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MUSE LIFE: Investing for the Independent Creative (Part One)

 Illustration by Laura Callaghan

Illustration by Laura Callaghan

A creative mind can be both a blessing and a curse – it allows us to express our ideas in beautiful and artistic ways, but doesn’t always support a living. So how do we overcome the “starving artist” lifestyle and truly thrive? Here are some tips for making the transition from surviving artist to thriving artist:

7 Golden Rules for the Independent Creative

1. Choose your path.

Either invest in your creativity to turn your art into a lucrative career (don’t we all dream of that?) or decide to obtain a job that provides you the financial stability to practice your craft as you please. Having a job beyond your passion does not necessarily mean settling, but can mean sacrificing some of your time to do something you don’t love so that you can afford to do things you do love in your spare time. Decide which path will lead to a more fulfilling life for you personally.

2. Budget.

First you want to learn about your current spending habits – I mean the real deal, not what you think you spend. I recommend using Mint for this. Once you do this, create a monthly or weekly budget and stick to it. The biggest way to cut expenses is to cut housing costs. Typical guidelines advise spending no more than 30-35% of your income on rent and utilities, so if you’re spending 50% or more of your income on housing, you may want to consider finding a roommate (or a few). You can cut your cell phone bill by not spending more than you need – do you really need unlimited data? Or the newest iPhone? No. You can trade in the subway for a long walk, or vow to ride a bike instead of drive some places. When buying groceries, look at the price per unit instead of the overall price – buy the 12 rolls of toiletpaper for $8 instead of 6 rolls for $5. Cut out unnecessary expenses completely such as happy hours or manicures.

3. Automate your savings.

If you have a direct deposit, set it so that you automatically contribute a certain percent or dollar amount to a savings account regularly. If you have a secondary source of income, a great way to stack up is to deposit all of the money from one job to savings. By automating savings, the money will be tucked away before you even realize it’s missing. Don’t have direct deposit? Setup an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to savings. Use a high-interest savings account like Capital One 360 to make an extra few bucks a month. Professionals advise saving 20% of your income.

4. Create rules for your savings account.

Only dip into savings in certain circumstances that you predetermine. Savings should be for emergencies only – like car accidents, family deaths, and unexpected hospital bills, but never for expected expenses. Your credit card bill is not an emergency! If you use your savings on regular expenses, you won’t build much of a savings. Saving up for multiple things? Create multiple accounts. I was saving for a house and an emergency, so I had two savings accounts with two different banks. You want to build your emergency savings until it has enough to cover six months of living expenses.

5. Aggressively pay down debt.

If you have any debt – car notes, student loans, credit card bills, etc. – pay it off as soon as possible! Credit card companies make ALL of their money on interest, as do many other companies. You can vastly minimize the lifetime amount you spend by paying it as quickly as possible. This means paying more than the amount due each month until the balance is zero.

6. Make your money make money.

You’re never too young or too broke to invest. You can open your own investment account easily online through Vanguard or Fidelity. If you don’t have a 401K, investing a minimum of 10% of your income in an individual retirement account (IRA) is absolutely critical. As for personal investing, the younger you are, the more risk you can take with stocks because they have more time to grow, but it’s still smart to invest in a diversified fund that has both stocks and bonds to ensure a return. Investing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme though – financial advisors warn, “If you can’t afford to leave it there for at least ten years, you can’t afford to invest it.” Follow the stock market and buy when it’s low to give your money more opportunity for growth. You can invest in small increments at a time, but even investing $50/month can be worth thousands in a few decades. If you ever want to retire, investing is a necessity.

7. Build your credit.

If you have no established credit, apply for a single store credit card, use it sparingly, and pay it off immediately to begin building credit. Credit can cause people to go into debt, but, when used properly, is extremely beneficial when trying to buy cars, homes, or rent property. If you’ve already begun to establish credit, make sure you always pay your cards on time and never pay interest. If you know you can be responsible with your credit card, you can put all of your expenses on your card and pay it in full monthly. If using a credit card tempts you to overspend, reserve it for occasional use.

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Taking these steps may mean a lifestyle change, and change can be uncomfortable, but taking steps to live a healthier financial life can ensure financial security in the long run. Over the next week, I challenge you to tackle one tip per day to begin your journey to financial security. Taking the first step is always the hardest, but if you can gather the courage to begin changing your financial habits and the discipline to stick to your plan, you will transition from surviving artist to thriving artist in no time.

 

Lyndsey Keyte has a compelling curiosity for the world and people around her. She is free-spirited and loves to travel – she’s been to 20+ countries & counting! She prioritizes her faith, which keeps her grounded. She has a background in performing arts, but now feeds her creativity through writing, building, painting, and drawing. As a forward-thinker, Lyndsey constantly plans for the future and works hard to put her plans into action. Despite a lack of formal education in finance, she received lifelong personal financial education from her father who is a successful CFO & COO of an international company. Lyndsey is currently working on her doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Denver in Denver, CO where she does assessments and therapy with incarcerated youth.