Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Sex Workers and Money Management

"Dear Mistress Matisse... (Edited for length, but some nice compliments, thank you!)... I am in search of advice (of course). I am an escort and a student in Vancouver, BC and was intrigued by what you wrote in your interview with Belle de Jour (who I also love) about "Sex Worker Units" because it seems to be a common way of thinking when you are making so much money in so little time and enjoying yourself to boot.

While I try not to personally think like this, I can see the temptation to buy nice things and worry about my student loan payments later. I try to find a good balance of paying off my debt and enjoying my life but I have no idea how I should be saving and spending when my income fluctuates so much (how much I work depends on my studies). Saving more when I'm making more makes sense, I can figure out that much, but beyond that I am in the dark about what to do with my money.

I have done extensive searches on Mistress Google for financial advice for escorts (almost nothing) and financial advice for when your income fluctuates (more, but not all that informative) and haven't come up with much, especially because there always seems to be the opportunity to be working more or investing better (or at all). I know you are not a financial planner or an advice columnist but I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of some helpful resources either online or what kind of people I should be talking to in person. Although I do not plan on escorting forever, I will probably be doing it for the next few years at least and so should have some kind of plan for the money that I earn."

I am not - by any means - a financial whiz. But I know someone who is, so I asked him for his advice on this subject, and just trust me when I say: this is advice worth taking. Really.


He says: "You (Matisse) have actually talked about this when you talk about managing the business as a business. Before one talks about investing, you have to put your financial house in order. Get your credit cards paid, have medical insurance, a couple months expenses in the bank, etc.

For books: I recommend: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 20s & 30s, 4th Edition. It looks like an excellent starter to me - it starts with "housekeeping issues" then moves to investing, etc.

For hiring a professional: First of all, you want to deal with a Certified Financial Planner - CFP - a fairly difficult credential to get and the gold standard in the industry. They have to pass rigorous test, serious continuing education and maintain professional standards like a CPA or attorney. I believe they have them in Canada as well.

Secondly you want to deal with a CFP that is fee-based, not commission-based. The fee can be a flat charge for a plan, an hourly fee like a CPA or a fee based on the assets managed. At times you will see one person who offers 2 or even 3 of these choices.

Ask for a statement of anticipated fees in writing, using terms you understand, before retaining them.

Finally they need to sign as a fiduciary to you in regard to their work. I think for someone starting out or with limited investable assets they are frequently well served by in independent CFP rather than one at a major investment firm that is pushing their people to have relationships with a minimum level of fees.

Now for a very prejudiced comment - my experience is women CFP's are on the average more focused on helping their clients and more diligent about maintaining their education then men who are more focused on the bottom line. (Mistress’s note: the person speaking is a man.) You can go online and to the national CFP site - get names of people in an area - find out if they are still accredited etc.

The killer is most people never get the house organized and the catch 22 to that is they can't hire someone like a CFP because there is no money to do so. I really wish there was a service that could help people budget but I have never found an affordable one.

The major reasons that you hire a CFP is not that they are geniuses, the next Warren Buffet. Rather, they do three things -

1. Create a plan or structure.
2. Harass the hell out of you to start saving and keep saving.
3. Will hold your hand and keep you from selling out when things are down, and from getting carried away and thinking you are Warren Buffet when things are good.

1 and 2 are critical. Number 3 is far more essential than virtually any client thinks. Effectively, they must be superb tops. I am not kidding on this statement.

Final recommendation - in most major cities you will find that universities, colleges and most frequently junior colleges have continuing education departments - classes with no credits - frequently for 4 or 6 weeks, one night a week - taught by professionals who are building their business. These can be a great bargain and I strongly recommend them. I would not, however, go to one that did not have a sponsorship by a recognized educational institution. Again, start with a financial planning class, then move on to an investment class."


Thank you so much to the lovely and wonderful man who gifted us with his expertise!

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