Reader Mailbag: Family Weekend

What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to five word summaries. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question.
1. Married couple getting started
2. Investing for 11 year olds
3. A debt and family mess
4. Dealing with discouragement
5. 457 or Roth IRA?
6. Fixing credit
7. No-knead bread
8. Cash-only budgeting
9. Which debt repayment plan?
10. Selling stuff before moving

Since Thursday, we’ve had family as guests at our home, culminating with a Sunday brunch and early afternoon where we had twenty or so guests at our house. It’s been fun – and tiring, too.

I recently married. My now-husband and I have lived together for several years, so we’ve already merged some of our finances and have had candid discussions on financial goals. Fortunately, we have similar goals, saving and spending habits, and general outlooks on money. We’d like to create a strong financial plan to help us pay down my husband’s student debt, save for a house, and save for retirement. We just don’t know where to start. Do you have any books or resources you would recommend to help us get smart and build a strong financial future?
- Tori

It sounds to me that you’re wanting to create a formal financial plan on the order of a business plan. That’s really a good idea, especially for people who are very plan-oriented.

If that’s your goal, I’d suggest reading How to Be the Family CFO. It essentially takes the elements of personal finance and treats them in a business context – plus it’s a pretty readable book. It does a great job of transforming one’s financial situation into a clear business-type plan.

I think it’ll meet your needs quite well.

My [eleven year old] son is close to reaching $1000 in his savings account and is interested in investing it. Any suggestions? I’ve recommended either his college 529 or perhaps a Roth IRA in his name but he seems more interested in investing it in a company.
- Tas

If he’s interested in individual stock investing, I’d say go for it. It’s his savings, after all.

The first thing I’d do is sit down and make sure he understands that there’s a lot of risk involved in investing in individual stocks. They’re very volatile and he could easily end up losing most of his money in a day or two. Make it clear that it will be his loss and you won’t wave a magic wand to fix it if he loses it. Talk about diversification a bit – the idea that if you don’t put it all at risk in one place, you won’t lose everything if that one place goes down. You should also mention that individual stock investing comes with fees every time you buy stocks and every time you sell stocks.

If he still wants to go through with it, open an eTrade (or other brokerage) account together. Encourage him to read and study and learn. Do it together, but let him make the decisions about the money.

Yes, he might lose some of the money. He might gain some, too. In either case, he’ll be learning and spending his time on something positive.

I am 25 years old, and I live in Denver, CO. I am renting an apartment with my boyfriend, there are times when I cover majority of the rent, because of his medical bills (he has terrible back problems, even though he has insurance, we still pay quite a bit out of pocket). We have separate checking and saving accounts. He is a bar manager, and makes a decent hourly wage, plus tips. I am still in school, taking yet another attempt to finish my degree. My parents divorced two years ago, and my father is not in the picture, left my mother penniless, and every once in a while I try to help her out. I also pay her cell phone bill (mine and her total at about $110 a month, we are on a family plan with t-mobile). My father also bought me a car for my 21st birthday, financed it, and I was the co-signer on a loan. He said he would help me build my credit. After he left, he stopped paying for the car, and didn’t even tell me about it, let alone forward the bill. The car got repossessed, he filed for bankruptcy, and I am left with $10,000 debt which I am unable to pay off. Me and my father are not on good terms, since then. I got behind on my credit cards, to a point where I could not catch up. Some of them I am paying off through Credit counseling, others are charged off. The total amount is hovering right about $4500, I have a list with all the phone numbers and addresses to the creditors/collections. I am a full time student, I was lucky enough to get scholarships, so my tuition and books are paid for. At the beginning of the summer I have decided to go back to my old, short lived stunt with exotic dancing. It proved to be profitable. I know I made a lot of money, yet I have no idea where it went. I spent it, somewhere. My nightly earnings can be anything from $200 to $1500 a night, depending on a night. Then a friend of mine offered me a job as a middle manager at a local movie theater. I would be making $10.25 an hour, 40 hours a week, on top of 18 credit hours at school. I am comfortable working at a strip club, until I finish my degree, as it is flexible schedule, and I can focus on school. But even with my income, even at it’s highest I still struggle financially. My share of the rent is $475, sometimes more, depending on his situation. My credit counseling costs me $129, and cell phone $110. I do not drive, but do get a bus pass for about $50 a month, unlimited to go anywhere (Denver has a great public transportation system). Any suggestions?
- Kasha

I think you’re doing well. You’ve clearly got a good deal of self-awareness and understanding of the issues going on in your life and what you need to do to fix it.

The solution, obviously, is to maximize your income, doing the work you choose to do, and directing that income towards clearing all of the debt that’s in your name. It’ll take some time, but it’ll be worth it – you’ll come out on the other side with a clean slate and a clean conscience.

The only obvious suggestion I can make is that your cell phone bill seems really high. Are you using an iPhone? If I were you, I’d downgrade to something basic and use a more basic plan with limited minutes and limited data usage. The $60 (or more) you would save per month can help you to make a real dent in your debt load.

Good luck.

My husband and I had a huge savings and the only debt we have is my student loan debt and our mortgage. I was laid off but my husband found a position that gave him enough of a pay increase that we had very little net income loss. Our emergency fund had over 20K and we were starting to move more towards retirement savings. After I was laid off I got pregnant (not planned/not unplanned and very welcomed). After looking at my pregnant belly I was always passed over for some ‘other qualified candidate’. Ultimately this was a blessing as our son arrived 3 months early. Due to his and my medical bills we saw our emergency fund drop to half of what we had previous (we did pay as much as possible out of our monthly income but this is what you plan on the emergency fund for right?). This was/is still plenty for us – more than 3 months expenses etc. However after July and August our emergency fund is at 0. HVAC clogged and flooded our downstairs and while homeowner’s insurance is helping we are still left with the bulk of the expenses plus my son needed medical care and other unexpected and budgeted expenses.

My question is – HOW do I prevent myself from being discouraged? At the moment I know I should be thrilled that we did not put a dime on a credit card but I”m terrified of having no savings. At the same time it almost makes me wonder why we worked so hard and had so much in savings just to see it quickly go away. Lastly I’m of course worried my son will require some other treatment that is expensive and now we have no option but to do a payment plan with the hospital or incur credit card debt.
- Katharine

Instead of being depressed at how quickly your savings went away, imagine your situation if you had no savings at all. What would you have done if you had not had an emergency fund with the early birth of your child, the HVAC clogging, and the insurance not paying up?

Your emergency fund turned a situation that could have been completely disastrous into something that you easily handled. Yes, you now don’t have an emergency fund, but this experience alone should tell you how valuable such a fund is.

Start socking away for that new emergency fund right now. Throw every dime you can spare in there. That way, if/when the next emergency happens, you’ll easily be able to handle that one, too.

Both my husband and I work for a local governments and participate in a 457 plans (there is no match from either employer). We are married with two young children and are 37 and 39 respectively. Between the two of us we make about $95,000 per year. I have a retirement plan at work but my husband does not. My question is – I have read a lot on your blog about people saving for retirement and that Roth IRA’s are great options. I know we contribute to our 457 pretax dollars so there is a benefit there. I also know that the Roth IRA’s have tax benefits on the other end when you take the money out. How do you know what is a better use of your money. Which plan is really the better “deal”.
- Lisa

There’s no way of knowing for sure because we don’t know what tax rates will look like in thirty years. If you have a crystal ball and can tell me, I’d love to know!

The reason I tend to encourage the Roth IRA is because income taxes seem to be pretty low right now compared to historic numbers, and on top of that, we’re spending much more than we bring in. What’s the inevitable solution to both of these situations? Higher income taxes.

I believe income taxes will be higher in 30 years than they are now. Because of that, if given a choice, I’d rather pay taxes on the money now (at a lower rate) than in 30 years (at a higher rate). This leans me towards a Roth IRA.

I have recently started back to college on the 23rd to obtain my degree in nursing. I already have about 2k in student loans so far and this semester I decided to take out another thousand in subsidized student loans, about 200 of that will go to cover books. This is mainly what my question is about. I have been asking friends and family but they really can’t give me any advice: Is it a good idea to use the remainder of this student loan and partial amounts of other student loans to make sure that my car is in good working order, that I have insurance for the car, make sure I can pay for an internet connection during the semester and things of that nature while I am in school? I have a part time waitressing job, but when I figure out my hourly rate plus tips, it doesn’t even equal out to minimum wage, and I still have rent and electricity to pay for. Also, at some point, would it be a good idea to use a student loan to pay down on my consumer debt so that I can get my credit looking good enough to secure a job once I graduate? There are a LOT of places that are using credit as a qualification for employment and I’ve already been having trouble finding work as a result of how bad mine is at this point.

So far, I have kept my student loans at a minimum (I have about 68 credit hours on my transcript) and I’d like to keep it that way, but I am having a very hard time keeping things going while I am in school, and this time, I just want to graduate and move along with my life. I need to do a lot of things, but don’t want to hurt myself in the long run. Could you please help?
- Ami

My first question would be whether or not you actually need that car for school. Do you? Is it possible that you could use public transportation or a bicycle to take care of your travel needs? If you can get by without a car, that’s exactly what I’d do. I’d either sell the car to help pay for school or get rid of all insurance and taxes on it and park it somewhere for a while.

Of course, given your shaky credit situation, the proceeds from your car might be better served going towards your consumer debt, simply to make sure you’re up to date on it.

You need to minimize now and, for most students, a car is a want and not a need. Get rid of it if you can.

I’ve been researching no-knead bread to save money on buying loaves. Have you ever tried this technique? If so, what are your thoughts on the method? How about storage? We are a family of two and we don’t eat a ton of bread every day.
- Rita

I’ve tried it twice. Both times, I thought it was good, but I preferred my regular bread-making techniques because I felt they produced better bread.

A lot of the “oohs” and “aahs” about no-knead bread (read about it) comes from the fact that it’s seemingly pretty easy and thus less daunting for a new baker. Add in the fact that it does taste better than the bread you typically purchase at a store and it seems like a winner.

I’d just rather do the kneading and produce the wonderful loaves I make using my own techniques.

My wife and I are considering moving away from the use of credit and/or debit cards and going cash-only. My concern with doing this, however, is the added difficulty with keeping track of our spending. We keep a monthly budget, and track all of our spending. Currently most of our spending is via credit/debit so I simply download the recent transaction history once a week or so, import into MS Money and spend a few minutes putting each transaction into the appropriate category. I do a very bad job of tracking our spending when cash is used, and worry that this will be worse if we move to a cash-only system.

Do you have any suggestions on how to best track cash spending? We do not like the Dave Ramsey envelope system for various reasons. So far the only thing we have come up with is saving receipts, and going through them later to record the amounts spent towards each category, although not all places give receipts (such as the farmer’s market). I also considered keeping a small notepad with me to record the transactions. I do not have a Smartphone, otherwise I would probably try coming up with some method of tracking using that.
- Jonathan

I used the notepad solution myself when I was attempting to get a strong picture of my spending. I found that it really did the trick.

For me, though, one side benefit was that I hated to write stuff in the notebook. It felt like a failure if I spent cash and had to write it in the notebook. Thus, the mere presence of such a tracking notebook made me more careful about my spending.

I don’t trust my ability to keep track of the receipts, plus, as you mentioned, not all cash transactions generate a receipt.

We’ve started attacking our debt, Dave Ramsey style, beginning with the car loan first. We have $4,300 left to pay on our car loan – should we dip into our savings and pay it off with some of that money (we have a 7-month emergency fund saved up). OR are we better to keep that money in there, untouched, and pay off what we can each month? Once the car loan is paid off, should we attack our student loans next or are we better off saving as much money for the new baby? Since our interest rates are so low on the student loans, we’re not sure which strategy is better.

We have the following debt:
Mortgage ($175,000) at 5.875%
Car loan ($4360) at 2.9%
Student loan ($10,267) at 2.6%
Student loan ($20,394) at 1.6%

- Erin

Generally, I feel a family should have two months’ worth of living expenses for each person in the household saved as an emergency fund. If you have more than that, I would consider doing something different with it.

Your interest rates on your debts are so low, though, that you don’t need to be rushing to pay them off. My priority really would be the mortgage here because the interest rate is so much higher than the other ones. Yes, you get the “success” feeling from paying off a debt, but the interest rates are low enough that you’re not gaining much over simply leaving cash in a savings account.

However, if you’re expecting a baby, I would save for baby expenses before tackling any of these debts. I also wouldn’t lower the emergency fund below six months’ worth of post-baby expenses.

I am a incoming college freshman. As part of my packing process, I went through all my stuff and decided what to pack and what not to pack. I am also an aspiring minimalist, so I am getting rid of a lot. About half my walk-in closet is filled with stuff I no longer need. I have outdoor equipment, books, clothes, shoes, and jewelry to sell. I am wondering what the best way to get rid of it is. I was weighing the options of Ebay v. a physical garage sale. I think I’d probably be able to get a better price for my lightly-used outdoor gear online, but a better price for some of my clothes in a garage sale. What do you think?

Also, another complicating factor is that I am going to college across the country, so ebay may not be a good option because I won’t be able to ship right away.
- Erica

Don’t worry strictly about price – keep in mind that there will be effort involved in selling the items either way you go. However, if you decide to have a yard sale, the additional effort per item will be very small. If you sell on eBay, the additional effort per item will be larger – dealing with buyers, packaging each individual item, and so on.

Whether that additional effort is worth the money is really up to you. For me, honestly, it wouldn’t be unless I was sure I was going to make a lot more on eBay. Of course, there’s also the possibility that you could price items at your yard sale at a price close to what you would net on eBay (after all the fees and shipping costs) and only use eBay if that doesn’t work.

In any case, I encourage you to sell as much of the stuff as you can. You won’t need or have room for most of this stuff at college and the cost to ship it is prohibitive. Sell it and move on.

Got any questions? Email them to me or leave them in the comments and I’ll attempt to answer them in a future mailbag. However, I do receive hundreds of questions per week, so I may not necessarily be able to answer yours.

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  1. tas says:

    For the 11 year old, yeah to starting investing! While individual stocks are risky, I love them: both the challenge and the reward. What I would recommend he do is set up a google finance portfolio and ‘try out’ stocks he wants to buy while he works on that research — and then put that $1000 in a little bit at a time. That way he gets a sense of how the market performs on a (slightly) longer term basis, but also some immediate gratification. If he wants to really take a risk on (one or more) stocks, encourage him to spend no more than 10% of his portfolio on it/them, which minimizes that risk. Kudos to him — when he really has money to invest regularly, he’ll have the skills he needs to do it well.

  2. Kim says:

    For Kasha — If your tips plus the wage the employer pays does not equal minimum wage, the employer is required to make up the difference to get you up to minimum wage. Make sure you’re getting what you’re entitled to.

    According to http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDLE-LaborLaws/CDLE/1248095305416

    “Colorado State 2010 Tipped Minimum Wage versus Federal Tipped Minimum Wage
    If an employee is covered by federal and Colorado state minimum wage laws, then the employer must pay the higher minimum wage for tipped employees. On January 1, 2010, federal tipped minimum wage is scheduled to remain at $2.13 per hour, which is lower than the Colorado tipped minimum wage of $4.22. Therefore, covered employers in Colorado will have to pay their employees the higher value of $4.22 per hour under Colorado law. If an employee’s tips combined with the employer’s cash wage of at least $4.22 per hour do not equal the minimum hourly wage, the employer must make up the difference in cash wages.”

  3. Johanna says:

    Also for the 11-year-old: The amount you’re allowed to contribute to any kind of IRA (Roth or traditional) is limited to your earned income that year. So form him to contribute the $1000 he’s saved right now, he would have to earn another $1000 during 2010, and file a tax form to that effect in April, 2011.

    And for Trent: It seems like almost every reader mailbag has someone asking a variant of the question, “Which is better for my retirement savings, a Roth IRA or some form of pre-tax account?” You always give exactly the same answer. That answer is wrong. Even if “tax rates” as a whole go way up, the progressive nature of the federal income tax means that most people are better off having at least a portion of their retirement savings in pre-tax accounts.

  4. Lauren says:

    When I was around 11-12, I had saved up some money and really wanted to invest in stocks. I had done a bit of research and discovered that one of my favorite video game companies had an upcoming merger with a second company. However, my parents didn’t feel comfortable with me investing, so I never went ahead with it. I was so bummed when the stock ended up skyrocketing…

    So I definitely agree with the advice for the 11 year old… he may make some money, may lose some, may just get bored quickly, but it’ll be a great learning experience.

  5. valleycat1 says:

    Kasha said: I know I made a lot of money, yet I have no idea where it went. I spent it, somewhere.

    I’d add to Trent’s advice that you need to start tracking your spending & figure out where the $ goes. For at least a month, write down every penny that goes out of your pocket or bank account (or at least keep every single receipt), & at the end of that month, take a good hard look at where you’re spending your income and set up a realistic budget so you can pay off your debts.

    Also, I agree with Johanna on Roth v non-Roth. If you’re starting out early on in setting up IRAs, the power of compound interest will work for you if you put into a regular IRA the money you’d otherwise be paying up front in taxes on a Roth. Dave Ramsey makes a good argument for saving/investing with pre-tax dollars. [and yes, I do have both Roth and non-Roth IRAs myself]

  6. valleycat1 says:

    For Erin & Ami – student loan debt never goes away, so I recommend getting those paid off. If you go into arrears on them, the loan companies can (& will) garnish your wages to collect.

    and, Ami – you don’t say how much consumer debt you’re accumulating, but you need to get that under control by budgeting and cutting back on expenses wherever you can. And don’t use a student loan to pay down unsecured credit. I understand the desire to get school over with as quickly as possible, but it isn’t worth ending up with a lot of debt in the process. Maybe you need to work longer hours- & search out a better paying job – and take fewer classes to keep your finances under better control.

  7. Milly says:

    To Kasha, You need to make sure that you save enough money from your tips to pay your taxes. If dancing is at all like waiting tables, the employer may withhold some, but you could be liable for big $$ if you don’t plan ahead.

  8. Johanna says:

    @valleycat: “If you’re starting out early on in setting up IRAs, the power of compound interest will work for you if you put into a regular IRA the money you’d otherwise be paying up front in taxes on a Roth.”

    Actually, that’s another common misconception. There’s no inherent advantage to having a higher dollar value in a regular IRA (that you haven’t paid taxes on yet) versus a lower dollar value in a Roth IRA (that you’ve already paid taxes on). If the percentage you pay in tax is the same, then the two are exactly equivalent.

    Suppose you have $1000 to spare from your pre-tax income, and you’re in the 25% tax bracket. You can either invest the whole $1000 in a regular IRA, or pay $250 in taxes and invest $750 in the Roth. Either way, the money grows by some amount between now and retirement. To keep the numbers easy, let’s say it grows by a factor of 10: The regular IRA becomes $10,000, and the Roth IRA becomes $7500. From the Roth, you can keep the whole $7500, but you must pay taxes on the $10K from the regular. If you pay 25% in taxes, then again, you get to keep $7500.

    The advantage to the regular IRA is that even if you’re “in the 25% tax bracket,” your federal income tax is not 25% of the money you withdraw. You get some amount tax-free (your personal exemption and standard or itemized deductions), you get some amount taxed at 10%, and some additional amount taxed at 15%. The exact amount you pay in taxes depends on what other income you have, and how the tax brackets have changed with inflation, but it’s certain to be less than $2500. So you get to keep more than $7500 from the regular IRA, so you do better with it than with the Roth.

    And that’s still likely to be true even if taxes go up. Suppose that the 25% bracket becomes the 30% bracket, and the 10% and 15% brackets get combined into a new 20% bracket. Then you’re still getting some money tax-free (deductions and exemptions are not going to be taken away entirely), and you still get some money taxed at 20%, so there’s a good chance that you’re still paying less than $2500 in taxes.

    Now, the very best thing to do would be to have just enough money in the regular IRA that you can take full advantage of your deductions, exceptions, and all the tax brackets lower than what you’re paying now (the new 20% tax bracket, in this case), and put all the rest of your money in a Roth. Getting those numbers exactly right really would require a crystal ball. But it’s almost certain that for almost everybody, it’s better to have some mix of Roth and regular than 100% Roth.

  9. ameliabedilia says:

    As for the budgeting questions people have been asking. We use homebudget, an app for the iphone. Not sure if they have it for other platforms.
    This is the ONLY budget tool that has ever worked for us. It syncs however many devices you need, and you can make the budget as detailed or broad as necessary. We have a fluctuating income, and this works great. It doesn’t matter if you use cash or a debit card, because you just type in your expense. I usually just do mine when I get in the car, or if the worker is still finishing my transaction, I do it right there.
    We have been using it for 4 months, which as about 3 months longer than anything we’ve tried before. I also like that I don’t worry about atm withdrawls and where the money went. I don’t even track those, but just input where that money went as it’s spent.

  10. Tea says:

    Ami, even if you are waitress and making tips, you are entitled to minimum wage. If your employer pays you at a lower rate and you don’t make enough in tips to make up the difference, your employer is legally obligated to pay you the difference. Unfortunately, this means you have to keep close tabs on the exact hours you work, and the exact amount you make in tips.

  11. kristine says:

    Kasha, it makes sense to take the higher paying job, but be careful of expenses- costumes, beverages, going to the diner after a long night of work. (Trent, if you are an exotic dancer, you must have a car. You often get at out at 4am, which is no time to take public transportation, or be waiting anywhere nearby where customers may try to approach you. It’s a safety thing. And the pay is so high it more than covers the expense.) Kasha, you can drive a nearby co-worker, and have them pay for gas- it’s cheaper than a taxi for them.

    Make sure you set aside 30% of your dancing money for taxes. Put it into a savings account every week, so you do not have or spend it. Also, the tips are not included in the 1099, but the job description (usually listed as waitress) will create an assumption of tips, and be taxed accordingly. If this is to much of a pain, hire someone to do your taxes, you can do that once a year for about 150. The last thing you need is an audit, or a whopping tax bill! Good luck!

  12. jim says:

    Tas: You have to have taxable compensation to do a Roth IRA. Your 11 year old probably didn’t get wages from a job, but instead got gifts or allowance. They wouldn’t qualify for an IRA.

    Lisa: You’re in a middle tax rates. You are not paying super low or super high taxes. You’re in the 25% bracket which is by no means historically low tax rate for middle income people. Historically low tax rates are mostly benefiting the high income brackets right now. There is no wrong answer for you in my opinion. But Johanna is right, some pre-tax is best. I would recommend you at least do some pre-tax so you take advantage of standard deduction and exemptions in retirement.

    Erin: I’d keep the emergency fund in tact. Your car and student loans are all low interest and no super rush to pay them down. Will you be in that home long? If so, can you refinance it? 5.8% is a lot higher than current rates. If you aren’t underwater or can otherwise refinance you should be able to get a loan for around 4-4.5% and save about $$2-3k a year in interest.

  13. Kerry D. says:

    @ Rita: I wouldn’t worry about a “no knead” recipe so much as just getting the bread to turn out. I’ve made delicious pizza and rolls from recipes on the blog “The Prudent Housewife” and I’ve found two things help a great deal: first, I mix just yeast, sugar, and water at JUST the right temperature (100-110%, a hot summer day in our area so I just test it by hand) and let that sit for ten minutes to grow before I continue. I use “bread flour” which helps the rising process, and I buy that super cheap at Costco ($10 for 50 pounds, storing it in a 5 gallon can from Home Depot) I knead a little but am really quite lazy about it, and still get delicious bread products.

  14. Joann says:

    No-knead bread isn’t just about less work at all. It’s a wet dough (high hydration) and it has a long period to proof, giving it a large, uneven crumb like good artisanal bread. Baking in a covered pot also creates the effect of a steam oven, giving a fantastic crust. I’ve been baking bread for 35 years, and I still use all my favorite recipes, but I adore no-knead bread.

  15. Courtney says:

    @Kasha: Just out of curiosity, is your boyfriend okay with you working as a stripper? If so, I would rethink that relationship. No decent guy wants his girlfriend stripping so she can pay the rent for him.

    Stripping is a nasty job and while you may make money at it, there is a psychological price to pay. I would advise you to look for another job. It may take you longer to pay off your debt, but at least your self-dignity will be intact. Wishing you the best of luck – your letter made me sad.

  16. valleycat1 says:

    Jonathan – If you’re planning to collect all your receipts, then you and your wife can carry a small envelope to put them in – & add a pen to the envelope & just use the back of the envelope to write down non-receipted purchases.

  17. kristine says:

    Courtney,

    I would not make an assumption that stripping causes one to lose his/her dignity. What one person finds acceptable, another cannot fathom. Many jobs include getting paid a premium for looks, or nudity: acting, modeling, life-modeling to name a few. Many people have no moral stigma attached to exotic dancing, and are pretty open-minded about it. Many cultures incorporate seductive dance as a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment.

    It is legal, and a hard day’s work. All hard work should be respected, even you find it distasteful.

    As far as the boyfriend goes- I think it matters less what her job is, than that he is not contributing. That is grounds for dismissal. This young lady sounds well-adjusted, and if she is comfortable dancing nude for a living, then why tell her that she should feel awful about it?

  18. Kate says:

    I think it’s amazing that a twelve-year-old is looking seriously at investing. Especially since I’m 23 and still feel like I don’t understand investing. Sometime it’d be nice if someone could explain investing to me like I’m a twelve-year-old. Just throwing that out there.

  19. Courtney says:

    @kristine: I’m not going to apologize for looking out for Kasha’s well-being. Working as a stripper is going to affect her life far into the future – everything from what type of guy will want to settle down with her to what kind of future job she will be able to obtain with “exotic dancer” listed on her resume (or a big blank spot on her resume if she chooses not to list that).

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on this topic, but in all honesty – if you had a daughter, would it really be a dream of yours that she gets naked in front of a roomful of leering guys for money – or would you have higher hopes for her?

  20. Marsha says:

    Kasha did not sound “comfortable” at all. It’s hard to read between the lines of someone’s letter, but it sounds to me as though she’s rationalizing her decision to go back to her “short-lived stunt” as an exotic dancer. If she was so happy dancing for a living, why did she ever leave it?

    Her father abandoned her, sticking her with debt, and it sounds as though her boyfriend may be taking advantage of her financially. She doesn’t know how she spent all her dancing income because she’s probably blowing it on retail therapy to make her self feel less rotten about her degrading job.

  21. Sid Simpson says:

    Dear Trent,

    I have been a huge fan of your site and attitude for several years. My high level of respect for you has increased today because of your response to Kasha. You made no judgment in responding to her other than to say that she clearly knows her own situation and is capable of making her own choices on her path to financial success.

    You made my day.
    : )

    Sid

  22. kristine says:

    Why make the assumption that stripping is degrading? That is based on your own personal values, not mine.

    I went to college on a full scholarship, but was an exotic dancer to pay for food and a room. I would not have been able to make it any other way I had no family help, and no safety net.

    I now have two Master’s Degrees, have had an extremely prestigious career as a painter, been featured on PBS, been a Creative Director at a top Publishing house, currently teach computer design, and have been on the Board of Directors of Mensa. My looks were able to gain more wages than my brain at that age. Stripping was a logical financial choice given my limited non-class time.

    I am married to an 2X author and professor who adores me- who is a Quaker, and whom I used to call on my break-he was a long time friend, and as long as I felt safe- it was fine with him. He himself has never been to a strip club, nor had more than 1 drink, nor ever done drugs. He has a Phd, and is known worldwide for his specialty. His fellow academics are amused and intrigued by my past, and I sense, jealous of my breadth of life experience.

    My two lovely children are headed for ivy league, A+ students, and in by 11pm, even one as a senior. If my daughter chose to dance- I would be surprised, but I would not condemn it, just advise her on safety. As it is- she is published in an academic journal at age 16- working on a nano-scale biotech cure for cancer.

    Stripping did not ruin my life. It gave me the degree I needed for my career. It gave me self sufficiency. I never found it degrading, I found it empowering. Without it, I would have been stuck on a low-pay career path, trapped in my narrow-minded hometown. I would be poor and unhappy the paths out were few. Stripping made financial sense, and secured my long term goals.

    I loved dancing, and the naked part was incidental. I was in phenomenal shape, and full of the kind of sexual confidence most women dream of. The regulars were by and large respectful, more than women who make assumptions, or the occasional rude idiot, who would get shunned, or kicked out. My children know of my colorful life, and have nothing but respect for how hard I have worked to get where I am.

    So yes, stripping did effect my future. It made it possible. My fellow strippers were college students, women with deadbeat dads who refused to go on welfare, a special ed teacher who did not make enough for her child’s disability, and a few directionless girls. Every situation is unique. Kasha does not sound directionless.

    I reiterate- strippers have legal, physically and emotionally demanding jobs. They deserve every penny they make. Gentlemen- please tip well!

    PS- nice comment, Sid!

  23. Johanna says:

    @Courtney: Well, Kasha is also a full-time student, so I’m sure she could just put *that* on her resume, and nobody would wonder about it.

    @Marsha: I’m not sure exactly what a middle manager at a movie theater does, but it sounds like the sort of mind-numbingly boring thing that would also leave a person prone to wanting “retail therapy.” And anyway, if you’re so concerned about whether Kasha feels rotten about herself, why are you trying to make her feel rotten about herself?

    @Kasha: I second valleycat’s advice. If you want to know where your money is going, you need to keep track of where it is going. If you really can’t get the amounts coming in and going out to match up, don’t discount the possibility that someone is stealing from you. It happens.

    Does your mother work? If she doesn’t, can she? It’s great that you want to help her out after what your father did to both of you, but your first priority needs to be taking care of yourself.

    As for which job to take, that’s something only you can decide. If you’re comfortable with the dancing job, then no one else’s opinion matters.

  24. kristine says:

    And forgive the poor grammar- I was typing quickly- full of spit and vinegar!

  25. Courtney says:

    @kristine: By your account, your life has turned out well (who even knew there was a Board of Directors of Mensa? :) ) but you certainly must know that you are not the typical ex-stripper. Of the women I know who stripped, not a single one of them has a life that could be described as stable or healthy.

    I agree with Marsha that Kasha does not actually seem to be comfortable with this. If she is, why would she even write the letter?

    My take on it is that here is a young woman who has been mistreated by the most important men in her life. She reads this blog and discerns that Trent seems like a nice, decent guy – so she writes in, hoping (consciously or subconsciously) that he will be the one guy who tells her, “Don’t do it – you’re worth more than that!”

    Of course, I could be wrong – but that’s the vibe I’m getting from her.

  26. Johanna says:

    @Courtney: Or, maybe she reads this blog and discerns that Trent likes to talk at length about matters of money and time management, but has a history of not touching matters of sex and sexuality with a ten-foot pole, and she asked him her question hoping that he would treat it as a question about money and time management, without commenting one way or the other about the part where she takes her clothes off.

    Also, why do you think a woman necessarily needs a man to tell her what to do? That’s fairly sexist of you, don’t you think?

  27. Courtney says:

    @Johanna: When did I say that a woman needs a man to tell her what to do? Those words have never crossed my mind or my lips.

  28. kristine says:

    Courtney- interesting take. I did not get that vibe. I sensed she was acting sheepish about it, expecting to be judged.

    I am in my second marriage. My first husband made me feel like he was doing me a favor by marrying a woman who had been a stripper. I did not feel badly about it until he told me I should. That Prince was a jealous toad, and it turned abusive. I am extremely wary of anyone who is highly judgmental.

    My current husband of 10plus years, makes me, and my children, feel like royalty. The only thing he thinks about my having danced is that I must have looked like a goddess!

    Kasha, do what you feel comfortable with, and that makes sense. But use your own internal judge. Don’t let anyone else tell you how you should feel about your choices. If it makes you feel like less, than don’t do it. It takes a strong sense of self to deal with all the knee-jerk judgments people throw at you, as evidenced here. And hold onto every cent! (Bring water- don’t get soda from the bar.)

    (And yes, Mensa has national and state level boards of directors. Our president collected clown paintings! I joined after my first marriage, to improve my self-esteem after being called an idiot for several years.)

  29. David Ciani says:

    Ami should check with the labor department in her state because I know that here in California an employer isn’t allowed to use the employee’s tips to satisfy their minimum wage obligation. Her state may have a similar regulation and she should be making sure that she is getting all of the money she is due.

    Best of luck to you all.

  30. Tatiana says:

    “My first question would be whether or not you actually need that car for school.” – As a nursing student, it is likely that Ami does NEED the car. In my nursing program (just graduated August 20, yay!), our clinical placements could be at agencies up to an hour’s drive from our school. Carpooling wasn’t always a possibility because we had different schedules from our classmates and were coming from different towns. In addition, being late or missing a clinical day is a very serious matter. It’s possible to fail out of a nursing program for missing clinical time.

    Good luck to you, Ami!

  31. Kelly says:

    “My first question would be whether or not you actually need that car for school.” – As a nursing student, it is likely that Ami does NEED the car. In my nursing program (just graduated August 20, yay!), our clinical placements could be at agencies up to an hour’s drive from our school. Carpooling wasn’t always a possibility because we had different schedules from our classmates and were coming from different towns. In addition, being late or missing a clinical day is a very serious matter. It’s possible to fail out of a nursing program for missing clinical time.

    Good luck to you, Ami!

    =======================
    THIS! I had to maintain my car while finishing up my nursing degree program. Did that with taking out the extra money through grants and loans IN ADDITION TO working 28-32hrs/week. Some of our clinical sites were about a hour’s drive from my house. I commuted from my parents home and did carpool with one classmate during my last semester but for the most part, I drove alone. Clinical sites were within a 20 minute drive of my house but then most days I’d have to drive straight from clinicals to class on campus with a quick stop for lunch/supper in between.

    So yeah, I needed my car.

  32. Steve in W MA says:

    @ exoticdancerwoman,

    I don’t get it. Your only fixed expense is $475 a month for rent, your school is 100% scholarship, and you only owe $10,000 for the car loan your dad bailed out on, which over 5 years amortizes at something like 300 dollars a month. Food should cost you under $400 a month even if you eat out a decent amount.

    And you make say $700 a night of dancing. Assuming you only work on Fridays, you’ve got $2800 worth of income and just slightly more than $1000 of monthly expenses (leaving your bf’s back issues and the $50 mom’s cellphone aside.)

    My advice is to start a spending journal and start writing down every cent you make and every cent you spend and what it is for. Somewhere you are blowing in excess of $1500 a month on stuff that isn’t necessary. In truth you could probably pay that $10,000 loan in less than a year if you stopped the money leakage.

    good luck

    I think you can come up with

  33. Steve in W MA says:

    @exoticdancerwoman,

    if your bf’s back issues are causing you to drop cash for $130 chiropractic sessions 8 times a month, that will take the wind out of your sails financially for sure.

    I would take a second, third, and tenth look at your relationship with your bf. If you are supporting him to that degree and he’s just a bf, not a husband, I think (from the outside and not knowing that much about either of you) that he may be taking advantage of you. However, only you can decide the truth of your relationship.

    I’m not going to weigh in on the big “stripping” debate that popped up here.

    good luck again.

  34. Charles Cohn says:

    Concerning breadmaking: About three years ago I bought a Cuisinart bread machine for $100 from Amazon. I have been running it at least once a week and it is still going strong, so my cost per loaf is quite small. All I have to do is put the ingredients in, press the button and walk away. (The Cuisinart beeps when it is finished kneading, so as a nicety I can take the loaf out of the machine, remove the dough hook and put the loaf back into the machine, so the dough hook won’t be baked into the loaf.)

  35. Cheryl says:

    @Katherine… Congrats on having an emergency fund to handle those emergencies… As for the possible future medical problems, save what you can, but in my experience, most hospital and doctor offices I have had will let you make monthly payments at no interest on your bills, and are pretty patient as long as you communicate and make payments like clockwork. Perhaps it is different there. Enjoy your new baby and best wishes!

  36. Trent says:

    I do not judge others for personal choices they make that do not harm the people around them. That’s their own business and their own choice. I have no right to be someone’s morality police.

  37. marta says:

    @Courtney #21, since you like to have exact quotes, and such, there you are:

    (from #19)

    “so she writes in, hoping (consciously or subconsciously) that he will be the one guy who tells her, “Don’t do it – you’re worth more than that!”

    That can be interpreted as “writing a guy to be told what to (or not) do”. If you can have your own interpretations of the letter writer’s intent, other commenters can have their own interpretations of your comments.

  38. GayleRN says:

    @ Ami. Yes she needs a reliable car. As the nursing students say, clinical sites can be up to an hour away, in my experience. Generally, you need to be there an hour early and stay an hour later than the regular staff. So we are talking up to 10 hours of physical presence. Now add in the fact that many clinical sites will not be in the safest areas of big cities and you will want your own transportation. Or if you are in a more rural environment public transportation is not an option.

    The competition in RN programs is fierce, it is difficult to get in and easy to get dismissed. Car trouble is not an acceptable excuse. The only acceptable excuse in my experience was an illness that resulted in hospitalization. Even so, if you miss clinical time you have to make it up and you have to pay an instructor out of your own pocket to do so.

    As for the waitressing job which isn’t even paying her minimum wage, dump it. Get a job as a nurse tech/aide at a hospital or nursing home. This will at least get you minimum wage or better. It will also give you some experience in basic patient care and how to structure your shift so that you can get it all done. This is an invaluable skill for a new grad. There is a lot of competition for new grad jobs, experience counts. Having your foot in the door counts for even more right now as a known quantity is hired before the unknown at any facility. In addition, many facilities offer benefits of some kind even to part time employees. It is well worth it.

    Best wishes to you Ami.

  39. Gillian` says:

    Kasha didn’t ask whether she ‘should’ strip, but just mentioned it is her source for income. That is a decision that is hers to make and I’m glad Trent advised her on what she wanted to know only.

    I can’t read into her letter, nor do I wish to, but no adult needs another’s ‘permission’ to do a job, be it stripping or being a lawyer defending the guilty. Everybody makes choices that would shock, worry or confuse others. The young lady didn’t write here to get us or Trent to validate them. If she wants someone to tell her ‘don’t do it’, then I’m sure she can find one, given the reactions here in the comments. She wanted Trent to tell her about money, so he did. I’m glad he was not judgemental.

    (FYI, I know a professional dominatrix who has a great boyfriend and loves her work. If Kasha wanted to study the sex industry, or work in something related, then it might be an advantage. If not, she can knock it off her CV. But it’s up to her what she does with it.)

  40. Johanna says:

    @marta: It’s the sentence you quote, and also the previous sentence. *All* the people who write to Trent for advice are looking for Trent, who happens to be a man, to tell them what to do, or at least offer suggestions. Courtney seemed to me to be saying that Kasha was specifically looking for the judgement of a “nice, decent guy” on the internet to replace the judgements of her father and boyfriend about what she should do and (more creepily) how much she’s worth.

  41. GayleRN says:

    About the 11 year old who wants to invest in stock. I would have him paper trade at first rather than cold hard cash. Research some company of interest to him, say Disney, or his favorite car or toy manufacturer. Figure out some graphic way for him to follow the stock and its fluctuations. You could use monopoly money and toy coins stuck to a piece of posterboard to represent it. Add or remove money each day.

    I would not use real money at this point as he may lose interest in this within a few days or weeks. You could also construct a similar graph illustrating compound interest. Have some fun with it but I am guessing his attention span will not last long enough to see constructive results from an actual investment.

  42. Maria says:

    @Rita – No-knead is more than just ‘easy’ it is a different type of bread all together. And AMAZING. Compare the artisan crunchy round loaf to the regular ‘italian’ loaf at a bakery. Completely different. The media makes it sound like it is so easy because there is no kneading, but the truth is, there is a bit of a learning curve. Moisture in the mix, in the forming, and baking it far longer than you think you should are key. That said, it is my ‘special occasion’ loaf, and my everyday loaf is a traditional kneaded loaf. “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Hertberg and Francois is on my shelf – and very well worn :-)

  43. Hope D says:

    I can’t believe people here think it is a good financial decision to dance naked for men. Should she do a porno movie to? How about moving to Las Vegas to become a “legal” prostitute? A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.
    Kristine: I’m glad you’re happy with your life. But, maybe that stripping gig your so proud of, the one that got you through college, is also the reason you married a man who made you feel bad about yourself and was abusive. I sincerely hope you do not mentor any young women.

  44. marta says:

    Hey Hope, I sincerely hope you don’t mentor any young women either.

    Gosh, aren’t we judgmental? And where the heck did you go from exotic dancing to making porno movies?

  45. Marsha says:

    @kristine #22

    Yes, it is my “personal value” that stripping is degrading. Otherwise, why would stripping pay so much for what is essentially an unskilled job (we’re not talking professional, trained dancers here)?

    Others–
    I don’t get the comments about “men telling women what to do.” Is it better to put yourself on display as just the sum of your sexual body parts? Is it better to be merely the receptacle of a man’s lust?

  46. Hope D says:

    Marta: My mentoring would go something like this, ” work hard, make sacrifices, but don’t lower yourself. You don’t have to dance naked in front of men.”

    Stripping, exotic dancing, prostitution, and pornography are all part of the “adult” entertainment industry. Of course prostitution is illegal in most places. That it is how I went there.

  47. Courtney says:

    How far we’ve come…ninety years after the women’s suffrage movement, a career in the sex industry is now considered to be the height of “empowerment” for women. Our foremothers would be so proud.

  48. deRuiter says:

    For the 11 year old, open ROTH IRA with discount broker in child’s name, and adult guardina if required, with child’s social security number, and buy a couple of stocks. this way money is protected and can grow in ROTH and child has the fun of managing stock. Win/Win!

  49. Johanna says:

    @Hope: Yes, if a woman wants to do any of those things, she should do them. Why shouldn’t she?

    The problem arises when a woman goes into one of those lines of work not because she wants to, but because she has no other options. But condemning the women in that unfortunate situation is not the solution. You can’t hate someone for her own good.

    @Marsha: Why does being the object of a man’s lust mean that you can’t be anything else? For many (maybe most?) women, just going out in public makes them the object of some man’s lust. Would you have us all wear burqas, to prevent that from happening?

  50. Johanna says:

    @Courtney: Who said that “a career in the sex industry is now considered to be the height of “empowerment” for women”? For someone who likes direct quotes so much, you really have a tendency to put words in other peoples mouths that are entirely made up. The only person who used any form of the word “empower” was kristine, who said that her dancing job was empowering *for her*. And if that was her experience, who are you, or anyone else, to tell her otherwise?

  51. Hope D says:

    Johanna- A woman shouldn’t do those things because it lowers them. It makes their bodies a commodity. It objectifies them. And yes, I believe it is immoral to dance naked in front of people for money.

    I am not condemning Kasha. She is trying to go to school. Her boyfriend is hurt and she is trying to help him. She is trying to help her mother. She was deserted by her father and left with a $10,000 debt and no car. I feel bad for her. She needs good advice. Instead she gets told to go back to exotic dancing. That advice is what I am condemning.

    She can get a middle management position. She is smart (she got a scholarship). I think she can work 40 hours and go to school. I did it. Lots of people do it. Not easy but doable.

    To tell the truth, I don’t even know that Kasha is real. This might have been a fake question to see how Trent would answer. He answered pretty mealy mouth to me. Trent didn’t give any moral comments. From what I have read of him and his beliefs, I do not think he would advise a young woman to go strip to make money. He is politically correct enough to not say anything about her actually doing it.

  52. L Castro says:

    In reference to the 11 year old:
    I suggest that he understands the power of compound gain which only works provided that it is not interrupted by compound loss. Ever heard the story of the emperor of china and the inventor of chess? It is a good story that children like and it is a great example of what compound gain is. I would educate him first on the importance of establishing a financial foundation that is protected from the devastating effects of compound loos.

    This is the era of Financial Conservation.

  53. reulte says:

    Tas – Great going for your son! You might ask him to name 3 or 4 companies that he’s interested in and research them with him.

    Kasha – You’ve made up to $1500 a night and you DON’T KNOW WHERE IT WENT??? That should be a wake up call to learn to budget. Also, don’t help your mother at your expense.

    Katherine – Be careful of taking on too much. Take care of yourself. Ask for help when you need it.

    Ami – Can you minimize book purchases (i.e. get by with library texts)? Give up your waitressing job and get one as a lab assistant or working as a nurse’s assistant in some way.

  54. Todd says:

    I wouldn’t touch the exotic dancer debate with a ten-foot pole, but it does seem like the risk of some jobs might be a personal finance factor. I would be wary of being a convenience store clerk because of statistics that employees are much more often hurt on the job than in other places. It seems to me that there might be specific dangers with exotic dancing as well, but I have no idea if that’s statistically supportable or not.

    As for “all work is honorable,” I’ve believed that all of my life. However, we all apply our own morals (I hope) to the places we choose to work. I would never work as a telemarketer or door-to-door salesperson, nor–having grown up with an alcoholic parent–would I work in a place that makes money from selling people alcohol. But this gets complicated: The college where I work just accepted a fortune from a beer company and thus we now have a science building with the name of a popular beer on it. (I think it’s shameful, but I haven’t quit.)

  55. Johanna says:

    @Hope: As Eleanor Roosevelt said, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. That means that no job “lowers” you unless you feel it does. No job lowers me unless I feel it does. No job lowers kristine unless kristine feels it does. No job lowers Kasha unless Kasha feels it does. And so forth.

    I am not telling Kasha to go back to exotic dancing. I’m telling her that she needs to make her own decision, based on how *she* feels about the dancing job and the other options available to her. Because *her* opinion is the one that matters.

    Trent often advises people who are trying to make ends meet to get over the idea that certain jobs are “beneath” them. He’s generally applauded for that advice. And yet, that whole idea somehow goes out the window when the job in question involves a woman taking her clothes off. I think that’s interesting.

    I’m not actually as pro-exotic dancing as my comments might make it seem. I don’t think the situation is as simple as “exotic dancing, yay!” versus “exotic dancing, boo!” I actually think that the adult entertainment industry as a whole is harmful to women in general (not just the women who participate in it). But again, I don’t think the solution is to stigmatize the dancers themselves, because it’s more complicated than that.

  56. Hope D says:

    Johanna- I do not believe Eleanor Roosevelt was talking about exotic dancing.

    “…that whole idea goes out the window when the job in question involves a woman taking her clothes off.” That’s not interesting. It is smart.

    Again, I don’t want to stigmatize exotic dancers. Kasha is desperate, but a job in the adult entertainment industry is disgusting. It is her choice. I just think people are crazy for saying it is a good choice.

  57. Des says:

    @Hope (#56)

    “I do not believe Eleanor Roosevelt was talking about exotic dancing.” – Eleanor Roosevelt was talking about people, in general, feeling inferior because they internalize others’ judgments about them and what they do. It applies to all professions that the pious consider “degrading”. Be they janitors, burger-flippers, or strippers, her point was that the only reason they feel inferior is because they allow others to tell them how to feel.

    “That’s not interesting. It is smart” – It is not smart. It is hypocritical.

    “a job in the adult entertainment industry is disgusting.” – That is your opinion. If you don’t want to be a dancer, don’t be one. Personally, I would never be caught dead as a “pastor’s wife”. I find that profession to be degrading, and I would never want that for myself. But other people may enjoy that lot in life, and more power to them. It is not for me, but that doesn’t mean it is not for anybody.

    Kasha says she is comfortable with her dancing job. You have no business judging her by saying she must be desperate to take that kind of work, when she says otherwise.

  58. marta says:

    Well said, Des.

  59. Johanna says:

    In case anybody still reads deRuiter’s comments, he’s talking nonsense again. As has already been pointed out, you can’t put money into a Roth IRA in your name unless you have taxable income (or a spouse with taxable income) that equals or exceeds the amount you put in the Roth IRA.

    And in case deRuiter reads anyone else’s comments, it’s “Roth,” not “ROTH.” Unlike “IRA,” “Roth” is not an acronym. Although, it’s hard to tell whether deRuiter thinks it actually is an acronym or whether he’s just exercising his tendency to capitalize words randomly.

  60. Hope D says:

    Des- I understand what Eleanor Roosevelt was saying. I do not believe she was thinking about exotic dancing. You can apply it anyway you want. I’m just saying she would not have. Some jobs are degrading. Stripping is one of them. Janitors make good money, and it is honest work. I’m a mom. I’m always cleaning up somebody’s mess. Burgerflipper, done it.

    I don’t see how I am a hypocrite. I can see how you may think me puritanical, but I am not a hypocrite.

    I agree my opinion is my own, but it is held by more people than your opinion that stripping is fine and honorable. People may enjoy doing things I find morally objectionable. Enjoyment of an activity does not mean it is good.

    I went back and read Kasha’s question again, and she desperate.

  61. Doug says:

    Comment #8 by Johanna presents a logical addition to the Roth vs Pre-tax debate, as opposed to Trent’s emotional “Oh my, they’re going to raise my taxes forever.”

    From Trent’s response to question #5:

    “The reason I tend to encourage the Roth IRA is because income taxes seem to be pretty low right now compared to historic numbers, and on top of that, we’re spending much more than we bring in. What’s the inevitable solution to both of these situations? Higher income taxes.”

    Why does having “pretty low” income taxes need a solution? Is having “pretty low” income taxes a problem? Anyone who thinks so is more than welcome to donate money to the government.

    Sorry for sounding like I’m bashing Trent, I agree with most of his posts, and can understand his viewpoint on those issues that I disagree on. These points just stuck in my head when I read them.

  62. kristine says:

    Wow. No one here said the sex industry is the “height” of female empowerment. (Education is.) But it does provide financial empowerment.

    In any case, the suffrage movement was about women being able to CHOOSE what they want to do. That was the whole point! It sounds like the flip side of condemning home-makers for not actually “working” Both are hooey.

    And I doubt they went through all that trouble so women could then judge and condemn each others choices from on high. Live and let live.

    Anyway, yes, well, said, Des. And I did have several other jobs in college, but none that paid as well. The one that almost did, but felt way too sleazy for me, was cold-call door-to-door selling of cheap imitation jewelry. I was great at it, but it was like selling bad used cars. I have no problem with nudity, but dishonesty not a chance!

    And for the record, a stripper must be able to dance well, for eight hours straight (short breaks) be able to do a backbend, and a flawless one-handed cartwheel, in 4 inch stiletto heels. It takes incredible balance, poise, confidence, a bit of acting, and a toned body. The best places strive to be like Flashdance, but nude, and yes, it requires skill. Some of these ladies also teach yoga, ballet, and bellydancing. One of my co-workers went on to become an international belly-dancing champion, with many workout videos. Another went on to do porn, and then went on to Spike Lee films and is an Indie film actress. It’s a mixed bag.

    Geez, some of the ladies’ comments here are like listening to someone who has never been to a ballgame comment on the behavior of the umpires and the fans!

    I think it just fear of the unknown, and expecting others to live by your moral code. That is definitely NOT empowering!

  63. Johanna says:

    @Doug: Since you asked: Yes, having “pretty low” taxes is a problem, when state and local governments are laying off teachers, cutting funding for higher education (those oh-so-wonderful state universities people are talking about in another post/thread), turning off the streetlights, and un-paving the roads to save on maintenance. In China, they’re building world-class train systems and other infrastructure, while here, in the richest country the world has ever known, we’ve decided that we *can’t* *afford* *paved* *roads*, lest we have to raise taxes on the rich back to where they were under Clinton or Reagan.

    Anti-tax types always seem to forget that the government actually does stuff with the money it collects.

  64. Hope D says:

    Kristine- The women’s suffrage movement was about women getting the right to vote. Women wanted representation in government. The moral-relativism movement is the one that says stripping is ok.

  65. Johanna says:

    @kristine: I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story here. I’ve never been and would never be an exotic dancer (among other reasons, because I wouldn’t be any good at it!), nor have I ever visited a strip club as a customer, so hearing your perspective is very informative for me. Thanks again.

  66. kristine says:

    Johanna,
    You are welcome!

    Hope, I should have been more specific in saying the women’s liberation movement-the idea that a woman can choose her own path. I was reacting to previous statement citing suffrage.

  67. Pattie, RN says:

    My head is spinning at the whole debate about stripping (“exotic dancer” certainly sounds prettier, but a pole dancing stipper is, well, a stripper!)

    This young lady has problems that go far beyond her part-time job and her free-loading boyfriend. And even if “Kristine’s” fairy-tale story of HER life post-stripping is accurate, it is certainly an exception to the usual career paths of strippers. Abusive relationships and prostitution tend to follow more often than Mensa posts and Quaker husbands. The latter are not steps to financial stability

    I am sure there are some women who do well in artsy fields after stripping, but rarely are they physicians or CEOs. It must be uncomfortable to find out that your new client is, well, an “old client”.

    I would love to know if Kristine has ever shared her story with the friends and teachers of her 16 year old daughter? If this is just another “job”, why not? Perhaps because strippers are NOT the sort of women who professional men bring home to mother. It may be legal and lucrative, but it is also degrading and depersonalizing…and top pay in this field is at the onset and goes down rapidly with age.

    So feel free to judge Hope and I and other women who see this young woman in a destructive cycle that will most likely ruin her career, if not her life.

    And Trent, don’t hide behind the “it is none of my business” facade….this woman is grapping at straws financially and emotionally. Would you support your daughter or sister to pick up extra money this way? As a nurse, i see these women “later”, abused and addicted. Don’t believe my “moral judgements”, just do the reasearch. It should scare and disgust you.

  68. Johanna says:

    @Pattie: Would you mind pointing us toward the research you have in mind? If anyone actually does collect statistics on the career paths of ex-strippers, I haven’t a clue how to go about finding them.

  69. MattJ says:

    Johanna, you might want to read this re: “we *can’t* *afford* *paved* *roads*” alarmism.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2264109/

    Trent: regarding ‘historically low’ income tax rates, keep in mind that income taxes can stay right where they are forever, or even drop further, and the government can still increase its tax receipts the way most of the governments in the rest of the developed world have – institute a sales tax or a VAT. Either of those tax methods will cut a slice out of your retirement income, even if you think you’ve protected it via a Roth. Consider taking your tax breaks now while they’re a sure thing. If income taxes don’t go way, way up, you’re better off taking it now for the reasons Johanna lays out. Even if one believes that it’s inevitable that they must go way, way, up, it still might not be income taxes that rise…

  70. littlepitcher says:

    @Erika–Advertise your outdoor gear everywhere you can, just before hunting season, at a good price.
    @Kasha–Do a Steve Miller on this one–take the money and run, keeping track of every penny, and putting it into an interest-bearing account, or maxing out a Roth with it first.
    Men pay great wages for shaking your hiney off, and very little for working your hiney off, whether in offices, restaurants, or anywhere else. Not a soul on this forum has brought that up. I never had your option, but bless you for having something which will earn you those wages. It won’t last forever, so learn a great backup skill but ride this option as long as your wages for it exceed the so-called “free-market” wages, where the Mafia keeps wages for work low but wages for drug dealing and sex work high.

  71. Johanna says:

    @MattJ: What a confused article. First he bases his argument on the notion that the only roads being unpaved are the ones specifically mentioned in a few other news stories. Then at the end he says that the number is “obviously” larger than that, but his “point still stands.”

    To borrow his language: Obviously most roads are not being unpaved. But my point still stands. If you don’t like that example, there are many others. Education. The power grid. Public transportation. Maintenance of paved roads that people *do* use. And don’t even get me started on Social Security.

  72. MattJ says:

    Johanna,

    I’m sorry you found the article ‘confused’. Articles often seem that way when the author freely admits the limits of her knowledge, and then hesitates to draw conclusions that would require knowledge she doesn’t have. I wish more folks would write that way.

  73. kristine says:

    Pattie,

    I would never purposely expose my children to the kind of uniformed knee-jerk reactions exhibited here. I am sure that many kids would not want their friends knowing their dad is a garbage collector, or hamburger flipper, or their mom a maid, or embalmer, for the same reason: uninformed bias and ignorant assumptions about legal, legitimate occupations.

    They can chose to tell whomever they wish. But I do not normally discuss my 20-years-ago work history with teenage guests, or other adults in their life. Do you? I cannot imagine it would ever be pertinent. I would be surprised if it ever came up. I would never lie about my past, even if my children asked me to. And they never would ask that of me- they know I have integrity. But I am considerate that some of their friends might have parents with self-appointed moral police status.

    I am much more concerned about what my kids watch on TV, and that they be empathetic and tolerant, than what their friends’ parents do for a living, unless they are drug dealers, bigots, or mobsters.

    And I wonder where you get the idea that stripping routinely leads to self- destruction? Hollywood? Reality TV? For all you know your child’s untenured part time teacher moonlights, to keep a roof over her head. For all you know your adult child might have. A single mom down the block. I can only base my comments on my experience. Stripping was never a career for me- it was here-to-there part time job, likewise most of my coworkers are now married, and successful.

    It takes a lot of chutzpah, creativity and an open mind to dance, and that may be why you get entrepeneurs and high achievers in the mix. People who dare to. There were lost souls too, but I have seen plenty if ivy league stoners and neer-do-wells who have never worked an honest days work, becoming jaded addicts or useless adult-sized children, or wealthy face-lifted harsh blonde miserable women. There are many paths to destruction, from many backgrounds.

    Anyway- I grow weary of assumptions unaccompanied by facts. It is too similar to the baseless ranting I hear these days about muslims, atheists, educators, politicians, vegans, meat eaters, you name it. Generalizations are generally crap.

  74. Pattie, RN says:

    Kristine, I work with women who have been abused and abandoned, mostly with children in the mix. You are correct that there are many paths to destruction, but in 20 years and hundreds of clients, I have yet to encounter a woman who is “happy” or “proud” of working in the sex industry. It is a sleazy and degrading field; and everyone, from the strippers who move “ahead” to illegal activity to the patrons KNOW that this is a disgrace.

    Perhaps you can provide statistics of ex-stippers who now have successful careers and a healthy marriage? I am sure that they exist, but in very small numbers. Powerty, addictions, jail, death and abuse are the more common paths and outcomes.

    Stripping takes a decent body…and most of the “chutzpah” comes from a bottle or a needle. Of course lost souls can come from anywhere…that strw man argument does not change the danger and degredation that comes with being a sex worker.

    As to sharing past professions? As a former military officer turned nurse, I have nothing to hide. Sorry, but I used my brains, not my precious body to pay the rent.

    And you are more concerned about what is on TV than the dead eyes of an 18 year old selling her body and soul to be an object for drunk men? Gotta say your values are pretty far off from mine. Your lack of self respect is quite sad. There are other way to make money that do not turn a young girl into an object.

  75. Katie says:

    Kristine, I work with women who have been abused and abandoned, mostly with children in the mix.

    Well, happy, well-adjusted former strippers probably don’t end up on your desk because they haven’t been abused or abandoned . . .

  76. marta says:

    Pattie, how is the view from that high horse you are on?

    You think stripping is degrading, you would never do it, blahblah. We already got that. No one is forcing you to do it. But why is it so hard to believe Kristine when she says it worked for *her* and she didn’t find it to be a bad gig, and actually enjoyed it? There are others like her – and like Katie said, actually using some *logic*, you are not going to meet the well-adjusted ones at your job.

    Your values may be different from Kristine’s, but you can’t say she is lacking in self-respect or values. In her comments, I have seen empathy and understanding, for example. Not much of that displayed in your comments.

  77. Courtney says:

    @marta: “In her comments, I have seen empathy and understanding, for example. Not much of that displayed in your comments.”

    Pattie, RN *is* showing empathy by warning Kasha about the very real dangers she faces.

    Empathy is not saying, “You go, girl! You’ll feel so empowered and your future will be awesome!”

    The lack of common sense on display in some of these comments is staggering.

  78. Johanna says:

    Pattie reminds me of the audience members on those bad talk shows who like to shout, “You’re a disgusting, dirty tramp…and you have low self-esteem!” If you’re really worried about someone’s self-esteem, then maybe you shouldn’t be calling her a disgusting, dirty tramp, don’t you think?

    Not that there’s much basis for it in this case – it looks to me like kristine has the most self-respect of anyone here.

  79. marta says:

    Exactly, Johanna. I was thinking the same thing.

    Courtney: again, you are lacking in reading comprehension. But that’s par for the course.

  80. Sara says:

    I’d just like to add that I also use Homebudget for tracking joint finances. In fact, I have found my iPhone to be a huge money saving tool. Having real time updated information about what my fiancé has spent from our joint accounts, and from which categories prevents overspending. Using GroceryGadget for our shopping lists saves time, money, and travel because it also syncs the lists instantly between our devices. The app will also allow us to track prices at each store, and I have used it for planning our weekly meals within a budget. It even automatically arranges the list in the order you shop in, grouping items from the same aisle together so you can shop more efficiently. Aside from the specific apps that help us save money, it has also eliminated the need for a house phone, and Internet access at home and added the utility of having all of these functions in my pocket at all times ( not to mention the music player, video player, camera, video camera, etc – all which are used constantly.) I even use my phone to read e-textbooks for my class (which were half the cost of regular texts) and complete a lot of classwork online. It let’s me take advantage of wait time, like riding the bus, or waiting to pick up my son at school – to get other things done, because I have all the tools I need in my pocket at all times. I find my iPhone is worth it’s weight in gold.

  81. Sara says:

    @Pattie: I happen to know a lot of people who are involved in sex positive communities. I also take public transportation, and end up meeting a lot of people who are “on their way to talk to their caseworker” after downing a half pint of vodka with lunch. People who are abused, neglected, and broken are going to cope with it somehow, and they are going to cry out for the attention that they need – either constructively, or destructively. Stripping is not the cause of their misfortune, nor is it the other way around. Regardless of whether they strip or not, these people end up in your care due to other circumstances in their lives.
    That said, obviously the women who are happy, healthy, confident women who also happen to strip are not going to be the ones who end up coming to you for help. And, they are not going to become those kinds of women just because they are strippers.

  82. Johanna says:

    And while I’m singling out my fellow commenters, I’ll go ahead and give the award for the most common sense to Katie. :)

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