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Financial Advice

Radical Solutions

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Radical Solutions
The acting world is not a kind one. Variations in income are a regular fact of life. But what if your steady but variable income takes a big hit? Like in half. How do you address that? Where do you begin evaluating how to live with a change that enormous? Here are a few options for getting a handle on this not-so-fun situation.

Remember, there are two sides to an equation that is out of balance. You either have to reduce your expenses to meet your new income, or you have to figure out a way to replace that income in order to live the way you want to live. That's the bummer about math: The numbers don't lie.

Income

First, let's address the income side. Is there a way for you to replace that acting income? If you have another job or career, can you get additional hours or contracts there to make up the difference? Approach your boss and see if he or she will expand your duties. While the current economy makes this approach less than a sure thing, it's the best way to fix the problem before taking a hit to your lifestyle.

If you don't have another source of income, maybe this is the time to get one. Consider seriously what other things would make you happy and bring in money. If you want to stay in the entertainment field, casting can be a good transition into the business side of show business. Talk to your friends and peers and let them help steer you in the right direction.

Consider taking classes to get yourself headed on a different course. Financial aid is often available, and education is one of the few debt-incurring activities that could pay for itself at some point.

Expenses

If your income drops by half, this is not a situation you can correct by cutting out that morning cup of Starbucks. It calls for a serious evaluation of your options.

Start by developing a zero-base budget. That means starting from scratch, not starting from your current spending. This approach allows you to evaluate things from a clear perspective, unclouded by your current numbers.

And you will have to consider some radical solutions. Start with your largest expenses. You'll get the biggest bang for your buck this way. For most people, housing is the key. Your housing situation dictates a lot of your other expenses. Can you take in a roommate in your current situation? If not, can you move in with someone else? Sharing living expenses can have a significant impact on your monthly outflow, cutting not only your housing costs but others too, such as utilities, cable/Internet, and food.

Take a machete to that food budget as well. Eliminate any expensive meals out or trips to the luxury grocery store. You need to go back to survival mode, stretching your dollar and making meals from simple, inexpensive ingredients. There are lots of websites that can help you plan cheap meals. And you can take it a step further by pooling your resources with friends. Have a potluck dinner together, with each individual or couple making a dish. Then you have a variety of leftovers to take home as well.

Consider also bartering within your circle of friends. Trade haircuts for massages, cooking for childcare, etc. Look for complementary needs and work to reduce those large, less frequent expenses.

Transportation costs should also be addressed. Can you trade down from a car payment? Will you take someone else's clunker? Public transportation can reduce your costs, as will biking and walking—and they help keep you in shape as well.

Remember, losing a significant amount of your income calls for radical solutions. Cutting a few dollars here and there won't help. The biggest danger is overspending on the credit card and having a bill you can't pay. Plan ahead to live within your means.

The opinions expressed are those of David R. Colley and are meant to be general in nature and should not be construed as investment or financial advice related to your personal situation. Please consult your financial adviser prior to making financial decisions. Colley is a financial adviser with Waddell & Reed, member SIPC, and can be reached at (310)371-7036. 

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