want to retire early.
And since queer people are a tiny minority (only around 5% of the total U.S. population), it’s much easier to build community in densely populated cities. But cities are hella expensive to live in too. This conundrum forces a hard choice for queer people. Do you make the best choice for your safety, dignity, and potential social life? And sacrifice much of your budget to basic necessities of life in a HCOL (high cost of living) area? Or do you move somewhere more affordable, knowing it could make you isolated and unsafe?
We bring a lot of personal experience to this question. After all, we’re two not-straight women who’ve lived on extreme ends of the spectrum (P-Town vs. the Mormon Corridor) and many places in-between.
Watch below for our answer. You can also listen to the audio-only version, here or in the podcast app of your choice.
Thanks for supporting us
This episode was brought to you by our sponsor Acorns! Acorns is for those who want to save and invest money but don’t want to think about it. It’s a micro-investing app that rounds up all your purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the difference on your behalf! Set it, forget it, collect it. Heckin’ easy and cheap.
And as always, thanks to beloved Patreon donors for sponsoring EVERYTHING we do at Bitches Get Riches. They are absolutely instrumental in making this site possible, and we love them dearly. Did you know you can become one of them? Uh-huh, you totally can, OUR LOVE IS FOR SALE! Sooooo much cheaper than rent in San Francisco. We strive to retain the same colorful and historic vibe without all the depressing housing problems. If you can, please help support the work we do. We seriously appreciate every little bit.
Episode transcript (click to reveal)
This episode, like all episodes, is brought to you by our beloved Patreon donors. This week, we’d like to thank Julia, Ryan and Jayln. And an extra special thanks this week to Kathleen. Kathleen is literally just TikTok sensation Tariq the Corn Kid, named “The Corn-bassador” of South Dakota.
Did you know that John Milton went blind as he aged? And therefore, he could not finish writing Paradise Lost himself.
I did not know that. That’s fascinating,
Even more fucking fascinating, do you know how he finished writing Paradise Lost?
I don’t know, how?
Thank you for indulging me. He dictated it to his daughters.
Which is so charming on the one hand, and on the other hand, it’s kind of ironic and hilarious because he had very antiquated thoughts about the education of women. So the fact that he was like, hmm I don’t know if girls should learn to read and write early in his life—
However, I will rely upon them.
And if I send them a shitty word choice, they’ll just kind of look down at it and go, just gonna cross that out. Just gonna fix that a little.
Eugh. Just gonna change that. Yeah. Pretty much.
All right, that’s my headcanon now for Paradise Lost.
Exactly, exactly. The latter half of Paradise Lost is just Milton’s daughters being like and that’s a clunky word choice, I’m just going to rewrite that. Yeah, so you’re fucking welcome.
I am—for those enjoying this in a visual medium—
Kitty & Piggy 1:35
A visual medium.
I do in fact have in preparation for today’s recording my copies of Paradise Lost. So this one belonged to my grandmother and it is, in fact, so old that the binding’s completely falling apart, the last page has totally fallen out. I don’t actually read this, I just keep it. It’s a great little thing. This is the one that I actually read. This I got for like a dollar at some bookstore.
For those who are only listening. It’s just a standard trade paperback.
And it’s got all my notes and I’ve got stuff highlighted in it, and this is something I could loan to people and not be sad. And then…I also have this one, which was rescued—
Jesus fuck, what is that thing? It looks like the Necronomicon.
It is my physically largest book that I own, and it has these absolutely fantastic illustrations by Gustave Dore. Doré? Who knows. Don’t at me about pronunciation of people who might be French. Or something else.
This has been the Bitches Get Riches Art History Hour.
And yes, this one I keep just for the fantastic illustrations. It’s in slightly better shape but still not really like something that I want to put my oily fingers all over. So yeah, that’s the only thing that I own three copies of a single book.
Yeah, you’re such a minimalist when it comes to books, I’m shocked you have three copies. Okay, so it really is your favorite work of poetry.
Theme Song 3:10
If you need some dough
You don’t know where to go
In this patriarchal capitalist hellscape
Well here’s the ‘sitch
We’re gonna help you, sis
Because bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
Bitches get riches
And so can you
And I’m Kitty.
And we’re the bitches in Bitches Get Riches.
We are an unnecessarily “edgy” modern adaptation of a beloved classic
And we’re here to make everything worse.
Our time on this planet is limited.
So let’s get started.
Today’s letter comes to us from Patreon donor Jordan. Thank you so much, Jordan, we love you.
Patreon.com/bitchesgetriches, that’s where you get your questions answered. And also get more photos of our pets, which like, so valuable.
Yes, like 100% more pet photos. Yeah. That’s what the people want, the people demand pet photos.
I don’t know if it’s what they want, but it is what they get. All right, so the lovely Jordan asks: Hello Bitches! Something has really been bothering me as my spouse and I try to plan for our future. We are both looking forward to early retirement, and every single bit of advice I see for where to retire just doesn’t take into account being gay. At all. All of the “retire here for the lowest taxes and best chance at a good life” advice points to states with awful track records about all queer stuff ever (looking at you, Florida, Alabama-Louisiana-Montana). My queer heart is so frustrated that I’m essentially ignored in this advice again and again (pretty standard in personal finance, I know) and I would love your combined take on what to look for in a place to retire that takes into account social safety nets and not literally trying to legislate my spouse and I out of existence.
Wow, high standards.
I guess I’m feeling pretty disheartened about the idea that I have to retire to a state that’s going to possibly harm my rate of return and make early retirement harder just because I’m queer. Do I suck it up and move to Florida? Are those taxes worth it to support those broader social safety nets, and so we just suck it up and pay those? Or do we live in a queer haven like upstate New York or Vermont? Help, I guess?
This question is so good. It’s a rich text, if you will.
Yeah, yeah. I love it.
Much like Paradise Lost.
Oh, okay so. [holds up the trade paperback of Paradise Lost] Thank you for that transition.
Oh, yeah yeah yeah!
Might I just read a little bit?
You may. You may, my dear.
So when I read this question, this is the very first thing that came to my mind. I’m just going to let you enjoy it. This is a speech delivered by Satan, who’s kind of looking around hell going, wait, is this where we have to live for forever because we lost the war with heaven?
Uh, yike. Big yike.
Yeah, speech me, Satan.
Okay, so this is him kind of processing. He’s processing. [clears throat]
Is this the Region, this the Soil, the Clime,
Said then the lost Arch-Angel, this the seat
That we must change for Heav’n, this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is Sovran can dispose and bid
What shall be right: fardest from him is best
Whom reason hath equald, force hath made supream
Above his equals. Farewel happy Fields
Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrours, hail
Infernal world, and thou profoundest Hell
Receive thy new Possessor: One who brings
A mind not to be chang’d by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less then he
Whom Thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th’ Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.
[sensually] Uhh, Milton!
Said anyone who’s ever moved to Florida.
Kitty & Piggy 7:43
You can choose to reign in hell, and you know, make of hell what you will of it, or you can choose the easy relatively pain-free existence of living in heaven. In other words, you can choose to move to Wyoming and make it your personal project to make it a better place for queer folks to live. Even though that’s going to be a struggle and require a lot of activism and a lot of years of hard work on your part. Or, you can move to Vermont where you might be like, wow am I even woke enough to be here? Like, you can change anywhere you live. You can make yourself a positive little community and you can try and spread the good news, and you know, be a force for change. Be the change you want to see, said Milton.
Yes. I think, yeah absolutely. Like I think this boils down to like, you got to pick your poison. There are a lot of benefits that come from living in a high cost of living area, especially for a queer person because those areas tend to have better social safety nets, better infrastructure, and a friendlier state for queer people to live where your rights aren’t kind of constantly under attack whenever they appoint some new person who’s got a bee up their ass because—because they haven’t put a penis up their ass recently enough.
Because trans babies are allowed to exist and be slightly comfortable.
How very dare they.
How very dare they.
It is very much a—and I say this as someone who—I identify as pansexual. I often kind of shorten that, use bisexual as a short-hand just because not everyone is familiar with the term and I’m too lazy to explain it every time.
This means you really get off on Cuisinart, right? “Pan”-sexual.
Okay, great, just making sure I’m following along. Cool.
[sensually] Pots, pans, casserole dishes. Ohh, Milton!
[sensually] Mmm, stir-fry me, baby.
And I grew up in a very, very, very small rural town in the Midwest. I was bullied for the way that I was. I was cornered in a bathroom once by young men who told me they were going to rape me straight. So that’s like—
I really want you to know that I don’t say any of this lightly. That I know what it costs to live—what it costs emotionally as well as logistically—to live in an area where you don’t feel safe and I don’t want that for anyone. At the same time, queer people are everywhere! We’re everywhere! We are—
We’re here, we’re queer.
Kitty & Piggy 10:40
We want to get married on the ocean. [laughter]
Like it’s not that—so many queer people end up sort of gravitating to the closest urban centers to usually just make it easier to like, find each other, find support groups, and to kind of like disappear and blend in a little bit more and be allowed to live their own private lives. But there are queer people all fucking over this good nation, all over this world.
I went to a business trip in Texas once and it took me 2.5 seconds to find a gay bar with like rainbow flags outside and everything, and it was lovely.
Yeah, so many of the absolute icons of queer culture grew up in tiny towns. They maybe came to prominence in less prominent cities like maybe the Atlanta’s as opposed to like the New York City’s or the San Francisco’s. And over time they stay there, they invest in that community, and they force that community to accept them. And I think there’s real strength and real beauty in that struggle. I think that struggle is much easier when you have many people to share the load with, but I also respect that if someone’s like, yeah no, I want to retire and I want to like—
I want to be done struggling.
Yeah, I want to train cats to—well no you can’t train cats to do anything. I guess I just want to have 50,000 cats and that’s like my big retirement plan, and I don’t want to be like an activist when I’m in my 50’s and 60’s and 70’s and 80’s. Fine. I totally respect that.
Totally fine. 100% fine.
But it does come with a cost.
Do you want to do that activist work to try and make yourself safer and do you want to pay for personal protection? Or do you want to move into a place and have the systems already in place to protect you and your spouse and your community, and not have to worry about it? I really think it comes out—it’s a wash, in the end. You know? You’re paying either way, whether through taxes or through personal expenditure.
Queer people often feel very safe when they are in a major city, especially one that is noted for being very queer friendly. This in no way shape or form guarantees your safety. And I even want to expand that like you can be a person of color living in a very diverse area and it doesn’t mean that you’re safe all the time. You can be a woman living in—
—a very friendly culture and you will still run the risk of encountering people who want to harass you, or stalk you, or whatever. The world is not a safe place for everyone who needs to share it.
I also think there’s often a misconception that like some areas are nice, some areas are friendly. Some areas are hospitable and some are not. Just as there are queer people everywhere, there are allies everywhere, and there are people who just don’t know. And as soon as they meet a nice neighbor or a new friend or a new co-worker, they go, oh this wasn’t what I thought it would be like. There’s a pretty common phenomenon especially down in the American Deep South—there actually is a long history of sort of respecting people’s individual quirks. And if you ask people in a general sense of like, how do you feel about gay people? They’re like, no, no, no, don’t like that. The Bible says blah blah blah. But then if you ask okay, well what about Uncle Jim? And they’re like [Southern accent]oh well, Uncle Jim’s—
[Southern accent] He’s different.
[Southern accent] That’s just the way he is.
[Southern accent] Uncle Jim’s different.
[Southern accent] I love Uncle Jim. He is the way he is.
[Southern accent] Uncle Jim, he is the—
[Southern accent] You leave him alone.
[Southern accent] Bless his heart.
[Southern accent] I’ll kill you if you touch him.
[Southern accent] Don’t you come for Uncle Jim! [drops accent] I grew up not in the South, but in rural New England, which is pretty fucking conservative. And if you look at it on paper, you’re gonna be like eww, that’s a really, really red spot you grew up in, that’s pretty not gay friendly. But the truth of it is like, not all low cost of living areas or not all conservative areas are as not gay friendly as you think, like you were saying. We had this middle-aged couple in my hometown who were out, gay, proud, and they were business owners. They owned the local flower shop and everyone knew them and everyone loved them.
I love them. I haven’t met them and I love them. I wanna be them.
They were just like this town fixture, they were always there at town meetings and, you know, my parents and neighbors who I would never at the time have been like, oh yeah, they’re big gay allies, they were like super friendly with them and supportive of them and like, patronized their business and everything. And I grew up knowing like, oh the gay couple in town owns the flower shop and they’re cool. Like they’re completely different from any legislation having to do with gay rights or whatever. And it didn’t ever—like those people were valued members of the community and their individual experience never factored into the broader societal understanding of gay rights and legislating those rights. So I mean that’s obviously not a perfect solution but it does show that your life might not necessarily be in danger just because you’re going to a place that has a low cost of living and you view it as not gay friendly. It might be extremely gay friendly to individuals.
Yeah, I think a lot of this honestly has to do with what is the level of community trust and community support that is necessary for people to live their lives. If you want to hate gay people and you want to buy flowers in your tiny town growing up—
In my home town?
You are going to have to drive for an hour to get to the next flower shop.
So I think there is a lot more—there is sometimes I think a surprising level of tolerance in small, especially rural, communities, where like this is the person who has this kind of tractor and if you need this kind of tractor, you gotta go talk to this person. And I think there’s a lot more tolerance sometimes than we expect for people based on what folks in that area would describe as their eccentricities.
Based on necessity.
You’re kind of allowed to be a little eccentric.
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I also think we’re focusing too much on the extreme ends of the cost of living spectrum. For example, San Francisco, famously the epicenter of the gay rights movement, also famous for completely unaffordable housing. I have a friend who’s lived in the same apartment for years and years and years, and will never give up her lease because it’s rent-controlled. So, you know, she super loves her gay community out there, as do her roommates, but like, the exchange is they can’t afford even a rent-controlled apartment without roommates. On the other end of the spectrum, you know, I was just in Ohio for a family funeral and my husband and I, as we do, we were looking at real estate prices. And a three-bedroom house with like acres and acres of land was like 80 grand. I was just like I have 80 grand in my couch cushions right now, that’s ridiculous! But, you know, my cousin who lives in that area and is a young gay man, he is trying as fast as he can to get out of there because yes, it’s a low cost of living area and there’s actually nothing going on for the gay community or otherwise. It’s just a really dead place with no opportunity. So you know, those are two extremes of the cost-of-living spectrum and I would consider neither one worthwhile if I was planning to retire early.
Yeah, I think for our queer listeners, thinking about it this way. How important is it to you to share queerness with your immediate network? I think everyone needs and deserves a supportive and loving network. And for me, when I was in my teens and 20’s, I needed to be around other gay people because I needed to—I had sucked up so much hatred and I needed to purify it in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.
I needed to cleanse myself by surrounding myself with positive, queer vibes. Given enough time, I really felt my own answer shift. When I was in my late teens, I made a decision to move to an extremely queer-friendly part of the country and attend an extremely queer-friendly school, which is where I met you.
Hey, that’s where we met!
My precious, my pet.
And I’m obviously incredibly happy that I did that. As a result, my community has often had a disproportionately high number of queer folks in it, which is awesome. As I’ve gotten older, I’m now in my mid-30’s and it’s less important to me that I share queerness as long as they kind of like get where I’m coming from. As long as they are people who are generally good and generally supportive, they don’t have to like appreciate the same media that I do or use the same language that I do or appreciate my fashion choices. Like all those things that kind of intersect with queerness, they’re a little bit less important, I think, as you get older. And I think this varies a lot from person to person. Like do you really need a large and active and happy queer community around you, or is it enough to find and build a coalition of good-hearted people, some of whom may be queer but a lot of them just statistically by the numbers are likely to be straight? And I think that that answer can change for you over time. I truly do believe that good people are everywhere. Good people are all around us.
Do I think that it is prudent to consider the likelihood of kind of a worst-case—you know, Jordan’s talking about making their plans for the future. If you want to move to a very low cost of living area, that you’ve done your research and you know that like well there’s a tiny little gay bar and so we think we can find some folks and they’ll introduce us to more folks and it’ll all work. Awesome. Great. Do I think it’s prudent as part of Jordan and their partner’s plan to have a long-term emergency plan that like, hey if terrible things start happening in our state politics, where they’re like actively trying to take our rights away, what is our line where we say up to here we stay and fight and past this we flee to a friendlier area?
Yeah. We run away.
I think having a larger emergency fund for queer folks makes a ton of sense. I think having kind of an emergency plan makes a lot of sense. But I think that is kind of true for everyone because even if you are straight, white, cisgender, like upper-middle-class earner, there is no guarantee that when you move to a brand new area you will be able to make friends. There is no guarantee of that and it gets harder, the older you get. So I think in many ways like it’s a risk that you have to take, yes. But it’s a risk everyone takes. Can I go somewhere brand new and make new connections with people who don’t know me, who haven’t shared my exact life experience? It’s a risk, baby. And we must take it all the time.
It’s a risk.
I want you to live your best life.
That is Bitches Get Riches in a nutshell. Live your best life. Frugally, please.
No, but I think that gets to the heart of this issue for us, which is really like you need to weigh the risks that you’re open to accepting and the work that you’re open to doing with the amount you’re willing to pay. And if you’re not willing to take on more risks, maybe you need to be willing to take on more cost of living or a higher cost of living as the case may be. And honestly, I’m going to deviate from our personal finance guru brothers and sisters and say, I don’t really consider cost of living all that much when I am making future decisions. When I was super young, you know, right out of college, my husband and I chose what at the time was a much lower cost of living area to move to. And it has since, you know, ballooned in popularity.
Because of gentrifiers like us moving in and raising the cost.
Thanks a lot for ruining the American West.
Exactly. We really did. We single-handedly turned the American West into the East Coast. I was actually walking around downtown Denver the other day and like among all the construction cranes and stuff, I was like this reminds me of downtown Boston way more than it did 10 years ago. So, anyway.
Yeah, no one place ever stays static. If you go somewhere that’s got a great community, I feel like the likelihood of, you know, I moved here because I have 4 different friends here, guess what? Those friends are going to move, like things just happen.
And they’re going to have babies and they’re not going to have time for you, and it’s going to suck. So I guess make queer friends ‘cause they statistically have fewer children.
Yeah, there you go. More people than ever, ever in history, identify as being at least a little queer.
And why do you think that is, Kitty?
Fluoride in the water. That’s the main one, yeah.
Clearly. Clearly, yeah.
And also too much RuPaul’s Drag Race. Those are the 2.
Way too much RuPaul’s—yeah, no exactly. Listen, we are just a couple years from making sure being a gay abortion doctor is the only path to citizenship in these United States. That’s our goal.
That is—I would call that the gay agenda.
That’s our gay agenda
That is our gay agenda.
Yeah, I think absolutely like more people than ever are realizing that cisgender heterosexuality is a box that everyone is put into by default and some of us are just so fucking gay that we have to crawl out of it and make our own goddamn box and that’s fantastic. But there’s a lot of people left in that box who are kind of watching us crawl away going, yeah, you know, like I get it, I get it. Your box seems pretty nice too. And I think there’s much less pressure for people to define themselves for life as being one kind of thing. There’s many, many, many more terms, that provide a lot of nuance that wasn’t really possible in the past. Like it used to be like—
Like your pansexuality, your fetish for Cuisinart! My god.
Exactly! Exactly. Like you’re normal or you’re something else and our idea of normal is getting blurred at the edges more and more as time goes on. And I personally know that there are so many queer activists, queer entertainers, queer educators, queer librarians—gay people are everywhere! And we are indoctrinating the children. I really, I have so much faith in Gen Z and younger generations to really—
I believe the children are the future.
—make the world into a shockingly accepting and welcoming place.
Yeah. Alright. Are you good with that?
I’m good with that.
Listeners, if you want us to answer your question, go to BitchesGetRiches.com and click “Ask the Bitches.” Our goal here at Bitches Get Riches is to help people, but we want to make a living wage for ourselves and our assistant doing so without being like a total piece of shit sellout. So if you believe in that mission and you want to help us achieve it, the easiest way to do that is to go to patreon.com/bitchesgetriches. We also accept one time donations through paypal.com/paypalme/bitchesgetriches.And if you need more of our spicy, spicy wisdom, you can read our articles and follow us on social media, and you can do all that stuff at BitchesGetRiches.com.
Alright, so is there anything else that they should know?
Yes. Okay, my favorite thrift store was having a 75% off sale the other day while I was out buying dog food so I just had to go in because you know me, if there’s two things you can say about my clothing preferences it’s that I love a good thrift find and I never buy things for full price. And I went in and the owner was on a lunch break and her 84 year old mother Jean was there filling in, and Jean was a goddamn delight.
And Jean was like, what are you shopping for? And I was like, well I’m a musician and I’m looking for some sparkly things I can wear onstage but also maybe some skirts for work, and Jean, god bless her 84 year old heart. She was just like, yes, I can totally see you in these sparkles and those sparkles. Anyway,Jean and I bonded in the 30 minutes that I was thrifting in the store. And I walked away with two sparkly shirts and two skirts because Jean is amazing. So this episode goes out to Jean at the thrift store on Tennyson Street, I love you.
To Jean. Jean, we love you. Thank you for—
Thank you for your service.
—supplying us with all the spangles, sparkles, glitz, glamour—
—and sequins that we rightfully deserve.
Exactly. Deserve. That’s the right word for it. Anyway.
Good to know.
Kitty & Piggy 29:56