The Actors Fund is a national human services organization that helps everyone who works in performing arts and entertainment – including musicians! Programs include social services and emergency financial assistance, health care and insurance counseling, housing and employment and training services. Contact us at www.actorsfund.org or call (212) 221.7300 ext. 119.
Every year, millions of people write out a fresh list of goals in the hopes of making the next 12 months better than the previous dozen. Those of us in performing arts and entertainment are no exception. But in our world, it’s an easy mistake to set only professional goals, forgetting about the fuel needed to bring those goals to fruition. It might not be the most glamorous activity, but it’s important to remember your financial goals rather than just focusing on your art. By making sure that your financial picture is healthy, you’re bound to have the fuel ready to have a happier and more balanced 2016.
SOME FINANCIAL GOALS TO ACT ON
EMERGENCY FUND: If you don’t have a cash reserve, now’s the time to start one. Anything can happen – and probably will – in 2016. You’ll want to know that you’ve got some money in the bank to better handle any challenging times that occur.
PROTECTING YOUR DOWNSIDE: Sadly, there’s no way to know when you might face an illness or accident, so it’s important to get your insurance lined up. When it comes to your health, the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC.org), created by the Actors Fund, helps artists everywhere get affordable, quality health insurance and health care.
CREATING A BUDGET: This is maybe the single, most often written financial goal and the one most broken. We’re not great at sticking to a plan of spending, especially if we’ve never expected it from ourselves. If you’ve always just spent what you made, this is a brand new habit, and it’s going to take some work to instill the discipline of maintaining a budget. Realize that you won’t be perfect. It’s okay! Just don’t quit trying to get it right. Give yourself an allowance for “fun money” and a set amount for areas of weakness, like eating at restaurants or entertainment. One simple tool is to put actual money into different envelopes, with each envelope representing a different fund (i.e. restaurant fund, movie fund, etc.) Once that envelope is empty, you can’t refill it until you reach the next period when you refill all the envelopes. By sticking to this type of plan, you’ll teach yourself to go without when you overdo it.
START SAVING FOR THE FUTURE: Saving money is the only way to ensure that in the future you won’t have to work as hard as you are now. It’s important to start right now, even if it’s only a small amount, and it should be separate from the emergency fund we discussed above. Consider raising your savings by 1 percent of your income right now. If you bring home $300 per week that means putting away only $3 more than you were previously saving! Raise it 1 percent again every six months. This is a great way to test the waters in saving money and to prove to yourself that it can be done. By putting just a little bit more away every six months, you’ll be saving 6 percent of your income within three years and in five years you’ll be saving 10 percent.
When are you going to act on these financial goals? You need to give yourself a set schedule because if you just say, “I’m going to do it,” nothing will happen. Make this process easier by putting each of these tasks into your calendar. When the day comes, realize that your brain is probably going to come up with a list of other jobs that just have to get done first. This is normal! Your brain doesn’t want to learn a new budget, evaluate insurances or save more money. These are tasks that sound hard. Decide now to “resist your resistance” by staying committed to your assignments.
As you accomplish the first tasks in each of these areas, you’ll begin to identify additional opportunities and pursue them. You’ll learn shortcuts that make it easier to complete your financial activities. The initial kick you got from starting down the path is nothing compared to the feeling you’ll have when there’s money in the bank, you’re protected from calamity, and you have a budget for the future. In short, you won’t just be better in 2016. You’ll be a force that can focus on the things that are most important to you, without distraction and with the knowledge that you’ve developed the skills to handle funding your goals in the future.
Miata Edoga is a financial wellness counselor at the Actors Fund.