TRIGGER WARNING: The following content has descriptions of tragedy, sex, abuse, self-injurious behavior. Read at your own risk. The following Transcript has been translated and edited to be concise. The original interview was a mix of English and Thai and using google translate.
Some of the questions have been excluded for continuation of the write-up. Some of the English has been editing for easier reading, but not too much to capture the spirit of what is being expressed. - Tina
How Money Maverick Met 'Nana'
'Nana' is a thin looking girl but with a big smile and bright eyes. As she talks to me, her laugh is infectious. She does come across as attractive and it's hard to believe that she's 38 years old already. Her photos across the years make it seem like she hasn't aged too much in the last 6 years at least. I was under the impression that most escorts needed a lot of make-up to be secure or attractive but as she calls me from her hometown, Nana is secure in wearing little make up and still looking very much like in her photos. Her voice is clear and confident, even if her English isn't.
SETH: Hi! I'm L [The Original Money Maverick] 's friend, the one he mentioned.
NANA: Hi, I'm Nana.
SETH: How do you know L? NANA: We met in a empty street with tall buildings . No one would speak to me or help me, but he did. I remember that day clearly. He looked so flustered and distracted, he was easy to approach.
[I later clarified with L that he had met her near Tanjong Pagar on his way back from an appointment, and it had been especially hot that day.]
NANA: I looked for a Western Union to transfer money back to my home but no one will help me. When he made eye contact with me, I quickly pounced on him.
SETH: When was this? NANA: About 3 years ago. Back then, I did not know how to use Transferwise. I asked him to show me how to get to Western Union on my phone. [she laughs] NANA: We reached the Headquarters, not a service station. L was angry, he called us a taxi to Lucky Plaza. He is very kind. We are good friends.
How 'Nana' Came To Work As an Escort
NANA: The first time I tried this work, I was about 18 or 19. It was holiday season and some of my girl friends knew that there would be a lot of foreigners coming in. They told me it was good money, and it was because they always had more expensive make up and creams than me.
I was graduating already (from high school) but I did not do well in school, so I thought I would try.
I don't think [the first time] it was a good experience [being an escort]. But not a bad experience also. I felt I would not want to do it again but I would do it if I had to. That was how I felt at the time.
At the time I had a boyfriend. I really pity him, because I did not tell him. We broke up after.
SETH: I'm sorry to hear that.
NANA: Actually this is more common. Many girls need the money and it feels okay since all your friends are doing it or recommending it. It is part of life.
I tried many jobs but was not successful often. So eventually I went back to escorting, mostly at Pattaya during holiday seasons. Whether its students or men, they all come in around the same time.
I stopped for a while when my friend died. She had gotten a disease and did not tell us for months. All the time she was working but Boss had to let her go because customers complained about her too much. Later we found out what happened. It was very sad and made me think to stop.
I met my husband when I was working for a beauty shop as an assistant. He kept coming back every day to disturb me, so I eventually (relented) to go out with him. He treated me very well and we enjoyed simple things. After a while, he asked me to marry him and I accepted. We were very happy.
When I was pregnant with [David's Thai Name], the police called. My husband's motorcycle had been hit by a car and he is gone. At the time, my world felt like it had collapsed forever.
Sometimes I still miss him, but looking back we were very lucky. He was not a bad man, he worked hard, he saved money which I got some and he did not gamble or have sex with others. I am thankful I never told him about my work before, although I think he suspected.
After giving birth, I tried to find a job but it was even harder than before. I also had gotten used to him [her husband] taking care of us. I fought a lot with his mother about the property and about David. She felt that I would not be a good mother and wanted me to give David to them. Out of spite, I took what we received and moved back home [her hometown]. Because I did not feel I had any other choice, I decided to go back into Escort Work.
What It Means to Struggle
NANA: Most girls will come here [the job, or overseas for escort work?] because they are desperate for a lot of money. Many of them are the same like me. Some became pregnant very early on and no one will support them. Some of them choose this for the money. Others are in my circumstance: they became pregnant too young and the father is no longer in the picture. Actually, this happens very often and it makes me very angry if the men are irresponsible. I think I am more lucky. My son is 14 years old now and he understands me. There are also some who will get a referral reward for bringing their friends in. This makes many more girls trapped into this culture because the money can seem very good but if they do not have medication or regular testing from a bad boss or themselves, they might become sick or pregnant. It is expensive.
Then they have to work as escorts to make the money. It goes from a choice to no choice.
Her Motivation Towards Financial Freedom: David
NANA: The idea of being Financially Free is still strange to me. I worked many jobs over 25 years and it was the first time for me to hear.
There are many investment scams in Thailand. So we do not believe in investing, unless it is a bank. And even sometimes the bank takes advantage of us because we cannot understand the legal conditions. So it is very frustrating. READ ALSO: Why You Should Be Cautious of Investments Promising MUCH MORE Than 10% (especially without context)
My son was apart from me the first six years of his life. My sister and her husband helped me raise him while I went to work for money. After a few more years in Pattaya, some of the 'better' group wanted to unite and go overseas to make it. They felt the money was better, and I went with them. Sometimes it was an opportunity, but other times we were scammed. When you work so hard and have nothing to show for it, you go into despair. Often I thought about hurting or killing myself. But I thought of my son. He is innocent and a joy to me in this world. When I look at him, I see the qualities of his father as well. I am lucky to have that, many other girls did not. So I kept learning and going.
After I became wiser I was able to avoid bad opportunities and find good ones. So I saved a lot of money and came back to Thailand, wanting to be with my son. I had hoped that I could find a normal job.
At this point, Nana cried for a while as I sat quietly.
I rented the room with my sister and her husband. It was very difficult at first because he did not know me or recognize me. Sometimes when he called my sister, 'Mother' it made me sad, but I understood because she was the one there. It was difficult the first 2 years because I tried to be available as a parent as much as possible compared to before. My sister and her husband had to work so they always left him to play with his cousin. I don't blame them but he had some bad habits and I was worried he would end up having a difficult life like me. We fought very often and I felt very sad.
I could not find a stable job those 2 years as well. I think he resented me. We did not have a good relationship but I tried my best. Eventually, I went back to escorting. It was not a good idea because I could not travel far without a motorcycle and word began to get around. People would say bad things about me just from hearing it alone. At the time, I was almost about to give up.
I think my sister talked to David. He must have heard. But he did not reject me. Maybe he was too young to understand. He just could see me suffering.
He told me that 'Mom you can stop worrying about me. I will become a monk and take care of you when you are old'. This made me so happy, but later on very sad because it would mean I could not see him anymore.
SETH: Sorry, I don't really understand. How come you could not see him if he became a monk?
NANA: Monks have to be separated from their household until they become adults. From there, they can choose if they want to continue monkhood. There are many government and religious programs like that.
When he turned 9 years old, I enrolled him into the program.
The program is very good. It pays for his basic education and food and living. It also teaches him a lot about discipline and helps him lose weight.
Nana laughs and shows me the most recent picture of him she has through the zoom call, which is the wallpaper of her phone. The boy behind her is quite fat.
High school and University is half-price. But the price itself is not expensive. University Degree for him will only cost 24000 baht or less in total, or about 1800 baht a semester.
SETH: Really?! That's amazing. [1800 Baht is about $75SGD, or 25 plates of chicken rice.]
NANA: After he left, I missed him so much. I cried every day for a month. I asked God why he would give me back my son after years of hard work only to take him away from me again. But I realize that my thinking was wrong. My son loves me and gave up his childhood for me. We were making sacrifices for each other. I know he told me he would take care of me in the future, but I did not want him to give up more than he had already. So I left my town and went back to escorting, but I wanted to be smarter and bolder this time. I had almost run out of all the money I had saved already. To be more careful, and to save a lot more.
There are many bad days. Sometimes your skin will be damaged or hair will be pulled. Sometimes the customer will break the agreement and your health is at risk, or you are in pain. Sometimes your boss is bad and will not help you. The medications are also not fool proof and there are many side effects that make you feel sick and disgusted or emotionless or too much emotion. But I think a lot about my son, and I try to do my best at the job. After many years, I know how to make men happy. If they are happy with me, they will not hurt me unnecessarily. Every day that I get through, I counted my money and see it is worth it for my son.
Escort Culture [Q and A Part 1]
[This part of the conversation went on for almost an hour, but she answered questions on the following. More questions and answers will be on Part 2, if you would like a Part 2]
On Escort Work: We can guide tourists and give a GFE (Girlfriend Experience), but most of our work is determined by hour or number of 'shots'.
Shots is the number of the time the man releases (orgasms).
On Bosses/Pimps: In every country, we have a new boss or 'Dad'. Many of these Dads are locals in the countries which we get sent to.
Before, a lot of it was just tourist sites like Pattaya. But now many run online advertisements. We will take sexy pictures and send our bosses to broadcasts. This is very important because it can determine the requests for us.
Boss takes a very big cut every time (almost everything sans basic necessities) we have a customer until the cost of the flight, medications/medical tests and rooms are paid off. It can take weeks to repay, so if a girl quits halfway she will have sold herself for nothing.
After that, his cut becomes smaller for just the customers [acquisition]. I am not sure about others but this is the arrangement I have done for the last 8 years.
On Incall Locations: Most of these locations are scouted beforehand and the girls are shifted around every few days. Sometimes we will also shift location, depending on the schedule. Discretion is taken very seriously and we are punished for not enforcing it. For example, the callers have to identify themselves to our 'Dad' through messaging from their shirt colors. We will not open the door until we can confirm it is correct. There will be specific instructions on how each customer can arrive. For the more prominent hotels, we may pick them up from less obvious areas like the parking lots or the shared areas like swimming pools. I asked if this was applicable during Covid, but she wasn't around for most of it.
On The Work Itself: My customers have told me over the years that they like when I laugh and smile. I do not think I am very beautiful compared to many of my friends, but sometimes I am higher in demand because I have more regulars.
I think I am just more energetic and more engaged during my work than others who might be even much more beautiful. It is experience. After I improved and practiced my English after so many years, I have only become better. After so many years, I think men are not actually crazy about sex. Well, some of them like to be wild for a short while but they will become limp quickly. It is funny.
During the time they are resting is what is most important. They want to be listened to or comforted or just to feel in control. They want someone to make them feel good and they want to feel attractive. It is important to laugh and smile at them, with them. When they treat you well, say thank you. I am always surprised how happy such small things make men. Especially in Maldives or Singapore, some of my regulars give me expensive gifts or message me even when I am overseas telling me how much they miss me. They miss me, not just my body. It is interesting.
Starting on Financial Freedom
SETH: L tells me you've achieved Financial Freedom already. How did you do it?
NANA: When he spoke to me about this we had a difficult time. I was making a lot of money at the time and saving it carefully but I was actually in despair. It felt like nothing would change because I just did not have enough. My age was also starting to show.
My friends have joked that I have not aged in the last 15 years. I work hard for my body to be fit but not too fit because men do not usually like bony girls or too much muscle. Just enough fats but slim enough to be attractive is good. But my face has aged over the years. Maybe stress, hahah.
I had scared of buying a property because it was too expensive and I worried about the interest. So I tried to save money to buy the whole thing, but property is so expensive. I would need to work many more years. This made me very sad and hopeless.
I had invited L over to my apartment to thank him for what he did for me when we met. Not because it was expensive but because he was very kind to me and he really did not know what I did for a living. This was when I was doing really well, so Boss got me my own room.
He innocently came by and I ordered us pizza. He noticed condoms by my bed and his face was very funny. I talked to him about myself and my son and he offered his help. It made me very happy that he did not realize until then what I'm working.
Actually the first time he talked to me about Money, I was afraid that he was a scammer. His English is too good and he talks very fast when he is excited. So I did not understand a lot of it at the time.
The first time, I only remembered about his girlfriend and building a house in Thailand. This made me think that building may make more sense. We went online that night together and saw that actually building a house cost much less than buying one.
When my Father passed away there was a small plot of land next to my neighbors (presently) that he owned that is mine now. This was over 20 years ago but I never considered I could ever use it. The value was very little, even now is very little. But maybe it was enough to build a house. That night, I cried a lot and thanked God.
Before I left Singapore in 2019, I met L again. He had gotten some help from his girlfriend in communicating some of his ideas to me, make it more simpler. I already trust him a lot but I fully trust him when he showed me things I could try from Thailand and not asking me to leave money in Singapore, although sometimes I wish I left money in Singapore instead!
[This is a reference to the SGD appreciating against Baht in the last few years since they met]
This time I was more attentive and I took down notes and used Translate often when I did not understand something. I would also ask him to slow down when he talks. Nowadays when we talk, a lot is about interest, economics, mortgage, legal laws.
I took his advice and made arrangements whenever I passing through Thailand.
Financial Freedom Lessons/Ideas
[After saying that NANA talks a wide range of points, so I get her to summarize]
1. Overseas Investing: The best skill I learnt is investing overseas like investing in United States and China. I started with the banks and took his advice about negotiating fees since I knew what I was looking for. L was kind to send me a snapshot of his invested in and I just tried to find similar items. When a bank did not give me what I feel was fair, I would find a different one. Eventually, I got what I wanted. Actually it was supposed to be a portfolio for many years. But because my timing was very lucky, I almost made twice as much money. I was so excited. I called him to ask if I should just sell and he suggested that I do so for the house.
Investing changed my life because I made 6 years of work and savings almost overnight. Because I took good advice, I received a free house after 1 year.
Every day, I am grateful to him. Nowadays because I have more time and money, I try different things on Tiger Brokers. It is cheap and fast and many Thais are using it lately.
2. Not skimping on cost of building: In Thailand there are cases of scams for developing property. I paid more money for reputable materials and builders. The house began construction towards the end of 2019 and was completed last year. It felt hurt at first but my neighbors have much more complaints than me.
Normally there could be developed complications but I have come home several times and found nothing missing. It is warm and spacious.
3. Learn Decumulation Ideas: L has tried to tell me about dividends at least twice and he always forgets there are not many options available here. After that, he tried to teach me about 4% rule. Many of the articles are written in English and the translation is very bad. But from what I understood from him, I need to keep the investment more steady so I can withdraw regularly.
Eventually, I decided to leave a portion of my money to grow as far and as long as it can. I hope it can double, triple or grow until 1million. [she laughs].
The rest of it is in a high-interest savings account that required a high minimum balance.
If I budget correctly, my current savings will last me till Age 90 even if I stopped work now. Aside from my house, the savings account and my investment, I have no other assets. So I need to be very careful. I'm still trying to look at the 4% rule but it is difficult because the English is hard. L has offered to help some times but it would not be fair to his clients.
I am also looking for dividend funds without high charges, but I am more interested in a growth investment that I design myself and be responsible for. I feel it is fairer that way because I have already received enough kindness and advice.
4. Avoid Hidden Fees and Complications: I have been investing the spare money from working partially into the SET, because I worry about future taxes or currency risk. The SET is not performing right now but I think there is still hope and less complications. I try to bear these things in my mind to the best of my ability.
Anytime I invest, I read as much as I can to make sure there are no hidden charges. Every baht is very important to me.
Summary of Assets for Financial Freedom:
Seth: 1SGD is about 24 Thai Baht.
Value of House: About 770,000 Baht in total. Paying the workers and renovation cost more actually but I am not looking to sell it for more money anyway. I just want a home that belongs to me and protects my family.
It is hard to believe that not long ago I was despairing because I believed it would cost twice as much. To work for another 20 years of this hardship would be too much for me.
Value of Current Investments: About 400,000 Baht presently. I have some left over investments in the bank as well, but I do not think it is more than 100,000 Baht. The SET Fund is not doing well.
Value of Cash in High Interest Account: Over 750,000 Baht.
1) How much do you spend a month?
NANA: Most days I can spend less than 80 baht if I budget well. If I am home, this becomes more expensive for maintenance of the house. Without inflation, I can live off my savings alone for over 19 years if I am careful. But I rent it out when I am not home so I also have more money.
2) What is your current situation?
NANA: I am still working but it is assuring to know that I do not need to. I took a holiday in Japan where I actually did not work at all. It felt strange, because every time I am in a new country it is for work.
During that time, I realized that I still would like to work until I know what I want to do next. It has been many years of work. I am not sure I know what to do next. Or what I like to try. Especially because I did not think I would ever have a choice. I believed I would work as an Escort until death. [she laughs]. [At this point, I decide not to ask her about her plans for the future since she herself is unsure]
Many girls in Thailand dream of opening their own food or clothes shop when they are young. I am old now. I don't think it is possible. I am not sure it is good anyway. So I will think about it.
I got a dog. Dogs are expensive, but I am very happy and thankful I can afford one.
3) When will you be reunited with your son?
NANA: I see him a few times a year, so we are not really apart. We have both learnt to spend less time with each other but I still love him very much and I hope he will live with me after graduation.
But if he does well, he may be offered higher education from the monastery and stay there for the rest of his life after graduation.
We will see, but I will accept anything as long as he is happy and not suffering.
4) What is the most expensive thing you bought since you achieved Financial Freedom?
NANA: The dog. But I was vaping the last few years, that was actually very expensive too. I still like the flavors very much. If I had used less, I might have been free a few months sooner.
5) How does it feel to be Financially Free?
NANA: I still don't believe it sometimes. But I'm very happy and very blessed. I hope that the rest of my life is this happy. Yes, I am still working but I feel safe for the first time in many years, since I got married. I am even happier at work because I know I can quit anytime. I hope nothing can take away my happiness.
SETH: Any last things you would like to say to the readers? NANA: I hope others can understand that Thais have very difficult lives. I wish for no one to be hurt or get the wrong impression from my interview.
For me, I just have the belief that I am just a woman and mother trying to survive and make it good for myself and my son. I have some regrets that I would like to solve but I am only trying my best. I hope others can achieve Financial Freedom without suffering as much as us. Please save money while you can before you get tired and old. Because you never know what you miss out no matter how smart you are. Investing changed my whole life, but until today what I am most surprised that I did not consider building on my plot of land.
Thais are very reserved about talking to others about money. I was very lucky I was in the right time in my life and met the right person to talk about it with.
To my dear friend L, I hope I will see you in Bangkok this December! I am looking forward to seeing you and the happiness you are fighting so hard for.
Don't worry, I will only teach her good things. that will make you happy but you may still scream. ;)
[NANA expresses that she's just joking. We speak for a while more and I thank her for her time]