This post is based on an interview we conducted with Tiffany in February 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.
Where do you live:
What is your job?
Please tell us a bit about yourself/your career?
I’ve always been a bit creative and never saw myself going into a 9-5 type job. My social groups have always been pretty open minded and free, so it wasn’t a big step for me to join a few of my friends doing sex work.
I’ve been doing it now for a few years, and it was way more lucrative a few years ago.
I don’t want to give exact numbers because it varies so much depending on what you offer, where you are, and a bunch of other factors. But there’s definitely less money coming through the last 2 years than it used to.
What is your current net worth?
$81,000 or so.
How does it break down?
I have around $89,000 in savings, $10,000 in my super (which I mostly paid myself).
Any debts? (including HELP from Uni)
I’ve still got about $18,000 on my HECS debt. I’ve had a client put money directly on it as a gift before.
How did you accumulate your net worth?
Working my pretty little butt off and making sure to always put some aside. I never spend in advance, because the industry is pretty unpredictable. Just because you made heaps one week doesn’t mean you’ll make anything the next week. You might make nothing. You have to have a buffer.
Tell us a bit about your career:
I’m an escort and erotic masseuse. Working at the massage parlour is shift work, and it’s good because you don’t have to worry about your own marketing or security. Plus, the companionship of the other girls is good for your head. Private escort work has more money involved, but also way more organisation, planning, marketing (it’s the same as providing any other service!), and risk.
Do you have income sources outside of your job? If so, how much do you earn from each and how did you develop them?
Nope, this is it.
What advice do you have for people who want to earn more money?
Ha! I’m probably not the person to ask. Find a way to get more for your time, I guess. And don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You never know when a client or opportunity will fall through. You never know when a business you were depending on will close down.
What is your savings rate? And how has it changed over time?
I give myself a (generous) weekly amount to spend, and the rest goes in my savings. I don’t always stick to it, but I try.
Do you have a budget?
$1,000 a week for rent, bills, and entertainment. As a sex worker, I can claim some fun things on my tax, which means it comes out of my ‘business’ account and not my personal budget.
Big expenses don’t really come out of that budget though. Like if I need to pay medical expenses, or I want to travel, or need my car serviced or something. I have enough of a buffer that it can come out of my savings and I don’t really budget for it.
Do you make purchase decisions carefully, or are you loose with your money?
I didn’t grow up with much money, so I used to be very anxious and careful about spending. Then I got into sex work and it became kinda easy-come-easy-go. Now it’s a mix of both. Casual with hits of anxiety. But my savings make me feel safe.
How is your work-life balance?
It varies. If it’s slow or I need the cash I’ll work more, and it can get a bit consuming. But I have the luxury of being really flexible with my schedule most of the time. I like regularity, but I can usually rearrange if something important comes up. I try make time for the important things.
What is your favourite thing to spend money on?
Myself! I love fancy lingerie (which is a tax expense, lucky me). I also love reading and being able to buy lots of books (which can be pretty expensive) is a luxury which I’ll hold on to. Also, convenience. I don’t want to take the train. I’ll take an Uber, order food. Good food, good books. I also like to treat my family members every now and then. I just can’t make it too over the top or they’ll ask how I can afford it…
How do you invest?
I don’t. I don’t really understand it. I think I was raised with a mistrust of financial institutions.
How are you building wealth?
Saving more than I spend.
What are your main roadblocks? And how are you addressing them?
It’s hard for me to get a loan because my income isn’t assured.
Do you have a target net worth you want?
I’m not sure of the number, but I’d like to have 2 properties. An investment property that pays me income, and a smaller place to live. If I had those two, I’d feel like I’d be set for life and any other money I made would be bonus.
When did you make your first significant behavioural shift towards wealth building?
Maybe a year into sex work. I realised I’d blown so much money and unfortunately the older you get the harder it is in sex work, so I realised I had to put a plan in place.
If you could start again, what would you do differently? (Advice for younger self)
DON’T ASSUME YOU’LL ALWAYS BE ABLE TO MAKE MORE MONEY! Also find a great accountant who understands the ins and outs of the sex industry. Don’t pay all that tax if you don’t have to.
What mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from?
I guess not being informed is a pretty easy and common mistake to make. You gotta be proactive in seeking out knowledge and information that will help you. Unless you’re paying them, chances are nobody is going to help you. Nobody cares about your finances or future as much as you do.
Do you have any worries about retirement? If so, how are you planning to address them?
Not at the moment. I’ve started paying myself super and I’m saving a lot. I’ve actually got a meeting set up with a financial adviser next month, so we’ll see how that goes.
How are you learning about building wealth? Is it from family, books, forced to learn as wealth grew, etc.?
Observing other workers around me and judging their choices, before realising I was doing the same thing. I’ve had some great advice from fellow sex workers, and some Instagram accounts too actually.
Do you give to charity? If you do, what percent of time/money do you give?
I usually give about a grand towards the EOFY, depending on what my tax bill is going to look like!
*Name has been changed for privacy.