July 2022: Lindsey Swanson, CEO of Stripper Financial Planning, says, “Let’s Talk Safety Nets” in this article on her blog, Scoops of Vanilla

With any occupation that has variable income, it’s important to establish backup plans. Especially in sex work, you’ll want to prepare for the slower times and have a strategy if your accounts are unexpectedly shut down.

Here are the three safety nets I recommend especially for sex workers:

1. Health Insurance: If you don’t have access to an employer plan, through your job or a spouse’s, then you’ll want to look at health insurance options through the marketplace. This is generally more expensive than a group policy but especially necessary during the pandemic. In 2021, half of all Americans were carrying medical debt. If you’re playing the odds that you won’t need coverage, you’re definitely risking your financial stability.

2. Emergency Fund: An emergency fund is a necessity for everyone, but especially those with variable income. The rule of thumb for a standard full-time job is to save three months’ worth of expenses if you live in a two-income household and six months of expenses if you live in a one income household. That being said, if you aren’t earning a reliable income you may want to also consider setting aside the funds from more profitable months to cover months that are generally slower.

3. Revenue Back-up Plan: When you’re self-employed, you want to always be thinking of the next move you can make to generate revenue and stabilize your business. Ideally, this move would be to more enjoyable and profitable ventures, but you also want to have some back up plans in place. This could be as simple as knowing you could get a job as a bartender or barista. It could also be taking on an additional part time gig that gives you experience you’d like, such as management opportunities or interning to get connected to a new industry. It’s less about leaning into the sex work industry or transitioning out, as much as giving yourself reliable options in case your local laws change or your current gig slows in profitability.

The Bottom Line: Think through your situation and what safety nets you have available to you, along with what you’ll need to DIY. You can use Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to better understand where you stand with your stability. Ideally, you’ll have privileges in your life that would keep you from needing to be in an unsafe job or relationship to meet your basic needs. This could look like being able to borrow someone’s car, family covering unexpected expenses, using a partner’s health insurance, etc.

For example: What would happen if you accidentally broke your arm.

  • Would you have health insurance to pay the majority of your emergency room visit or would you need to pay for it out of pocket? If you don’t have the funds, would a family member cover the expense or would you need to come up with the money?
  • If you couldn’t work for a month, how would you cover your bills during that time? Would you have savings to cover the lack of income or would you try to borrow money?
  • As a self-employed person in a stigmatized industry, there’s often more risk of dropping below the safety needs line. If you don’t have safety nets set up, how will you handle a crisis?

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