Dance As Empowerment: The Dance Enthusiast Talks Artists Financial Health
An Interview with Money Guru and Artist David Maurice Sharp
Do you have issues with money?
I may have dedicated my life to dance and the movement arts but, in spite of that, somewhere along the way a small part of me bought into the idea that Dance is not a "real" profession and that, as an "Artist," financial security will be forever out of my reach. While I may know very little about financial health, one thing I do know: As long as you believe something is impossible, it is.
Well then, time to get over it and put that part of life in order. New Year's resolutions and all that! But… How, exactly? In spite of all good intentions and that gust of New Year optimism, I draw a blank here.
Enter (stage left) -- the Money Hero!
Last October, Money Magazine awarded David Maurice Sharp with this spiffy, spandex-sounding award for the work he is doing educating artists about financial investments. Oxymoron? According to Sharp, not at all. He makes it sound feasible and even simple -- simple enough that I've already started shifting my thinking and my habits. (Thank you David!)
According to the search team at Money Magazine, Sharp is the only candidate they found doing this type of work. Most financial investors and planners are not interested in working with artists because there isn't enough money in it for them. But Sharp is operating here as a teacher, giving us the framework and information we need to manage our money ourselves. He helps us understand the incremental steps needed, and how to think about our finances.
A modern dancer, actor and "movement designer,” Sharp has been working on Wall Street since the late 80s in various capacities for his "night job" (most recently as a specialist in restructurings involving publicly traded securities). He has been teaching workshops for performers and artists since 2008 and began The Thriving Artists Investment Club in 1998 (which topped out at a 40% return for many originating members, by the way!!). His book, The Thriving Artist, comes out February 19th.
Sharp's big concern in writing a book like this was making the technical information (stocks, bonds, insurance, etc.) readable. Real life stories and relevant anecdotes are interspersed (with his ever present, down-to-earth humor), so that we can make sense of it all without our eyes glazing over. “Just because we may be bored by financial terminology or numbers does not mean that we cannot understand them.”
I asked him if the adage, "You teach best what you most need to learn," is true for him in this case. His response: Absolutely. In the early days of his career, he says he never saved anything and just wanted to spend when he did earn. He lived with a “feast or famine” mentality and was scared to invest. But that is all turned around now, and his firsthand experience only helps him to help us better now!
FIVE SIMPLE STEPS FOR FINANCIAL HEALTH
1. Know how much you need each month to survive (your monthly budget or "Nut" he calls it). Be realistic.
2. Save regularly -- even $5 a month if that is all you can do--just get started and keep at it. Develop the habit of saving.
3. Put your earnings into a savings account and pay yourself a monthly "paycheck" from there that will cover your "Nut". Keep the rest in savings for when things are tight again.
4. Invest your savings, bit by bit, keeping an eye on the long-term picture, like "creating a mosaic out of small tiles." (If this scares you or you have no idea how or where to begin, read the book. There are options for all types of temperaments, including the seriously risk averse.)
5. Every quarter, draw up a list of your assets and liabilities (what you own and what you owe). Seeing your assets grow and your liabilities diminish over time is great motivation!
TOP TEN LESS THAN IDEAL FINANCIAL STRATEGIES FOR ARTISTS
1. "I am not smart enough."
Sharp says that the worst mistake we make is thinking that this is information we can't understand. We can!
2. "I am too poor."
The second worst mistake is thinking we'll never have enough money to invest so this doesn't apply to us. It does! There are plenty of ways to begin investing with even limited amounts of cash.
3. "It is only worth it if I can get a 15-20% return."
"If something seems too good to be true, it probably is," he says. Don't chase after high returns. Build a solid portfolio, with some safe, low-return investments for security.
4. "My friend says this investment is a sure bet."
Take the tip, but do the research and be sure you understand what the investment is all about for yourself.
5. "No worries. I'm set. I'm going to marry a millionaire."
Don't be dependent on someone else for your financial stability. Self-reliance means your relationships have a better chance of staying healthy.
6. "The Universe will provide."
Great! But don't let all that abundance wash over you and pour straight down the drain. “Being sensible with your money during flush years will definitely help make the lean years less painful.”
7. "I am just waiting until I land that Broadway show/that commercial/win the lottery, etc."
Forget this sort of "windfall mentality." Your finances are a long-term project. Saving and investing need to become routine, "like doing tendus or vocal scales."
8. "Eating is overrated."
Anorexia is not a viable financial plan!
9. "I was thinking of robbing a bank."
10. "Artists have to suffer for their art."
Artists’ suffering is never a problem, Sharp says. There is no reason it has to be financial.