Artists sometimes get to spend their whole day at art in order to make something under minimum wage, and other times they hold a day job and pile their real work around it. I’ve done both – currently I’m on the second path, but heading back to the first as quickly as I can. I’ve been lucky and smart enough to be able to make art my livelihood for quite a lot of my working life.
Even with two jobs, however, artists don’t have lots of money. It’s one of the things that practically guarantees we’re not going to live the life presented as “normal”: the money management, planning for retirement, upgrading, downsizing, starter-home, career-path, RRSP-driven life. I don’t have the money to tie up for years in investments. Sometimes I’m really glad of that; there have been many times, particularly in the last few years, when it’s been good not to be an investor.
There’s a lot of “you should” out there around money management – the “pay yourself first” movement (which only works if your bills don’t exceed your pay), the “diversifying your portfolio” and ethical funds and all of that. Me, I don’t get enough thrill out of gambling to play the stock market, or to hand over my money so someone else can play.
I know people who handed their money over to financial planners to prepare for their kids’ university bills, and when the time came for the tuition to be paid, the financial planner informed them that downturns in the market meant the money wasn’t there. In ten years, he promised, he could get it all back. I wonder if he had a bridge in Brooklyn to sell. He’d certainly missed the point of the exercise, which was to have tuition now for the kids.
This kind of horror story is the reason I’m a sock-under-the-mattress sort of gal. Yes, the sock doesn’t pay any interest, but neither does my bank account. The sock doesn’t charge fees, either, or go toes-up when the market crashes. And the sock also shows you progress. You can see that you have a month’s living expenses, should something horrible and unforeseen happen.
In case you aren’t aware of this, joint bank accounts are frozen when one partner dies. In this debit-card age, cash on hand might be your only way of buying groceries, should your mate step in front of a bus. Your financial planner, RRSP, high-interest savings account(and when did three percent become “high interest”?)or stock portfolio won’t be any help when you need a quart of milk or a roll of toilet paper.
I know it’s hard to put money aside, believe me. There are many demands. In my next post I’ll talk about some of the tricks I use to create savings for myself, and how well they work. But my first piece of advice is this: get a sock.