Thursday, November 12, 2009

Windfalls

It can happen. Perhaps at some point you will get a big advance on a recording contract. Or maybe you'll inherit a pile of money from a rich uncle. Or you might score a lucrative touring gig with a major act for a few months. (I won't propose the lottery-winning scenario because I know you're smart enough to realize that buying lottery tickets is a total waste of money). For a lot of musicians, such a situation might be the first time to ever see a bank balance over 4 figures. Even a sum in the low 5 figures range might seem like an inexhaustible fortune to many people.

Of course, NO fortune is inexhaustible, and if you've never experienced handling very much money before, then I'm sorry, but you're even more likely to blow your lucky break. If you find yourself suddenly in possession of a large, unexpected sum of money, STOP! Don't run off on a binge just yet. The first thing you'll need to do is consult your tax preparer about your tax liability, which might take a bigger chunk than you would have guessed. Obviously, that portion of the money has to be set aside right away, unless you want to go to jail next year. The next best use for a windfall would probably be to pay off high-interest debt, if you have any.

Paying debt and taxes? That's no fun!!! Okay, it's understandable to want to splurge a bit, so I'll suggest blowing 10% of your new treasure on goodies: a vacation, a guitar, a gift for your parents, whatever you want.

At this point, the rest of the windfall should be thought of as somebody else's money. A typical musical career is characterized by lots of lean periods, interspersed with a few prosperous seasons (if you're lucky). Therefore, you should view this windfall as a head start on your long-term investment plan, and steward that money as though it belongs to someone else. Above all, don't assume that this level of income will continue into the future! The worst mistake you can make is to leverage your small fortune into a bigger debt. Music history is littered with the carcasses of bands who used their first record advance to sign up for million dollar home mortgages, only to be dropped by their record company within a short time, and foreclosed on shortly thereafter.

Only getting to indulge yourself in $10,000 out of a $100,000 windfall might seem like a raw deal, but think of it this way: If I offered you $10,000 for free, would you take it? Of course you would! Would you be happy about it? Of course you would! So just pretend that $10,000 was the entire windfall amount. Wisely investing the rest of the money will serve you much better in the long run than spending it now.

27 comments:

thelabel360 said...

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Anthony said...

Wow, what an original and refreshing post. I mean, it's sound advice for anyone -- not just musicians -- but it rings especially true for us because we're notoriously bad with money (I know I sure am).

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