Investing in my future
Many of us don’t like to talk about money because it’s considered a ‘private affair’. While money is a piece of paper, a stack of money is like a book and every page tells the story of our relationship with wealth. Some books are tragic. Some are love affairs. Others are a journey.
I can understand why people wouldn’t want to share their book. But I also believe that keeping money a private affair is a tool employed by people to retain their wealth. If everyone knew how to make big bucks – then we all would.
I like talking about money now: I like talking about how to make it, how to save it, how to draw more value from it and even how awful it is. I grew up not knowing a thing about money and looking back, it seems so irresponsible. I mean c’mon, nothing in this world is free.
Everything is operational because of money and we’re not willing to talk about it? That’s just weird. The only people who gain something from not talking about money are those who have it and want to keep it.
I make no secret that I came out of the womb with debt. Growing up, I saw how miserable people were without money & I promised myself I would never let that happen to me. No matter what, I would not allow myself to feel as disrespected as poverty does. I would rather die.
I hit 18 with the realisation that I was that miserable person I promised myself I’d never be – and there was nothing I could do about it. At least, if I did do something, it was would have to be drastic. The only thing what would give me a financial edge & advantage was sex work.
For context, I was working & studying fulltime, living away from my family, supporting myself and still trying to help my family achieve financial stability. Unless you’ve ever been poor, you wouldn’t know how hard it is to be financially stable. You need a huge injection of wealth to get there, it’s nearly impossible to go from low-socioeconomic status to middle-class.
At that point you’re living paycheck to paycheck, your most likely already physically maxed out your workable hours, unless you’re superhuman and a machine, or you get spun by lady-lucks spell, or you team up with someone…. You won’t be able to improve your lifestyle alone.
And maybe you think ‘if you just work hard enough’ you can pull yourself from that situation. No, you can’t. Your mental health, fortitude, motivation or physical body is more likely slip and give in before you get anywhere. It sucks and it’s despairing. I can’t think of a more tortuous way of being than being financially destitute. It doesn’t let you go.
Most people rely on their communities, families and friends to help them out, but little piggy back rides only help you get through the week, not the rest of your life. And that still feels like debt because you then have to pay back the people who support you. That means you not only have to get stable, but then get ahead. I do not envy anyone still in this situation.
Similarly, if your middle-class it’s just as easy to stay in that bracket, because you have safety nets that you can afford to implement. Unless you’re stupid or careless, you’re going to stay middle-class. As for getting wealthy? That’s about as hard as going from poor to middle-class.
From the moment I started sex work, I took every measure to make sure I secured the bag and my future. I worked hard, like everyone. If I wanted to leave the low-socioeconomic life I resented, I had to work every opportunity I got. I didn’t care what happened to me or what I had to do, I cared about not being poor.
There’s this euphoric feeling that comes with accessing more money than you normally can and it affects people on a behavioural level. I’ve been working alongside workers for years, the ones who continue on as if everything’s normal are those who have had such a wage before or, more likely, come from a family or community where having a bit of money to their name is nothing special. They get on with things business as usual.
As for the rest of us… I’ve seen workers spend to their hearts content, buying themselves everything they ever wanted, everything they never had, everything they deserve. I’ve seen workers save their money or work on securing their futures, still traumatised from a bad financial situation, who like me, vow never to return there. I’ve seen workers blow their money just because they can. I’ve seen workers spoil their loved ones in ways they wish they were spoiled in. But mostly, I’ve seen workers finally be able to access a life that’s comfortable for them, where they’re not worrying all the time about how they’re going to get through life, where they can commit to what they actually want without financial stress thwarting their way.
A lot of people envy the money sex workers make. It’s very easy to imagine a better life and to think of all the way you could use that money. But the reality is, most people don’t know how to make money from money. This includes sex workers and if someone has turned to the industry, it’s likely because we weren’t satisfied with their finances. Where do you go after satisfaction? How do you become someone who has money to someone who has wealth?
My mother warned me in my first few years as a sex worker: ‘you can’t buy yourself out of every situation’, and I couldn’t understand what that meant then. I thought she was concerned that I was outsourcing life tasks that I should bother to learn, since I was paying others so I could focus on building my business. But the truth of what she meant sunk in when I was crying into my hands at 24, with no significance or meaning to my life. Nothing mattered and no amount of money could change that. My relationship with money took a dive. I fell out of love with money, it couldn’t give me what I wanted from life even though it always had up to this point. I felt rendered useless, as my main skill in life was making money. With it no longer valuable to me I felt utterly alone, vulnerable and scared for myself. I couldn’t envision a happy future where money was or wasn’t the foundation and I felt like that meant I had no future at all.
Then I invested in my future, in the way that was meaningful for me. I went to Guatemala and I worked on myself. It paid off – I’m happy now and I can see myself happy with or without wealth in my life. But what about all the money I saved up until then? What was I supposed to do with that? Like most people, I don’t know how to make money from money. I don’t even know anyone who has those skills, when you come from a low-socioeconomic area everyone you know is poor and nobody has a second house or an investment.
I threw my money away. Well, not exactly – I knew I should do something with it, given how hard I worked for it, but I had not a clue of what to do – I might as well have blown it. It would’ve been impossible for me to spend that money for myself in terms of experiences, consumerism or things – there was nothing I wanted from life anymore. I had consumed enough. I was full and fed up. That’s why I needed to change my relationship with wealth.
I haven’t paid attention to my finances since I was 24 because I know how toxic my relationship with money can be. I worked myself to the bone for nothing. The only reason I chose to return to my relationship with money four years later is because I finally know what I want – a space in the world to call my own. A home. And because I need to return to my diligent ways, I had to recently calculate what the hell I did with those savings at 24.
Which leads me to my first big investment that I’m happy to talk about. I met a strange man in Guatemala and told him about my woes. He offered to take every cent to my name & do something with it, since I was clearly incapable and uninterested, and I thought: sure why not? He seems like a nice guy.
Everyone thought I was crazy – I would roll my eyes, shrug and just say ‘I feel this is the right thing for me, and if that means I need to lose all my money then so be it’. Don’t forget, I was quite apathetic at this time. I even had a partner then who was so upset that I would choose to invest so foolishly when I could have invested in ‘our future’. It was interesting watching so many people care about my money. If you cared so much, why don’t you help me find an alternative? If you care so much, why don’t you educate me on how money works?
No one actually cared. They were concerned and voiced themselves unhelpfully.
This is the first time I’ve calculated my investment & guess what? It’s making money. Not as much as I was told, but still more than stocks or housing would get me. I didn’t even have to do anything – it’s all taken care of and it’s growing. I still remember how stressed, unwell and far gone I was when I handed over that money. That strange man even bothered to ask me what to do with my money in the event of my death. I struck luck, not gold. I survived with a good investment.
I’m debt-free (for now), which means I have that financial network to ensure I stay in the middle-class for the rest of my life. It’s nice, but it wasn’t a walk in the park.
For comparison, I have a friend (my age) who worked for the government doing hard labour and they got injured. Nothing scarring, they can live like anyone else, but it would have been impossible for them to continue doing hard labour for a living. They get a wage for the rest of their life and while I’m happy they’re financially secure, I am jealous and angry for myself.
When we’ve compared working experiences, it is without a doubt both of us had it tough. But the difference is that they had the support of the government and community, and could talk about their work openly, while I had to be quiet, isolated and alone. They had bonuses outside of their working hours handed to them while I only had my life penalised.
(You can read the rest of this blog post at https://www.estellelucas.com/blog/investing-in-my-future/ )