Real money talk: Michelle

By Jessica Sier 21 May 2019 5 min read

This post is based on an interview we conducted with Michelle in April 2019.

Real Money Talk is our series where we interview Australians from all walks of life about their personal finances. The views expressed are those of the interviewees, based on their experiences with money, and as such are not necessarily representative of Spaceship's views.

We have changed the name of the interviewee for their privacy.


Name: Michelle

Age: 27

Where do you live: Sydney

Please tell us a bit about yourself: I’m a single mum with an almost-1 year old, currently studying. I like sewing, dancing, travelling, and tattoos.

What is your current net worth, and how does it break down?

Saving: $6,000

Debt: About $58,000 HELP Debt

Super: No idea. Last time I checked, a few years ago, there was $12,000

Assets: $1,000 invested in cryptocurrencies


Tell us a bit about your career:

I worked full-time freelance dancing - burlesque, modelling, teaching, or stripping. One way or another, I was earning all my money through dance. Every now and then I’d supplement it with hospitality or retail - more so when I was just starting out and work was more sparse.

Tell me about how you developed your freelancing?

It started out as a side thing, I was mostly working in retail. It took a lot of networking, paying my dues, doing a lot of free shows. Every time I travelled for work, performed overseas, I bumped my prices up. It takes time to build yourself up.

At your peak, how much were you earning from dancing?

Well at my peak I was also stripping, so quite a lot. At least $1,500 a week, sometimes more sometimes less because that’s how dance works.

What advice do you have for people who want to earn more money?

It always takes hard work. People think stripping is easy but it’s probably one of the harder jobs I’ve had. I’m a big believer in hard work, there’s no such thing as easy money. The sex industry is so mentally taxing. The only thing harder than stripping is actual motherhood. I went from dealing with man babies to an actual baby. The sleep schedule is about the same too!


What is your savings rate? And how has it changed over time?

I usually know what I need for each week, and whatever I don’t need I’ll put away. I’m big on having rainy day money. I recently had my will made, which cost like $400. Even though I’m not saving for anything in particular, it’s good to have money aside.

You mentioned your spending has changed a lot in the past year, how has it changed?

Before, I would just buy so much shit I didn’t need. Tattoos, shoes, partying. Or things going towards my career - costumes and stuff. Now my priorities are food and nappies and things for my daughter. I prefer to buy her things than myself. I was barely saving anything. At the peak of my earning I wasn’t saving, I was just enjoying it. Now I save what I can, plus I’m paying for some of my current course as well.

Do you have a budget?

More like a rough idea. I live with my parents at the moment so my rent is minimal. It’s pretty much food and nappies and stuff. Most of my money goes into savings. My only income at the moment is from Centrelink which varies, sometimes I get family tax benefit, and sometimes I get parenting payments. My phone bill and my pet insurance are the only regular expenses really. I’ve also put $10 a week since my daughter was born away into an account for her, and any money she gets for birthdays and Christmas. She’s got about $800 in there now, which is pretty good for a baby!

How is your work-life balance?

It’s alright. I don’t get out and do stuff much, or see friends regularly. I’m a stay at home mum 90% of the time. I study at least 2 hours a day depending on my daughter’s naps.

What is your favourite thing to spend money on?

New experiences for my daughter, like travelling to meet family, or swimming lessons. And tattoos. I can’t seem to let go of the tattoos!


How do you invest?

Just that money in crypto. My dad is very into crypto and has been for a year or so. At one point he got in at a very good time and made a lot of money. He asked us (me and my siblings) if we wanted to join, so we all have money in a portfolio which my dad manages.

What's been your overall return?

My initial investment was $900 in the crypto, and today my percentage is worth $1,800. So it’s doubled since I invested 6 months ago. If it goes really well, I hope it’ll be a deposit for a house one day. I think it has that potential but you never know.

How are you building wealth?

That’s pretty much it. I’m not even working or dancing or modelling at the moment. When I finish my course (Diploma of Beauty) I hope to get some work, but that’s a slow process.

What are your main roadblocks? And how are you addressing them?

My daughter, to be honest. Having a kid is expensive and constant. I wouldn’t change it, but it’s definitely a financial challenge.

Do you have a target net worth or lifestyle you want?

I don’t have a particular target. I just want to provide a good life for my daughter. I don’t want her to miss out on anything because I can’t afford it. I’ve experienced a lot in life already, but she’s got her whole life. Stability has become a huge priority for me since I became a mum.

If you could start again, what would you do differently? (Advice for younger self)

I don’t think I’d do anything differently moneywise. I always saved to travel and I don’t think you can put a price on travel. If anything, I wouldn’t have joint accounts as a couple, and I wouldn’t take out loans for other people. Lending money is a dirty business. Don’t do it with partners or friends. They will always let you down.

What mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from?

Money creates so many trust problems. Joint money, borrowed money, taken money, it’s been the biggest source of issues in my relationships. Protect yourself, and keep things separate.

Do you have any worries about retirement? If so, how are you planning to address them?

I’ve never really thought about it. I should. I have my super but no idea what’s in there. I’ve been a bit wrapped up in mum life. Worst case scenario - I take care of my daughter, then she returns the favour.

How are you learning about building wealth? Is it from family, books, forced to learn as wealth grew, etc.?

My dad. He’s super into crypto and talks about it a lot. My parents raised me with a healthy relationship with money. I always had to work for money and they taught me how to save, and not to buy things you don’t need just because you want them. We never had heaps of pocket money, and what we did get we were encouraged to put some into savings.

Do you give money/time to charity?

I used to give to Taronga Zoo and another animal-related one. Like $30 a month. But that was before I got pregnant. I’d also give money any time a friend did Shave For A Cure or anything. But I cancelled all of those when I got pregnant.

Words by
Jessica Sier Right Chevron

Jessica Sier is a financial journalist. Prior to that she led content at Spaceship and was a reporter at the AFR where she discovered that breaking down financial jargon was a public good.

Real money talk: Michelle