1.1: Money Matters Much:

An Open Letter

Oh, Money. 


Whether you think it’s a deity or the root of all evil; whether you love to work for it or love to spend it, or whether you'd rather barter seeds and berries than deal with it, you have to admit it: numbers run the world.


From food and clothing, to travel, housing, and healthcare, money is the number one most important factor in what we can get and how we can get it.


Now, I can already hear the easy complaint.  It's the line customers who can't afford our prices love using the most: 


“Carmen, why are you so focused on money?  Aren’t there other things you care about?  Isn’t worrying about money a distraction from enjoying the best things in life?


While this philosophical debate would take thousands of pages to unravel, I’ll keep my answer brief:  money is at the center of this course, because if you want to focus on anything else fully your money has to get right first. Don’t believe me? Pick any category of quality of life; and I'll debate you on why it takes money to get it going. 


But, I want to travel and live on an island: great! Plane tickets, health insurance, a safety fund for when you return/for if you don’t return and want to buy a cute little island cottage, or for if you or someone you love gets sick or hurt; oh, and for piña coladas.


But, I'm only 18! : that means you’ve had 18 years of experience about the value of money. Your housing, education, food, clothing, healthcare, and every other basic need at some point depended on the money your parents hand... or didn't.  Did you see your parents working their whole lives?  Did you see them sacrificing things they wanted, just to provide you with the things you needed? Did you miss out on opportunities, experiences, or even basic needs because they didn't manage money well? 


Whether you thought about it or not, much of your experience under their roof came down to the numbers in their bank account, salaries, and savings. You have an incredible opportunity to set up the rest of your life now, and to potentially reach a point where money worries will never be an issue again.


I’m going to live on a mountain, farm my own food, and live out of a backpack:  if you think that’s free, you’ve clearly never been in the market for a quality tent.  Hint: it costs way more than you think. 


I just want to be a good person:  money can compound your effect, locally nationally and globally.  If your intent is truly to make the world a better place, how is it ethical to provide only your time and energy, when you could compound the efforts of this cause by funding the time and energy of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people? 

What makes your energy and time so valuable that adding more help, more resources, and more financial clout for this cause would be rendered unimportant? 


Unless your cause is an anarchist, radical commune that has somehow done away with money, you can do better when you financially perform better. 


By the way, if your cause is an off-grid anarchist radical commune, I wish you the best of luck.


For the rest of us, some financial work may be in order. 



The Current State of Things: Desperate, As Usual


Here's the bitter pill. 


We’re woefully undereducated on even the basics of financial management.  By the way, this statement isn’t limited to dancers.  Two thirds of Americans would struggle to come up with USD $1,000 in case of an emergency, and only “24% of millennials demonstrate financial literacy.[1]” 

Financial literacy is just a baseline understanding of how money works in day-to-day life, and how it can be used responsibility and with forethought. And only 24% of millennials have the ability to do that. 


In short, learning about money isn’t prioritized, widely known, or practiced. 


And this problem is exponentially more serious for dancers, for a couple of reasons.

For one, we do not have financial babysitters at our jobs.  While traditional 9-5 positions may make sure their employees get healthcare, a retirement plan, and consistent income and raises, for dancers this couldn’t be less true. There are no health insurance plans provided by clubs for their workers.  Dancers make somewhere between 0.00 and 7.25 per hour depending on their club, and pay out house fees, tips, and kickbacks; all while being responsible for their own transportation, work outfits, resources, and education. We do not have retirement accounts we can pay into, and we have no matching contributions from our employers. And we definitely don’t have salaries or year-end bonuses; thanks for asking.  

 On top of that, regardless of the job position women statistically struggle far more with financial problems; especially later in life. An article published in 2017 from the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, a leading advocacy group for those in poverty in the US, had this to say on the subject: 

Women’s poverty rates across the board have failed to improve in the past five years, but for elderly women the poverty rate has increased significantly. Among Americans 65 and older, almost twice as many women as men live in poverty; women make up over two thirds (68.1%) of the elderly poor. As many as half of all women aged 65 and older have incomes that render them economically insecure. Poverty is most extreme amongst older women who live alone; one in five lives in poverty.[2]


Read that again.  Among older women who live alone one in five lives in poverty. Women have a longer lifespan than men, and also statistically earn less and have less income potential over their lifetimes.  Combine this with a reliance on the financial management skills of a partner, or no financial skills whatsoever and the formula can be catastrophic.   


As dancers, it can be so easy to put off financial priorities.  We’re paid cash, no one tracks it but us, and the income drip can seem almost endless. 


But this is a David Blaine level illusion.  If you’ve worked in the industry for more than a year, you’ve likely seen seasonal ebbs and flows. Every year, you will see dancers earn thousands and thousands of dollars every week.  And yet, by the time summer/winter/whatever the slow season is starts, the club is full of stressed out entertainers worried about minimum car payments, rent, and even basics like food and healthcare. 


And that’s just the short term.   


Many dancers find themselves in the industry long after they’ve lost interest in their job, or even when working in a club environment is creating serious self-harm and discontent.  The only reason? Because of their decisions over time, their financial needs and wants can only be met by the income dancing provides.


Equally troubling is the reality that many dancers may wake up after years and even decades of serious effort, knee pain, and tough customer interactions with nothing to show for it other than a closet full of purses, a condo they’re renting, and a car they’re leasing. 


And right now it may feel like you can always get work as an entertainer, but let's get real. A really wide set of factors could impact your ability to work.  The standards for our industry are almost impossible to meet, and there is little sympathy or diversity in the standards and hiring procedures of clubs for dancers that do not make their cut. To work at most clubs you have to:


  • Have full use of your body.  For our job, even relatively small differences in ableness can make all the difference.  Joint pain, back problems, scarring, stretch marks, loss of an extremity, and even natural signs of aging and maturing can mean less earnings or even the end of our career.  How many people do you know with temporary or permanent loss of abilities?  How many dancers do you know that have had surgery to combat many of these issues?

  • Have full use of your mind.  Just as an example memory, attention, and mood can all deeply affect your earning and income potential.  Many dancers know all too well the feeling of dealing with anxiety and depression on the job without the financial freedom to take time off to do self-care. 

  • Meet almost unbelievable beauty standards.  Hair, make up, youthful skin and features, outfits, shoes, right down to how much hair is on your legs and the color of your nails.  All of these affect your income, your ability to get hired, and your desirability to customers.  What happens if you’re affected by early onset baldness, or if a new medication that keeps your mind healthy suddenly ups your weight?  In an office job, there wouldn’t be consequences.  As a dancer, you could find yourself in a precarious situation because of something you can’t control.    


Many dancers don’t even file their taxes or keep track of their earnings and expenses; and who can blame them? It’s stressful and overwhelming, so it can feel much simpler to ignore the problem and keep a safe under the bed. 


The problem with this? The bills add up, the tax obligations go unpaid, and the savings never grow.

And all the while, we teach ourselves that our financial strategy is to bury our heads in the sand.  

We learn to procrastinate, ignore, and shut up the voice in our head asking us to plan for the future.

We make day to day decisions that put our long term future at risk.  Hell, we make decisions that put next week at risk. 

And in doing so, we put our own happiness, welfare, and the lives of our partners, children and families at risk, too. 

Yeah.  It sucks.  Especially if you haven't given much thought to your financial state of affairs, this may feel like a kick to the stomach.  But this is nothing compared to the reality of financial ruin and loss of basic needs that will come knocking if you don't build a plan around your finances now.

This course will not do that for you; no one can.  But together, we will learn about tools, habits, and strategies that you can put in place to start building your financial toolkit.  We'll run through exercises, prompts, and challenges to build up your financial discipline muscles.  And we'll cover resources, authors, and schools of thought that can help you develop your financial literacy, so you can be part of that 24%.  


What this Course Will Cover


The world of finances is massive; and it can get truly complicated.  From economic theory to the nuances of day-trading, to the speculative nature of cryptocurrency, there are resources, gurus, and endless streams of information vying for your attention.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. 


To delve into any of those concepts, first we have to get a strong financial backbone.  Before writing an odyssey, first we have to learn the ABC’s of responsibly managing our own money.


This course is all about building those ABC’s.  We will go through simple, clear tools to help us build a better relationship with money. This course will not offer you one solution to deal with all money matters.  If I knew of it, I’d be off on an island somewhere, swimming in a pool of diamonds.


Scrooge McDuck style. 


Instead, we’ll be learning together about the strategies, tools, and habits of successful money managers.   There's a wealth of information out there,  and there will be plenty of book/outside resource recommendations for you throughout this course.  The modules will aim to offer you some of the most useful, field tested, and handy tips and tricks that have been developed in the personal financial management world. 


The format will be a little different from The Baby Stripper Starter Pack, too.  Because this course is all about trying out new habits, and learning from those that know their stuff, the tone will be that of a student sharing information with other students. 


To be exceedingly clear, I am not a financial planner.  I don’t have a CPA certification, nor did I go to school for this stuff (Don't worry, you'll be reminded of that fact at the bottom of every page, with a fun lengthy disclaimer and waiver- this is all information for you to process and take with a heaping spoonful of salt, not financial advise!!) 


I am actively dancing, saving, and spending just like anyone else who will be reading this course.  This project is so exciting because we’ll get to test out ideas together; and because there is so much out there we can all learn about our money. I will aim as much as possible to resort to, cite, and chat with people who know their stuff about money; but all the content will come from a lens of a dancer who wants to grow their financial knowledge.  No college diploma or fancy financial vocabulary, and no cookie cutter strategies built for 9-5ers with a set salary. 


We’ll run through a diversity of strategies, viewpoints, and schools of thought on money, credit, financial tracking, and money gold-setting. There'll be worksheets, there'll be interviews, and there'll be homework.  (yay, homework!) 


  Here’s the tentative category list for content: 


  1. A Bird’s Eye View- We’ll cover personal responsibility, your purpose for managing and handling your money, short, mid, and long term financial goals, and tracking expenses and income in detail. 

  2. Your Ducks in a Row - We’ll take the information you collected in the last section and put it to good use.  We’ll go from tracking to budgeting, from goal setting to goal execution, and cover the basics of getting yourself up to date financially (i.e., the importance of taxes, and the value of organizing your documents and your financial big picture).

  3. Debt is Out- Let’s get going! Here we’ll chat about the nature of debt, whether it has value, and build habits to lower debt while meeting your other obligations.   

  4. Income is In- We’ll chat about tools to manage your income wisely.  These include: different types of bank accounts, how to build your savings efficiently and consistently, paying bills on time and without difficulty, and how to use your current income to build your knowledge and skills base.

  5. Freedom 35 - What is financial freedom?  What does it mean for you? We’ll work on developing tools, a timeline, and a set of habits and skills that will keep you saving, run through the basics of investment avenues available to you (and the risks they imply), and cover simple tools to teach others around you the importance of tracking and managing their own money. 


But first things first….


A is For Accountability

Because this course is going to be all about financial responsibility, we first have to address the elephant in the room: you're probably lying to yourself about your own level of financial freedom, and it needs to stop. 

Seriously?  Calling you a liar and the course hasn't even started? 

Don't worry, I'm a liar too.  When it comes to money, we all have lies big and small about how well we're doing, how much more effort we have to put in, and how competent we are in talking about $$$.  Here are some examples of financial lies we tell ourselves: 

"I can afford to take the night off"

"It's just a coffee; it doesn't really matter"

"I'll make it up tomorrow."

"I have a car and a house; my money is right." 

"My friend said it was a good investment; that's all I need to know."

"Yeah, I'll pay for the bottle."

"I make more than him and he'd really like it.  I should cover his cost so we can go." 

If you've heard yourself or one of your friends say these, take a moment to think through those statements.  Really try to be honest with yourself.  Are these truths, or half-truths?  Are they straight up lies?  Do you know the answer to that with certainty? 

If you're not tracking your money, working within a financial plan, and checking in with a budget, then you may not even know that these aren't true when you say them.  Maybe you can afford to but that bottle.  Maybe buying that coffee every morning is keeping you away from your long-term financial success.  No way to know unless you take responsibility for your financial future, and start benchmarking your progress and failures along the way. 

 This is included in the introduction, because if you’re planning to chat about money, your mindset and your self-awareness will either be your most important tools or your worst companions.  


It is easy to postpone, ignore, or deny that we have a money problem.  It is easy to push off the responsibility, or even to throw anger or frustration in response.


“You don’t know my life!”

“I have to pay for X, Y, Z, and you don’t! How can you tell me to manage my money if you’re not dealing with what I’m dealing with?”

“You make more than me, that’s why you get to save up! You don’t know what it’s like to have to work a day job/have to raise kids/have to make less at the club! If you did, you wouldn’t tell me to do X!”


Yeah, OK. 

Let's assume you're 100% correct.

Who cares? 


How will focusing on any of that help you earn more, save more, or build a future for you and yours? 

Get the excuses out of the way.  Because, don’t get it confused; when it comes to money, these are excuses.  No matter how much you’re making at work, if you have a position in our industry, you have the potential to earn income.  You have the potential to earn more income.  And you very likely have the potential to put away more than you ever have before.

That means you're already ahead of so many people! If you're living in a developed country and working a sales job that lets you choose your hours, days, customer interactions, and what you are allowed to do with your money you are already so far ahead of the curve!


You have an incredible opportunity in your hands.  Don't let it slip through your fingers.  


 No matter what else is going on in your life, if you’re an active entertainer then you have income earning potential, aren’t limited (or are only somewhat limited) by the scheduling limitations of a manager or boss, and have the ability to improve how much you’re making and how much you’re keeping every single night.   


But to do so, first you have to accept responsibility for your financial landscape.  Whether you have 7 figure savings, or $70,000 in debt, you have to take responsibility for where you are, right at this moment. 


Even imagining this process can be a scary, scary feeling.  If you already feel out of control of your money, then putting pen to paper might be overwhelming, upsetting, and even angering.  I’m with you.  This stuff isn’t easy to do.  


But here’s the thing: if you don’t know what you’re dealing with you will not ever change what you’re doing.  And this course is going to be all about changing what you’re doing for the better.   


Money Move(r)s is all about developing your own set of tools for learning and building your financial life.   Everyone deserves the opportunity to understand and take action towards their financial goals.  And no matter where you are, there are steps you can take to build your financial toolkit.   


If you’ve never thought about finances positively, don’t worry.  The content will be written as clearly and simply as possible to make every concept crystal clear.  However, simple presentation won’t mean that we’re dumbing it down.  We’re going to get into it.  It’s time to get serious about money. 



Are you in?

Works Cited

[1] “8 Scary Financial Statistics – and How to Avoid Becoming One” https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/saving-budget/articles/2017-05-16/8-scary-financial-statistics-and-how-to-avoid-becoming-one

[2] http://www.ncdsv.org/SSNCPL_Woman-View-Older-Women-and-Poverty_3-30-2016.pdf