This is a transcript of an interview with Jaime Vandenberg, Miss Canada 2021. We do interviews with various successful people and ask them about their experience on how and where to invest money.
Hi Jaime! How comfortable are you talking about money in general?
I think it's a touchy question because for myself I recognize that I come from a certain level of privilege that might not be obviously equal across the board. And especially coming from a different country, especially as a woman too, I feel like that's a whole nother conversation. But when it comes to financial independency and even gender pay gap, the gender pay gap in Canada is not nearly as extreme as it is in Mexico here. So for me I guess I'm pretty comfortable talking about finances, because I feel like I have nothing to hide. And when it comes to modelling and pageantry I think people can become a little bit closed off. And how are other people going to learn about the industry, if nobody talks about it!
When did you earn your first money? What was it? How much did you earn?
Okay, so my first job I think I would have been like 12 or 14 years old. I was actually really quite young and I got a job working at a hotel. It was not glamorous at all. My job was like three different parts: sweep the cigarette butts out front of the hotel, set up the continental breakfast and then, if I didn't finish by noon, sometimes I would help the housekeepers make beds. And it was nice because I got paid bi-weekly, so I got paid pretty quick after starting this job. It was not very much. I think it was maybe seven dollars and 25 cents Canadian an hour at that time. And i was only working part-time.
Do you remember where you spent your first money?
Yeah, i'm pretty sure I spent it on like a nerf gun, because I grew up with all my brothers and they always had the plastic guns that have like the little foamy balls. I wanted one so bad, but my parents were like “Yeah, we're not gonna buy you one. You have to learn the value of a dollar. If you want a nerf gun, you're gonna have to go and get a job”. So I did.
So you started working early and when you started generating income, did you start saving right away? Or are you saving now?
So I actually did start saving a lot when I was younger because for me I really wanted a car when I was 16. So you know I really wanted to have that freedom and be able to make that happen for myself. And so i did started saving when I was quite young and I was able to buy my car myself. It was not that nice, it was a 1996 Pontiac. I think I purchased it for roughly eight hundred dollars, I don't even think it had airbags. This is a really cheap car, it was not good. My parents didn't appreciate it.
I started saving at an early age just because for me being able to save and being able to have a little bit of a cushion led to financial independence which also leads to just personal independence, too. Now I work as a model in Mexico City and so one thing I feel that people don't talk about very much when it comes to modelling is the reality of having to uproot your life and actually move and do that consistently. So it's a little bit tricky because you need to have a certain cushion, because what if you go into an industry and your face doesn't work that well? It doesn't mean that you're not beautiful, but when you're traveling and going to different countries and your job is so dependent on the beauty standards of that country, then you have no idea if you're going to book well. Typically you end up signing contracts that can be anywhere from three months to six months so you actually have to have enough of a cushion that you could float yourself in case you didn't work for three to six months.
If you want to know where to invest your money and how to invest your money, read other articles in our blog.
So does the agency provide you with any jobs?
They guarantee nothing. Maybe if you were pretty famous, there would be a guarantee, but things have changed a lot in the pandemic. The agencies out there do what's called ‘model debt’. Actually this is a very interesting conversation because nobody talks about model debt.
So when an agency offers you a contract pre-pandemic, typically they are offering to pay for your flight, for your apartment, private drivers, cell phone, pocket money, food, everything. They're going to float you just in case you don't work so you don't have to have this unstableness. Sometimes people misinterpret it. They say ‘Oh well, if the agency is gonna buy your flight and pay your rent they must really believe in you’. Or like if they're not doing this then they don't believe in you. But that's not really the case, because how it works with model debt is different.
Let's say they paid your flight, apartment and all these things and you start working. You've worked two weeks maybe every day but you're not seeing any of that money until it surpasses your model debt. So you don't get to just see the money right away and nothing in life is free. So when people have this idea ‘Oh, the agency's buying it’ – no sweetie, you're buying it. It's going on your model debt. So you're probably going to see your first cash your money in like a month.
But where do you get money this month? Do they give you some cash?
They'll give you pocket money, so you can float around. But it's tricky because now ever since the pandemic happened contracts are a little bit more tricky to get that much of a guarantee. Models and anybody working in the fashion industry don't really get to wear a face mask all the time, so you're not as protected as other industries. Maybe if you're a makeup artist hopefully they do, but that's not a guarantee. And as a model you're certainly not shooting in the face mask. That being said, if you get Covid maybe you have to go back to Canada or wherever. So it's a little bit tricky because now agencies aren't as keen to pay for your flights up front. Moreover, not only are they less keen, but as for me I wouldn't want an agency to buy my flight, because I want the freedom to just buy it for myself. I've been a couple years into the industry and I can float that for myself now, but girls that are maybe just starting might not have the same opportunities that I did.
So what kind of advice would you give?
An advice to build caution before you take a job in some other country. Even if you can get yourself a really great contract where they're gonna pay your apartment, give you pocket money, driver and everything, I firmly believe you should still have anywhere between five to ten thousand dollars. Just because if you need to buy a last minute flight home, or go the hospital and you don't have travel insurance. As a tourist and somebody who's living abroad you would need to consider certain things that might happen to you.
Where do you get this financial wisdom? Did you have any financial literacy classes at school or did your parents teach you? Or were there any books like ‘Rich dad, poor dad’?
No, but I should read that book, because everybody recommends it! I wish that we would have had financial literacy classes in school, I think that's amazing. In fact, the woman who was Miss World Canada last year, she actually organized financial literacy classes for women oh okay that was her beauty with a purpose and she went around to different like women's shelters and schools and she was able to offer financial literacy classes which is amazing because actually i think it is something that in Canada we could do better at we have a class in school that's called like career and life management and they like shorten it to com class but it definitely doesn't teach you financial literacy it's honestly it's kind of like a brush over class that nobody thinks anything about
I used to have a project where we would go to orphanages and teach financial literacy because it's it's crazy how like you know we we see money from early childhood we understand like okay i'm gonna buy milk like how much meal costs but these people like they until the age of 18 they leave in the orphanage where everything is provided like if you ask them like how much like if they ask how much money do you need they don't know like like hundred dollars like what can you buy with this like is it is it big money or is it not so it's um i don't know very interesting how like we take for granted some things that we learned from the childhood and some people don't
When you saved your money, did you invest in something knowing that inflation cuts your savings?
When I was in my undergraduate degree I worked full-time at a camping store, so I was able to actually save quite a bit while I was still in school. But that's only because we have pretty affordable post-secondary education in Canada in comparison to the United States. So I invested in mutual funds only just because I had the money saved up from working and I didn't know what to do with it. Hopefully if you can trust anyone hopefully you can trust your banker, so he advised just do like a long-term mutual funds investment. But now I don't invest in mutual funds because of traveling abroad. Like I was saying you need to have a bit of a cushion and I wanted to be a little bit more liquid for my current lifestyle.
That's also something to think about, like how liquid your capital is and how quickly you can take it for your urgent needs. So let’s answer the question: where does Jamie Vandenberg invest for our followers?
Right now I feel like i'm more just investing my time and really just trying to create the things that I want to, if that makes sense. Actually today I just launched a fundraiser called ‘Pico for purpose’ and I'm going to summit the highest peak in Mexico which is 5 636 meters and i've partnered with two different charities: one in my hometown and one here in Mexico City. They're women's shelters.
Pico de Orizaba is the third highest summit in North America and it's the number one highest summit in Mexico so it's obviously a very challenging climb. But really it's nothing compared to the issues that women face daily like the barriers that women are facing, they're climbing over. The whole idea behind the fundraiser is if i can do this it, it's going to shed light on the fact that there's so many things that women can do. I get very tired of the damsel in distress narrative and so i think for me it's going to be a really cool opportunity to talk about gender-based violence. I’m goin to talk about the actual training and the strength of women as well as talk about the statistics. So for example in Mexico City and Mexico in general nine women go missing a day. In the city with the femicide issue things can get pushed under the rug. So I'm going to take an entire month to train for this climb but also to talk about the statistics, different barriers that women are facing, femicide, gender inequality, gender pay gap, many different things.
There was one questions that remained unanswered: how much does she earn from investments. However, with investing time and effort in social projects it would be difficult to answer because some things are intangible, but still very important. The dividends from such investments are improved lives of people, recognition from communities and self realization, that are priceless.
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