Porn star investment plansFriday, 21 Mar 2014 | 8:00 AM ET
With careers in the industry often ending abruptly, some adult film stars have been planning ahead for life outside the spotlight.
For many stars in the adult entertainment industry, the long-term financial outlook is not a pretty picture.
Income in the adult film industry is down by 50 percent from about a decade ago due to shrinking profits. Only a few performers are lucky enough to be on the A-list, with females earning upward of $350,000 annually and top male stars pulling in around $100,000. The rest, on average, earn a yearly salary of just around $50,000—a few thousand dollars shy of the national median household income—and, of course, have no pension plan or 401(k) plan.
Chris Morris | CNBC
Joanna Angel on the red carpet the 2014 AVN Awards in Las Vegas.
What money adult film stars do make, according to Kennedy Leigh, an adult entertainer since 2012, is gone long before retirement.
"People find the dumbest way to spend their money," she said. "For girls, it's clothes and shoes, and it goes really fast."
International pornographic actor Stoya has seen the same bad financial habits among her peers, claiming that some of the biggest spenders splurge on designer luxury items, like Louis Vuitton and—on the darker side of the reckless-spending spectrum—drugs.
Susan Bradley, a certified financial planner and founder of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based Sudden Money Institute—a resource center specifically dedicated to handling the human dynamics of financial change—said this is not the kind of client typically advised by the Sudden Money network of financial advisors, but there are underlying human elements to the adult entertainment financial picture that mirror other individuals in "windfall" scenarios.
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Splurge spending is a big problem among "sudden money" clients. Especially in a city like Los Angeles, "where there is all of that bling in your face and fast, big money, it's easy to get pulled into it, and you end up not just spending more than you can afford but with more debt as a result and even bankruptcy," Bradley said.
This, coupled with the fact that most of these performers lack a proactive mind-set when it comes to getting under the covers with some practical budgeting and financial planning, leaves few adult film stars with any hope for a comfortable future.
"If you're young and hitting fast money and in a culture like that, a simple system ... puts you way ahead of the game."-Susan Bradley, founder of the Sudden Money Institute
Pursuing life after pornOne of the biggest problems for female porn stars is that their careers, which typically begin in their early 20s, tend to be short—the typical career arc stretches from six to 18 months. Thus, most adult actors find themselves "retired" before age 25 and many are forced to pursue new avenues.
The Sudden Money Institute does have an advisor who works on a pro bono basis for the New York court system with prostitutes. When brought before the judge, they are given the option of entering a life-planning program provided by the government that includes financial planning.
Bradley expects adult film stars face similar issues: "They don't have a reliable way of making that same kind of money again. It's not someone who has learned a craft that can be reliably repeated."
(Read more: Is the porn industry imperiled?)
As a result, some go back to school to earn a degree; some invest in hot artisan industries, including winemaking; still others turn to more adventurous careers, like bounty hunting, which is where you'll find retired porn star and professional wrestler Sandra Scott—though many people don't want her to find them.
Some stars have even taken an entrepreneurial role within the industry, such as Joanna Angel, who started her own porn site catering to an emerging genre of adult films known as Alt porn, featuring individuals who are classified as members of subcultures, such as goths and punks.
Building on their life of pornBy sticking to sound financial planning advice, many former porn stars were able to build upon their short adult film careers to create a bright future. At this year's Adult Video News awards show—the largest in the industry—performers reflected on their financial futures and post-career lives. Some, such as adult actors Tanya Tate and Amy Anderson, used their adult entertainment income to invest in real estate.
"I always try to save," Tate said. "I just bought a house." Anderson chose the same route, investing in property in downtown Toronto. "That's going to help me out for my future," she said.
"You save, you invest, and you diversify," said actress Sovereign Syre, echoing a message voiced by Angel and Tate. Syre started planning from a simple idea: The money an adult film star makes in "the first five years ... needs to last you for the next 50."
As a first step, many financial advisors might recommend these adult entertainers go through the hypothetical exercise of imagining they had to live on their "windfall" for the rest of their life and therefore set a personal budget right from the start. But Bradley doesn't believe in that approach. "What they need is a lifestyle system that is simple."
Bradley instead recommends taking half of whatever amount they have made and put it away in the bank—into the proverbial lock box and throw away the key—and spend the other half, with the caveat that spending should not include any long-term financial commitments (expensive car leases, 12-month leases on luxury real estate). While some advisors would say this only encourages spending, Bradley thinks it's futile to try to change someone's psychology by more or less scaring them straight.
"If you're young and hitting fast money and in a culture like that, a simple system like this puts you way ahead of the game," Bradley said. "Put half in one pocket and the other half in the bank and spend out of that, and when that's done, you have to go back to work."
She added: "In real life, people don't have any way to answer the question, 'What can I afford?' Invariably, they will be tempted to buy. The impulse nature is stronger than you can possibly imagine, and in that business, impulse is a big part of their life. All the other complicated stuff that advisors talk about doesn't take impulse into account."
In an industry where stars are commonly impulsive spenders, financial planners advise a simple system to save for the future.