23 Things I Wish I'd Known: #11: There is More to Money Than Making It. Way More.

At age 22, I started stripping. For the next fifteen years I worked off and on as a dominatrix, porn actress, and escort.

Now I’m 49.

Here are 23 things I know now that I wished I’d known then:

#11: There’s more to money than just making it.  When I first started stripping, making [gasp] $20 an hour I thought I would never be poor again. And when I started escorting, I thought charging $200/hour would be the solution to all of life’s problems. Life quickly taught me otherwise.

I was raised squarely middle class, with a college education. But the simple fact is, I didn’t learn what I needed to know about money from my family or from school. There are a lot of reasons for this, from the dysfunction of my formative family to the priorities of public school curricula, and I’m not making any excuses for myself — I was/am highly privileged with many advantages. But for whatever reason, all I knew about money was you needed to earn it — I did have a healthy work ethic drilled into me – and you needed to save it. My mother was a fearful person and instilled in me a deep unease about money — for her there could never be enough to stave off life’s inevitable catastrophes.

Earning and saving are really good things to know to do, but all the rest of it? I didn’t have a damned clue. I’ve written before how I wished I’d known in my 20’s about investing and the power of compound interest. I didn’t know anything about credit scores or how to use a credit card correctly; a decade later, that ignorance had me filing for bankruptcy. And taxes? I knew absolutely nothing about interacting with the IRS. The very thought would send shivers of fear running through me.

The bad thing about all this was, as a sex worker, I felt super shy about asking for any kind of help. I was afraid if I did, people would find out about me and I would get into trouble. Looking back, it’s not that my fear was wholly unjustified, but I made things a lot harder on myself than they needed to be.

Eventually, I did learn what I needed to know. Some things I learned the hard way, like the bankruptcy. Others I learned because someone took the time to teach me. I was lucky enough to get connected to a sex worker-friendly tax preparer who also happened to have a law degree — a potent combination.

Please learn from my mistakes. Get the help you need to become really good at money before life kicks you in the shins. Here are some resources for you:

Need help understanding your emotional relationship to money? My review of the book The Art of Money, by Bari Tessler.

Need a tax professional? My blog posting with sex-worker-friendly tax resources.

General money management, with smart apps: Nerd Wallet.

Some of the best books on money I've read:

Money is a huge, important topic-- I have so much to say about it in Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry, both the practical side and the emotional side, available now as an ebook and in paperback.

Until next time, be sweet to yourself.


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