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Financial wellness for musicians

News From the Actors Fund

Rebecca SelkoweThe Actors Fund is your one-stop shop for almost any kind of service you can imagine. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, housing, substance abuse, financial counseling, food stamps and more. The Actors Fund is open to musicians, actors and all entertainment professionals. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at (212) 221-7300, ext. 119 or IntakeNY@ActorsFund.org or see
www.ActorsFund.org

Rebecca Selkowe

Over the next few issues we’d like to reintroduce you to the variety of programs available to all musicians through the Actors Fund and the people who coordinate these services. This month we will introduce you to Rebecca Selkowe, our financial wellness counselor. Our financial wellness program has grown out of our experiences of working with musicians as well as others in the performing arts whose passion and confidence in their ability to perform their craft is not always matched by their ability to manage their financial life. We believe that everyone is capable of putting plans in place to reach their financial goals and our hope is to provide you the tools and support to do so.

THE ACTORS FUND: Tell us about your background and how you got involved in financial wellness.

REBECCA SELKOWE: My passion for financial literacy and my deep desire to help others understand and improve their relationship with money was born out of my own experience dealing with an overwhelming amount of student loan debt. I earned my law degree and practiced law for a number of years in NYC, helping friends informally before taking the plunge and starting my own financial education and coaching company. My first book, “Dominate Your Debt: A Work & Play Book,” was published last year. I am also a classically-trained singer and flutist, and it is a joy and an honor to support the performing arts community in this way, creating the space for them to do even more of their beautiful work in this world! To me, personal finance is a puzzle. There is always a way to make the pieces fit, and my role as financial wellness counselor is to help my clients find it. I am always trying to come up with new ways to bring structure, positive energy, and fun to what is, for most people, an unpleasant subject. How can I make sure not only that you get the information you need, but that you feel engaged and empowered to do something about it? This work inspires, challenges and fulfills me every day.

THE ACTORS FUND: What are some of the particular challenges musicians face when it comes to financial wellness?

REBECCA SELKOWE: Variable income is the biggest hurdle. Traditional budgeting and financial management tools do not apply when the amount of money flowing in fluctuates and is not necessarily predictable or within your control. Inconsistent income, multiple sources of income, and how to reconcile that with living in NYC are particular challenges to musicians who don’t necessarily earn and spend the same way each month. Couple the limiting belief that “money stuff” is not within your particular skill set as an artist with the very real fact that conventional finance rules doesn’t apply, and you’ve got the entire foundation of what we’re trying to achieve with the financial wellness program.

THE ACTORS FUND: How can the financial wellness program help musicians and other artists?

REBECCA SELKOWE: We offer several different workshops designed to help participants find balance and consistency in their financial lives. “Intro to Financial Wellness” is a single-session workshop that provides the foundation for all of our other workshops and programs. Participants learn simple strategies for tracking income and expenses in a way that makes sense for performing artists and entertainment professionals who don’t always earn and spend the same way each month. “Money and the Performing Artist” explores how family, cultural and entertainment industry attitudes contribute to how we think about and use money. “Managing Cash Flow for Artists” helps participants to learn and begin to implement specific strategies for organizing expenses, balancing multiple sources of income, planning for dry spells, and aligning professional and financial goals. We also offer a number of subject-specific workshops including investing, debt and credit, and tax preparation for creative professionals.

THE ACTORS FUND: What are some of the goals of the financial wellness program?

REBECCA SELKOWE: We try to foster an encouraging, dynamic, rich environment to support musicians so they can do their great work confident that their “money stuff” is being handled. Recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to financial wellness, the main goals of the financial wellness program are to help participants understand and clarify the role money plays in their lives, and learn and develop the skills and tools that will allow them to build the relationship with money they want. Much like physical health, financial wellness is a journey, not a problem to solve or a project to complete. We want you to be clear about your options, and have systems and structures in place that will give you the flexibility to help you “work with what you got” and reach solvency – and beyond!

THE ACTORS FUND: What are your top tips for someone to get started?

REBECCA SELKOWE: Come to our intro workshop! We host this every month and it is designed to help you figure out your unique starting place and connect with resources to take whatever next step makes the most sense for you.

In addition to that, I would say two things. One, be clear about what you want and what resources you need in order to get it. Two, and more concretely, get curious and begin to educate yourself. Learn as much as you can. Read books and articles. Ask questions. And set aside a time each week to deal with your money. At the core, you need to know what’s coming in and what’s going out. If this is fuzzy, nothing else is going to make sense. If we don’t think we’re going to like those numbers and what they mean, the tendency is to avoid, so take one small action to get you going. It is very likely going to feel awkward at first, so try to think of it like rehearsing a new piece (or even picking up a new instrument for the first time!). It will not be perfect. It will take time. Keep practicing. And know that there are places you can go for support!

The next introduction to financial wellness workshop takes place on April 4 and again on May 2 (you don’t have to attend both – just pick one). Workshops are free. Once you take the intro course, you may enroll in “Money and the Performing Artist” or “Managing Cash Flow.” For details, see www.actorsfund.org/workshops

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