Most performers focus on the "show" aspect of show business, often relegating the second part to an afterthought. But in the midst of a temperamental economic landscape and an industry that's increasingly commercial, ignoring the "business" can leave you in dire straits. "Each individual performer is a business owner," says Bailie Slevin, a financial adviser at Forest Hills Financial Group who specializes in working with performing artists. "You're your own product. But artists aren't taught how to handle themselves -- and their business -- financially, even though it's crucial to success."
Slevin has insight into both art and finance. A graduate of Emerson College with a degree in theater management, Slevin worked as a stage manager and at a talent agency when she first moved to New York City. When a car accident waylaid her work, "my father, a financial adviser for 30 years, suggested I learn his business at a certified financial services firm," she says. "I realized I had forgotten how much I love money."
Though Slevin also works with other professionals, she says it's her mission to help artists become financially stable. Here are her steps to achieving financial security.
Procrastination is deadly. "Artists have the idea of waiting to 'make it big' to pay off debt," Slevin says. "Deal with it now instead of letting problems fester. You can start by saving $5 a week -- that's one coffee. Once you realize you can handle this small amount, you will increase it. It becomes a good addiction."
Finally, Slevin reminds artists to keep self-worth in view, regardless of income. "You can do this. And there's help available. You're in the arts because you're amazing in the arts. I'm in finance to give you the space and time to do your art! You don't have to know everything," Slevin says. "There's no minimum amount needed to be worthy of a financial adviser. There is someone who will meet with you, whether myself or someone else. Take that opportunity. Artists contribute so much and deserve to be compensated. We can change where artists fit into the world by eliminating the idea of 'starving artists' -- together."
"Know what you have, where it is, and how it works together. You need to put everything on one page to see a complete picture. For example, if you have $10,000 in savings at an interest rate of .7 percent and $4,000 of credit card debt at 20 percent interest, you're actually getting a net of negative. Looking at the parts together creates a realistic starting point.
"A lot of people -- and artists specifically -- leave this to the last step, which creates huge problems," says Slevin, adding that a savings account with a minimum of three months of living expenses is the most basic form of protection. Then purchase low-rate insurance such as emergency health care. "At the very least, find a high-deductible, low-premium plan," she says. "In that way, at least there is a cap on payment. Even if it's $50,000, remember, a three-day hospital stay is beyond that.
Track your spending
"Cash flow can be a problem, so take a look at where you are actually spending. What are your priorities? Figuring this out will help you put money where you need it, build that savings account, and afford protection.