How to Create Healthier Finances as a Classical Singer

From the organization that doesn't pay on time to the low-balling of honorariums, you've surely seen it all. So have I. I've been paid late, had to demand fees actually be paid, been offered insultingly low fees, and have had to chase payments down after work was completed.

As well all have a "money story," it's not always our personal money stories that trip us up, but sometimes other people who trip us up (financially) on purpose. It's the roommate who doesn't pay rent on time, the friend who never foots the bill when you take turns paying, the partner or spouse who unfairly distributes the bills, the legal issue that gets dragged out and out and out.

Disclosure: Some, but not all, of the links in this post are Affiliate links and are followed by: (Affiliate link). That means if you click through that link and make a purchase, I may receive a small portion of that purchase, for which I thank you. I don't see who bought what, only what was purchased.

Remember you can always get the book at the library, sometimes through inter-library loan. Saves a ton. ;-) I'm not a financial expert, I'm simply passing on solid information that has worked very well for me. If you need advice, consult a professional. It's totally worth it.

And another quick note:  I refer to a name with a bleeped-out swear word in it in this post.

1. RUN, do not walk, to a Credit Union.

Like many others, I bank-hopped for a few years. I always ended up at my old Big Bank until I tried to refinance my auto loan with the same Big Bank. Interest rates had dropped so I asked them to refinance it. Really good credit score, steady payments, I was a great candidate, but they wouldn’t do it.

So I walked. Literally, I went down the street. And I saved over 4% interest on the remainder of my car loan.

That was pretty much how it went for me when I dumped the Big Bank. And this was how different it was when I found a new home for my funds, my local Credit Union (CU):

Me: “How much does it cost to transfer the balance on my credit card?”

CU Associate: “It’s free.”

Me: shaking my head in disbelief “You mean there’s no minimum fee? Of at least $400 or 4%?! WHY?!”

CU Associate: “Because we’re a non-profit. We work for our members.”

Me: *breaks open champagne*

Then when I learned that you can, with your routing/account/member number, actually bank from Service Center anywhere in the nation, I was sold. Find a Service Center here. There is even an international search option!

Your money talks, so start talking about institutions that work for you, not against you.

Here's a quick summary of what I saved/started earning:

  • over 4% on my car loan (I had about 24 months left on it and paid it off early anyway)
  • about 3% on my credit card (because I had already renegotiated for the lowest rates possible with my other credit card provider)
  • approximately $10/month on account fees...because accounts at a CU are FREE.
  • .4% more on a general savings account. That's not a lot, but relatively speaking, it's a ton.

N.B. If you haven’t watched “The Big Short” yet, it’s high time. (Affiliate link)

2. Learn to work in percentages.

budget hi

When you're self-employed, part- or full-time, it's important to factor in costs, how much to save for taxes, and how much you're paying yourself every month. And it's most especially important when you're trying to figure out where to cut back and where to spend more. You need to know what your percentages are.

This is why I'm a HUGE, HUGE fan of the 50-30-20 budget, and I learned about it from Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi in their book All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. (Affiliate Link)

When life is rough, your plan might be 80-5-15 or 90-0-10, and there are a lot of people who live in that dynamic all the time. It's incredibly powerful to know where you stand in terms of needs & savings & wants as it shows you where your life is out of balance. Once you know where, you can start trimming or building something new to get it into better balance.

3A. Build a fierce Fund-Known-By-Many-Names.

This is the fund known by many names:

  • The Future Fund
  • Emergency Fund
  • Rainy Day Fund
  • F--- You Fund
  • The Freedom Fund
  • Mad Money
  • Life Savings
  • Nest Egg
  • Backup
  • Reserve Fund

This is the fund which you build and continue to add to so that you may enable yourself. Because *this* my friends is the fund that enables you to say NO when that notoriously low-paying conductor comes calling. (Remember this guy?) This is what enables you to say:

I don't need your money. I have my own.

This is the fund that covers the rent when your roommate is late. Again.

This is what covers your assets when you have a tax bill higher than expected.

This is what will sustain you over time whenever something goes wrong. Now it won't be such a terrible surprise.

3B. Build an Opportunity Fund

Having cash on hand you can use whenever you want it is priceless. When you find the antique score you've always wanted, the perfect gown for your next performance, or exactly the right suitcase which will suit your gigging, you don't need to think twice about it. This is what an opportunity fund is for.

4. Read and then keep on reading.

It's amazing the kind of financial information we now have readily available to us...and how many people fail to go looking for it. Don't be one of those people, be somebody who gets it figured out. Financial savvy is a way of life as much as it is a continual class in the school of life. And besides, wouldn't you like to know if someday you'll actually be able to retire?

Here is a list of the books and websites that have helped me gain financial savvy and those in no particular order. I've put a short comment to some of them. Yes, every single one of them is an affiliate link:

  1. Women Don't Ask (Affiliate link) by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever - This is the first book I ever read on learning to negotiate. Just in the past few months I've negotiated about $250 of savings and a lot of peace of mine. It's worth it.

  2. Ask for it (Affiliate link) by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever - Their second book, this one shows you how to negotiate. It's all in knowing what you want and taking action for it.

  3. Emotional Currency (Affiliate link) by Kate Levinson - This was most helpful for discovering undercurrents of feelings about money and earning money. As you journal as you read the book, it is very insightful!

  4. Financial Recovery (Affiliate link) by Karen McCall - She's done everything with money. A MUST READ if your financial life has been destroyed by anyone--you or a partner or a bad money manager.

  5. Overcoming Underearning (Affiliate link) by Barbara Stanny - A MUST READ for artists, creatives, and people who think their chosen path won't earn them much money.

    <a href="" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="//" ></a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />

    (Affiliate link)

  6. Secrets of Six-Figure Women (Affiliate link) by Barbara Stanny

  7. The Money Book (Affiliate link) by Joseph D'Agnese and Denise Kiernan - An excellent book on dealing with money as a freelancer. HOWEVER, I recommend you use different bank accounts for business & personal and since you're using a credit union, you can have as many (free) accounts as you want. It works brilliantly as long as you work it.

  8. All Your Worth (Affiliate link) by Elizabeth Warren & Amelia Warren Tyagi - A MUST READ.

  9. The Millionaire Next Door (Affiliate link) by Thomas Stanley & William Danko - A MUST READ.

    <a href="" target="_blank"><img border="0" src="//" ></a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />

    (Affiliate link)

  10. Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Affiliate link) by Sharon Lechter & Robert Kiyosaki. I recommend this one with a big grain of salt:  Kiyosaki's opinion (and also that of his wife, as I learned from a podcast she was on) is that "everyone should invest in real estate." And that's not true. There are great insights from this book and it's fantastic for mentality, however like everything else:  do what works for you.

  11. The Rules of Money, the Lessons of Life(Affiliate link) by Suze Orman. As with any financial guru, it's important to consider what they say and then to explore it for yourself.

  12. Women & Money (Affiliate link) by Suze Orman. Written by a woman for women. A smart read.

  13. - This blog isn't as active as it used to be, however the #1 rule of Do what works for you still applies, and that's where I got it from.

  14. Dave Ramsey's Blog - It's fair to say I'm a partial fan of Dave Ramsey. I culled some fantastic ideas from his blog and other resources about him on the internet. Worth putting on your "to read" list.

5. The hard part comes later.

When you make some progress, your life will begin to shift. And it may not all be pleasant. Your friends might not like it that you say no to dinner out, your family might be miffed that your Christmas presents are more appropriately priced for your budget. Your spouse or partner might not like the change. And in the words of a great friend of mine, who heard this from a co-worker, be prepared for this:

Little Devil.When you get to a new level, you'll get the devil.

In other words, when you make progress and establish yourself in a new level of being (perhaps one of appropriate spending, no debt, or serious accomplishment), something really aggravating will happen. Or perhaps several somethings. Sometimes it's annoying, other times it might really shake you.

Don't let it.

You're worth so much more than that.


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