Have you ever stopped and thought about how much money goes in and out of the vice economy, all in cold hard cash? I’m thinking the standard vices: sex and drugs.

The illicit nature of these industries makes it even more mysterious for outsiders, but it attracts a lot of cash on the inside. Cash, so it’s not traceable.

I often think we are fully funded by the vice economy and that is really what is keeping everything together. People will pay for a cheap thrill and a good time, by any means necessary.

All of these “hustles” are not being tracked as jobs or income producing endeavors yet they are a huge part of what keeps money flowing in this world.

A few weeks ago, I read this article about the economics of stripping. Really fascinating stuff here.

Although strippers can make good money, looking good and being titillating ain’t cheap. I was so intrigued to take a glimpse into this world. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having wandering thoughts about it.

What if I just strip for a year and pay off all my debt? I have no qualms with nudity, but then again you aren’t really selling nudity. You are selling sex. You are selling an illusion of something you can’t offer. I always convince myself that it’s a bad idea. My boyfriend agrees.

In this article, it’s clear that some women are feeling short-changed by the whole set-up. Who really is getting the money? At what cost? I learned a lot from this little article in the local paper (p.s. did you know Portland has the most strip clubs per capita in the U.S.?)

On the other hand, some strippers blatantly disagreed with the tone of the article and talked up the merits of the vice economy.

“I am a Portland stripper. My employers have all of my pertinent information. I appreciate not signing a W-9 form. I file my own taxes and I pay 1/3 of what I should. I pay 10-40% of my income to the club and its staff every single shift. I worked full-time for three years and made $1600-$2200 a week. I worked my ass off. I do my own hair, nails and teeth whitening. I worked/work in clubs that have no say in regards to my heels, make-up or the tan that I maintain. I save my money, in CDs, an IRA and two savings accounts. I have excellent credit. This job is a tool that can be put to good use. I would love to see an article written by someone with more insight into this industry.”

And this golden nugget:

“As a stripper, this was sort of a sad read. I know that one girl’s experience is not another’s and I would hate to be generalized in a lot of statements. She may work at an “upscale club” but some of Portland’s most reputable and steady earning clubs are actually home-grown with talent and personality, who support their own business and not just trying to make a buck off their dancers, who they know, in fact, do not walk out with what one girl called, “the sky is the limit.” I never ask any of the people who I see in their place of employment how much they make, I never ask them about their business expenses, and if at all applicable, I tip and I tip well. We have jobs that move money around, from big pockets to little pockets, but still how much I make is most people’s way of justifying how much they dislike my job and “how little” I do. I agree, this can be an extremely shallow industry, and by the interviews, it comes off as extremely naive as well.. But Portland is full of smart, educated women who DO own cars, and DO own homes, and DO pay their taxes.. In fact, a lot of women strip as a SECOND income. If Portland could stop generalizing with simple experiences and the “woe is me” route, and take the time to get a **real story** going, our jobs would seem less of a novelty and more of what it is, women getting paid for their time. I’m not walking home with pockets full of cash when every tom, dick, and harry is only throwing up $1 bill because of the ongoing media stigmatization of my job and industry. I don’t need pity, I need to pay my bills like everyone else.”

Hot damn, you go girl. Shake your moneymaker and make it rain!

Anyways, I think the way people make money is fascinating and when you add the lascivious nature of vice and underground dealings it gets extra juicy.

What do you think about the vice economy? Do you know someone who has made money in these industries?

 

This post is in: money

What My Relationship Taught Me About Money

On Monday, my partner and I celebrated our six-year anniversary. It’s been an amazing, life-changing ride. We met on a blind date that was set up by a friend and we hit it off immediately.

Six years, three states (California, New York, and now Oregon), many jobs, and ups-and-downs later, we have had quite an adventure. I’m excited for our future, as both of us are now doing well with work and following our dreams. Things are less stressful and we can enjoy just being together.

In many ways, my relationship has taught me a lot about money. My philosophies for both have been informed by my experiences and values. Here are three things my relationship taught me about money.

Protect It

No one should care more about your money than you. So invest in yourself, save money, spend on your values and protect it. The same goes for a relationship. A relationship, like money, needs to be preserved, and constantly worked on. You should protect it and care for it. The dividends paid on taking care of your money and relationship will be so rewarding.

There Will Be Good Times and Bad Times

Relationships can be hard work. You are taking two different people and creating a life together. Things like jobs, values, family, and dreams can become conflicts in creating your future together. You are no longer only taking care of yourself — you are living your life, always thinking about another person. Relationships require care, maintenance, and in my opinion requires learning and growing together to keep going.

Life is a roller coaster, and there will be good times and bad times. In our six years, we’ve dealt with him being unemployed, me being unemployed, me being a breadwinner, both of us being in school at the same time, and being long-distance. We are finally at a place where we are both working and somewhat stable and it feels so nice. During the bad times it can feel like they will never end. You can easily lose perspective of the love and deep affection that keeps you together. But remember, things get better.

The same thing goes for money. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be unemployed and on food stamps after graduate school. It was a very low moment for me and our relationship, especially as I had just moved from NYC to Portland to be with him. Everything felt like a struggle. But eventually, things started to get better.

Regardless of your current financial situation, there will be good times and bad times. Don’t rest on your laurels if you are enjoying success. Don’t feel like your life is over if you have unexpectedly dealt with a frustrating money challenge.

In relationships and money, there are good times and bad. Prepare for both, and practice gratitude to get you through it all.

It’s Personal

One of my favorite things about personal finance? It’s personal. I know it’s somewhat cliché to say at this point, but it’s true. There are no two financial blueprints that look the same. My relationship, and our decisions on how to live our lives, are all personal decisions as well.

We have decided not to have kids. We are not interested in buying a house. We want a creatively fulfilling, engaging, adventure-filled life. We don’t need a lot. We just need each other and some money to get by. Perhaps our way of life sounds immature, rebellious, or just plain boring to some, but it works for us.

In the end, you have to do what is right for you. Invest in what is important to you, and value relationships above all (yes, even over money).

What has your relationship taught you about money? If you are single, what lessons might you share with us “committed” folk? 🙂

This post is in: money, relationships

Unconventional-Money-Tips

There is a lot of financial advice out there, and sometimes it’s really hard to sift through all the voices. But the beauty of personal finance is that it’s personal. You do what’s best for you. While I respect the expertise of many in the community, I also like to do things in an unconventional way. Here are my 6 unconventional money tips:

1. Don’t Buy a House

Many people think that houses are a great investment and will provide a large return in the future. This idea, coupled with the fact that we need a place to live seems to make home ownership attractive. Home ownership is also seen as part of the American Dream, and one of the rites of passage to adulthood.

Read more and share your tips at VOSA.com

This post is in: money, personal finance

April 3, 2014

A few years ago I worked with a man who was going through a divorce. He and his soon-to-be ex-wife had a kid, and he was coming to terms with his newly single life, and being independent.

He was also dealing with a much different financial situation.  His then wife had spent their kids’ entire college savings on online video games – to the tune of $30,000. Gone, just like that.

I was shocked.

$30,000 on video games, right under his nose? To make matters worse, she became a total recluse, and found an online lover. You can’t make this shit up.  Of course he decided to end it and left.

My heart broke for the kid. He could very well be in the same position that I’m in, mired in student loan debt, because his mom spent all his college money on online distractions.

Just last week, I was at a café and overheard a woman venting to her friend. You could tell she was pissed.

“He said he was going to stop, but I found out he spent $10,000 on video games and beer last year!”. Her friend was trying to politely console her.

I kept thinking about financial infidelity, or when your partner actively breaks your trust, hides things from you, and spends your money in a selfish and destructive manner.

How can you get over that? When the money is gone, it’s gone.

We like to think that love transcends money, but money is a key player in our relationships. It’s the number one cause of divorce, and people are scared to talk about it. Money becomes a symbol of power, oppression and privilege.  People use it to fuel secret desires, hidden addictions, and foolish hobbies.  Money can be the demise of your relationship, because unfortunately, sometimes love isn’t all you need.

Make money a key player in your relationship.  Have a ménage a trois with it.

Don’t let financial infidelity happen to you. Be honest with each other. Share your interests and hobbies. Come up with a savings plan. Attack your debt. Think of the big picture, and most importantly think of each other. Actions are not without their consequences. A partnership requires trust, and money is not excluded from that equation. Communicate. Again and again and again. Not all of it is easy or fun. But no one wants to feel like they are being duped or becoming resentful of their partner’s actions.

Have you been financially cheated on? Or know someone who has?

This post is in: life, money, relationships

Money is such an interesting thing. At times it can be very abstract and arbitrary, and at other times it contains great significance. It clearly has a lot of power in our lives; it affects our relationships, where we live, how we live and how we connect with others.

The other day I tried to think about my earliest money memory….or when money started making sense to me as a concept.

I would say I didn’t really think about money, or its effect until middle school. Middle school was an awkward time for me; I was painfully skinny and people accused me of being anorexic, and I also had expensive braces to fix my teeth.  At that point I realized how much money my parents were spending on me and my crooked smile.

Middle school was also a time of constant comparison. My peers were influenced by brands, their parents had houses and they had the newest technology (omg, remember nano pets?!?!! I never had one!)

We lived in a modest duplex and always shopped at Target. I never thought we were rich or poor, but you don’t really understand your situation until you compare it to others.  You can have a sense of life that is completely altered when you realize other people’s reality. I had friends that made me feel incredibly poor and friends that made me realize how lucky I was.

During those awkward middle school years, and transitioning into high school, I was starting to think about money and how I could make it. I realized that my parents spent a lot of money on me, and I was completely reliant on them.  I started scheming on how I could make my own money.

I frequented the Warehouse (dating myself – remember the brick and mortar music shop?) and I saw that they bought used CD’s. My parents had a ton of CD’s and I knew they didn’t listen to all of them. So I secretly took a stack of their CD’s and sold them to the Warehouse. I made $20 and felt amazing. Not only amazing, but rich! It’s incredible what $20 can do to a kid.

Of course, I didn’t tell my parents. They found out weeks later when they asked me where some of their CD’s were. I’m a terrible liar, so I confessed under pressure. They were so disappointed in me, and I could tell that my short-sighted desire to make money blew up in my face. It was that money memory that really stuck with me.

What is your earliest money memory? Did that memory shift your thinking about money?

This post is in: budget, life, money

November 21, 2013

Disclaimer: This post is written from my very privileged, Western perspective and I understand it is not indicative of all women’s feelings, and especially those in other countries.

At the early age of seven, I vividly remember playing at school and being panicked by the thought that when I grew up, I had to get married, have a house and have kids. Although we live in a new generation, at that age, I had still internalized many of those gender norms. I remember thinking, do I really have to do that?!

As I grew older, I realized I didn’t have to do any of that. To this day, I don’t really aspire to any of those things; I don’t want to get married, have kids or buy a house. While I may not be the norm, I feel incredibly grateful that women have so many choices.  Although women still make less than men (typically), we now have more opportunities. We are no longer relegated to a prescribed life that we may not want.

We have choices.

Along with all these choices, we are now seeing a shift in gender roles and a relatively new phenomenon: the female breadwinner. 

Women are making money, and in some instances making significantly more than their male partners. Some women are holding down the financial fort on their own.

My mom has been the sole income earner and breadwinner for the past 15 years. As I mentioned earlier, I am dating a musician, and because of the feast or famine nature of his work, I am the breadwinner in my relationship . I make more money and I provide health insurance for us (we can both be on it without being married!).

I have a partner that is not threatened by my successes, and is proud of me. He knows that this is a partnership and making money is one aspect of how we navigate life together. However, this dynamic can lead to a number of typical gender role reversals. For example, I work more hours at my job and with side hustling, so for us it makes sense for him to do the majority of the housework and cooking.

I don’t have a get-out-of-cleaning-your-shit card, and I do my fair share of cooking and cleaning, but from a time/money perspective it makes sense. When I know he is working late, I try to have some food ready for him when he gets home. It’s about working together with our resources, time and money, and making it work in the most effective way for both of us.

Our situation works well for us, but I also know that the situation can be stressful and uncomfortable for some. Money equals power; some men may not be comfortable making less money than their female partner. Some women may be uncomfortable or resent taking on the brunt of financial responsibility. I think navigating how a couple shares money, and housework can be delicate.

Last week, I spoke to a friend of mine who is going through a divorce. He was married to a woman who made double his income and in his words he “had it made”. He didn’t have to worry about money, and she let him do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. Then he told me something very revealing. He said, “After a while, I felt like she didn’t need me. She didn’t need me financially, and I had all the freedom and independence to do as I please.  I didn’t feel needed, so the relationship changed.”

While this is one specific story and isn’t necessarily telling of all relationships with a female breadwinner at the helm, I think it is interesting to think of how the shift in dynamic could be shifting our relationships and emotions. Are men feeling like they are no longer needed? Do women have to feel bad for making more money? Where is the balance?

I think it all comes down to communication and values. I don’t agree with my parents’ situation, but it works for them. I have a situation that works for me. No two couples are exactly the same, which is why it’s so important to communicate the needs of both parties in a clear manner. Instead of thinking that one person has more, and one has less, it’s about sharing resources to make sure your life is working for you and moving forward the way you want. You are working together.

Are you a female breadwinner? Has it affected your relationship? If so, how?

P.S. Love you Mom! So proud of you.

This post is in: money, relationships