Own the “My Money” Company

by Miata on June 3rd, 2016

Recently, I was reading about Elon Musk – the business magnate, engineer, and investor – involved in a number of amazing creations. GrowYourBusiness(Tesla, Space X, Hyperloop, SolarCity are just a few.) At first, I thought, “Goodness! He’s an incredibly creative guy!”

Then I realized that in a real sense, this entrepreneur is also an artist… He just creates his “art” in a way that emphasizes the business aspects.

That made me think that flipping the discussion might be fun. What would happen if as artists, we treated our financial lives like we were business owners?

How It Would Work

Examining your financial life as if it’s a business and you’re an entrepreneur, causes a noticeable attitude shift. Instead of thinking, “Maybe I’ll save a little money here or there down the line,” we ask “How do I start saving NOW?” If the answer is “It’s impossible,” then looking at your money like a business leads you to the next logical question: “How do I speed up the process?”

You are reframing financial planning in a way that makes it fresh, exciting, and empowering.

Here Are Some Ways Good CEOs Handle Their Own Money

They Use Good Tools – Where do you have your checking account? Does your bank offer all of the features you need to be successful? Do you even know what tools are available at your bank?

If your bank can offer you a Swiss army knife full of features, you’re all set. However, some people pay unnecessary fees and put up with banking practices that sorely need updating. As an example, if you’re paid via check, does your bank have a mobile app that allows you to take a photo and automatically deposit your earnings? LOTS of banks now offer this feature, so all that’s standing in the way of this massive time saver is changing institutions.

Other questions you should ask… Do you have a savings account that pays decent interest? Is your investment account using low-fee options? Are your paid advisors actually giving you good advice?

They Systematize – CEOs know that they’re too busy to investigate everything all the time. The company is successful when they keep their eye on the prize. In this case, the prize is accomplishing your craft. So, ask yourself: Is your savings automated? Are you paying at least the minimum on your credit cards automatically so you avoid unnecessary fees and dings on your credit report? On a more advanced level, do you automatically receive spending reports each week? Apps and tools exist (many free) that accomplish all of these things. A friend recently said to me that she wanted to make good money decisions as often as possible. I try to look at it a little bit differently. I want to make FEW money decisions, and the ones I make I want to be BIG decisions. I automate everything else so that good decisions are made for me.

They Seek Out Tax Breaks – This one’s pretty easy. Are you eligible for a 401k at your day job? If so, this is the perfect spot to save for your older years. Are you eligible for a Roth IRA? With this special retirement account you’ll pay taxes on money going into your account, but then all future withdrawals are tax free.

On another level, do you earn money as an artist? Are you writing off the cost of your tools and education? Mileage? Workspace? Working with a good tax advisor to understand what you can deduct can be a dividend-paying relationship.

They Focus Their Energy On Top Opportunities – The best CEOs keep a laser focus on the important matters and aren’t distracted by other things. What are you doing every day to advance your career or your craft? Great CEOs also don’t just think short term. They focus on long term relationships. Maybe an opportunity doesn’t pay wonderfully right now, but can build powerful possibilities for the future.

They Develop Partnerships – As I mentioned above, great CEOs make sure they focus… so they delegate to awesome people who have skills in the areas where they won’t have time to concentrate attention. Finding a knowledgeable tax advisor is just one example. And don’t ignore possibilities for career collaboration. A performance artist might partner with a visual artist to create a powerful multi-media piece that would be attractive to a new audience. Exploring partnerships can be rewarding and create new avenues for success (not to mention new income streams) that you may not have considered.

By thinking like a CEO, you’ll first shore up the bottom line, and then go about creating and maintaining good cash flow.  The result? A powerful shift in focus from financial concerns to craft!

Exploring the World of Financial Technology

by Miata on May 17th, 2016

LFinancial Technologyast week I had coffee with a friend who is feeling anxious about the size of her emergency fund and hoping for some tips that might help her put away additional money every month. I showed her some of the new apps I’m trying out. It’s amazing how the financial technology world has exploded in just the last couple of years. Not only can apps do some of the most obvious tasks like helping us save. There are also some that help us prioritize debts, make budgets, invest money, and even tip ourselves when we think we deserve it. “I don’t know,” she sighed. “I want it to be easy.” “Look at how simple these apps are, though!” I said.

“I know. It’s just… there’s a ton of them. Who has time to sit on their phone all day flipping through a bunch of apps? Painting is easy. (My friend does beautiful watercolors.) This looks hard.”

I realized she had a point.

Many of the financial conclusions we reach have more to do with our point of view than about the topic at hand. In this case, I’m already pretty immersed in the financial landscape, so all of these tools are like fascinating new toys allowing me to explore something I already love. For her, it was a nightmare. She was worried about the fact there were countless new things she didn’t know how to use. Like a person who’s never seen tools before being introduced to a Home Depot super store, she’s overwhelmed. Read the rest of this entry »

The Formula for Success = You + A Dream + A Decision

by Miata on April 30th, 2016

I’ve written before that much of financial planning comes down to you. In my time working with people, I’m always sad when they want to talk about all of the reasons they can’t get ahead. They worry about politics, the government in general, rules and regulations, the stock market and more…

Yet there’s also something very exciting to be found at the other end of the spectrum. It’s inspiring engaging with clients who are passionate about life and everything they are “up to” in the world. These are the people who rarely have much to say about the negative external forces.Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 2.22.30 PM Rather, they focus first on their own actions.

If you really want something, including financial security, there’s a five step process to getting it:

1) Decide. I’m not talking about hoping or wishing. You have to actually decide what’s going to be in your future. Several years ago, I worked with an artist who decided she was going to stop talking about “one day selling her paintings,” and instead, was going to actually do it. In less than 2 months, she sold her first piece.

Making the decision to change your financial status means that you’re going to do something about it. We’ve all felt the difference between hoping and deciding in our own lives. When you first decided to shoot your short film, finish your script or stage your solo show; when you decided it was time to lose weight; when you put down the cigarette and said, “That’s my last one.” You have to decide. Without this step, no magic happens.

The rule = You have to ask for it before you have a chance of receiving it. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Find Solid Interest Rates for Savings

by Miata on April 18th, 2016

Been to a bank lately? If you’re a saver, there’s not much for you to smile about.RocketSavings

It’s frustrating, isn’t it? You work hard to save money, and then there’s nothing to do with it. While interest rates have been supposedly on a rising path, a quick look at comparison sites shows that there’s not much out there paying more than one percent.

Let’s look at some potential ways to earn better rates on your money and examine the pros and cons of the various options, so you can approach your choices with a critical eye.

Money Markets:

What worries me: you aren’t beating inflation. I’ve heard arguments that inflation may be nonexistent but look at how much you’re spending on your craft…supplies…classes… Have those prices risen? I’ll bet they have.

Why I like it: Currently, money markets pay between a tenth of a percent and just over one percent. That’s certainly better than a savings account! Read the rest of this entry »

The “I Hate Talking About Money” Problem

by Miata on February 22nd, 2016

One of the most common feelings about money is that there is this “mystery target” out there somewhere… and that as soon as our bank accounts reach that magical number, all of our financial troubles and worries will be over and we won’t have to spend time dealing with our finances anymore.

Here’s the truth…

  1. Everyone – no matter how wealthy – worries about money sometimes; andSpeakSeeHearNoEvil
  2. We will always have to “deal with” our finances.

Financially successful people may not be worrying about credit card debt, building an emergency fund, or struggling to make sure every bill is paid. But more often than not, if you dig deep you’ll discover that they have meticulous systems for monitoring their financial picture. They face any challenges head on, and work to respond to them quickly, to reduce the possibility that a small financial hurdle snowballs into a full fledged money disaster.

Contrast this with the person who’s always disorganized and can’t seem to ever get ahead in their financial life. He or she consistently complains, “I hate it when money comes up…it’s too depressing.” Maybe. But hiding our eyes won’t make our money concerns disappear. Read the rest of this entry »

Interest Rates Have Gone Up…Now What?

by Miata on February 8th, 2016

In December, while you were most likely preparing for the holidays, the United States Federal Reserve raised interest rates one quarter of a percent. That small amount may not seem like much, but it signaled a big change in the minds of many economists. Interest RatesThe US Federal Reserve hadn’t raised rates since June of 2006, and generally when they notch rates up, it means a series of interest rate increases are on the way.

So, what does this mean? Let’s dive a little deeper.

The Federal Funds rate, the interest rate that the Federal Reserve actually controls, is the amount of interest charged when banks borrow or lend for ultra short periods of time. This interest rate is then passed on to customers of those banks in their loans; so while you don’t have the Federal Reserve as your bank, any moves by the Fed will show up a few ways: Read the rest of this entry »

How to Finish the Year With a Flourish

by Miata on December 11th, 2015

In the final weeks of December, it’s important to take one last look back at the year. How’s your plan coming? If it’s like mine, there are still some items on the “to do” list that you’ve yet to mark off. We’re down to only a few weeks to finish up our goals for 2015.2015 to 2016

I was listening to a podcast recently with Hal Elrod (of Miracle Morning fame). He was sharing with the host that he sleeps very few hours most nights, but that it doesn’t seem to affect his day. He noticed that on short rest, everything hinged on his attitude. If he woke up and said, “Man, I’m tired. Today’s going to be awful,” the day stunk. If he said, “Alright! I’ve got a huge day today, no more time to sleep!” he became a powerful force in the universe.

I’m certainly not advocating that we give up sleep. More sleep AND a good attitude are probably the optimal one-two punch. However, if you’re in a situation where less sleep is the reality, attitude can change the game.

It’s the same with our money, isn’t it? Our attitude changes everything.

  • If I believe my debt’s killing me, it is.
  • If I think saving money is difficult, it is.
  • If I decide that I’m stuck in a rotten financial place, I am.

As creatives, we know from literature, film, plays, and even poetry, that the hero largely decides her fate. In the beginning of a three-act play, the character faces a problem. By the end of the work, the character has formed a plan, and for better or worse, they’re working through their plan to find a resolution. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding “Your Forever Pace” With Money

by Miata on October 23rd, 2015

A good friend just finished his first marathon in Chicago. I’ve always envied people who accomplish big goals like a marathon. It takes so much time to train, and there’s no monetary payout… AND you know it’s going to require lots of effort and will be incredibly painful.

As a friend (and a student of asking “why” about everything), I had to ask, “What was your secret to success?”

He said, “I just had to remember that it was going to be exciting at the beginning of the race, then the hurt would come, and then I’d find my forever pace. After that, I needed to just keep it up until mile 20, and then gut it out the final six miles.”

Easy, huh? It sounds good, but we know that the key is in every moment of that plan… still, there was one phrase I didn’t understand.

“Forever pace?” I asked. “What’s that?”

He smiled and told me that after a few miles your body settles into a pace that you feel like you can run forever, without thinking. It’s an automatic pace, hopefully fairly fast, but ultimately one you can run for miles and miles.

I like that idea… between that and “gut it out,” the creative person in me can see plenty of connections.

When I’m working on an acting or writing project, I find my “forever pace” after awhile. Skill and training takes over. That gets me through until I’m applying the final touches, when really, in many ways, I have to “gut it out” and finish.

…but what does this have to do with money?

Because we want to focus as much as possible on our artistic careers, it’s important to find our “forever pace” with money. We need our financial plan to work for us in the background, so that we’re not constantly being distracted by financial worry. Read the rest of this entry »

What to Do When Your Budget Collapses

by Miata on September 4th, 2015

My budget stopped working a few weeks ago.

I know what you’re thinking: “But Miata, you’re perfect with money…how could YOU have budget issues?” ☺

Well trust me, even I have budget issues and this last month was a doozy!

You may know that I have two children. They had some big expenses come up…as did we.

At the same time, we were invited to several events, which we agreed to attend…none of them inexpensive. We made a huge mistake and said “yes” to all of these without thinking about the budget. Because we overbooked ourselves, our schedules were crazy, so we gave up on groceries and cooking and ate at restaurants. And then with all of the increased stress, we found ourselves spending more money on movies and “fun” stuff.

“Fun” and my wallet were having an all out war and fun was winning.

So what do you do? When this happens to you?

Budget Collapse

Don’t Give Up

This isn’t the first time my budget has collapsed, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. We’ll fall off the horse, forgetting to prioritize what’s important and leave off the rest. We’ll ignore our family meetings because we’re too busy. It’ll happen again.

Our clients have similar issues. Even people with healthy budgets go through huge cash flow crunches. They’ve suddenly run up credit cards because of medical scares or car repairs. It happens.

The thing you don’t do? You don’t stop trying. Read the rest of this entry »

Deciding on a New Home – 3 Tips To Find Your Dream Property

by Miata on August 6th, 2015

Creative people look at the world a little differently. We tend to buy differently, often focusing on experiences over material goods. This even seeps for many of us into our decisions about property. If you’re someone who
appreciates aesthetics and fine art, there are some traps you’ll want to avoid if buying a new home. Thinking about purchasing a house? Maybe someday? We have you covered!

Remember Resale

Home Buying

Sure, you want to live in a home forever, but if you end up moving, you’ll want to be able to sell the property quickly. Here are four important areas to evaluate when making a home purchase:

1. Major roads and transportation. You want to be close to the train and have access to busy streets…but you don’t want them too close. Buyers will fall off quickly when you’re ready to sell if you’re on a major road or have railroad tracks running through your back yard. This can be a huge trap when you’re buying. Many houses on busy streets or bordering a railroad will look like deep discount properties. They are definitely discounted…but it’s because nobody’s buying and the seller has to practically give the home away.

2. Exteriors matter. A well-manicured lawn may tell you that a house is well cared for. But also, don’t overlook homes where you’ll be able to do a few simple pieces of yard and home exterior projects to improve the property. Curbside appeal can help drive potential buyers into your home (and make it more fun to come home to while you’re living in it!). Three easy steps can help you bring an exterior to life: power-wash the home, tame the landscaping and add color (either via landscaping or accent colors on your house) to make a home instantly more attractive. Read the rest of this entry »