Once a dancer, always a dancer. That’s what I’ve always believed, and that’s the philosophy I live by when teaching my students. There’s something inside of us that draws us to this art form and no matter what we end up doing with our lives, whether it be curing cancer, becoming the president, or being the first astronaut to walk on Mars, the dance always lives on.
For me, along with many others who choose dance as their career, I knew that I wanted to be a dancer from the time I was six-years-old. Unlike many of my peers, I had no push back from either of my parents, one a musician and the other a dancer herself. Not only did I know deep down in my heart that dancing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I also, at six-years-old, knew I was going to be a “starving artist,” struggling with money unless I happened to win the lottery or marry someone who’s pockets ran much deeper than mine. Crazy thoughts for a six-year-old, right?!
I grew up in a household that lived paycheck to paycheck, struggling to pay bills every month. Ultimately, the stress of financial hardship led to a lot of fighting and eventually my parents getting divorced, not unlike many other failed marriages. Luckily, my sister and I immersed ourselves into our dancing, which was thankfully already paid for by my mother’s teaching skills (Thanks Mom!). I decided, then and there, that I was never going to get married or rely on someone else to financially support me.
So, fast forward to me putting myself in thousands of dollars in student loan debt in pursuit of the best dance education possible. After having a decent career as a performer for a few years, I made little to no income in my performance gigs and always had a side hustle (or two, or three, or seven)! I got to the point where I was tired of hitting up audition after audition, spending six or more hours getting to and from, waiting around, and wasting my time that I could otherwise be trading for dollars. I was physically exhausted. I had given 23 years of my life to dance, and I loved every moment of it. But nearing my third decade my dreams started to shift. I wanted to spend some time finding myself defined, not just as a dancer, but a human being. I wanted to find love, I wanted to be a mom. I wanted all those things I swore to myself I never would want, except of course, wanting to be financially independent.
The universe truly gives you what you ask for, it’s scary! I was leading a daddy-daughter toddler Valentines Dance (side hustle number 324) when I was introduced to a financial firm that empowers the masses through a low-key educational approach to money and finance. I saw how much they help people and I, number one, wanted them to help me, and two, saw how much dancers could use the information. Now, I have added financial planner to my long list of special skills on my resume (right next to blowing big bubbles with bubble gum) and get to spend my days changing the lives of dancers through the possibility of financial freedom!
There are a few key financial principles dancers need to know in order to build a good financial future for themselves and two mindset principles that I find most important when it comes to getting started on the path to financial freedom:
Know Your Worth – as dancers we tend to “work for experience” because we are “paying dues.” Don’t get me wrong, paying dues is important, in the sense that we can’t just graduate and be the star of ABT or Batsheva or dancing backup for Beyoncé (#goals). But, dancers in any medium or capacity, bring a ton of value to our culture. If we value ourselves in the form of monetary compensation the rest of our culture will follow suit. As a college graduate or working dancer with credits to your name, don’t work for free and make sure you earn enough to make a living based on the amount of time you’re trading for dollars.
Do What You Love And Love What You Do (With Your Money)
Pay Yourself First – this is SO important. When it comes to income dancers like both of my parents, tend to make just enough to pay their living expenses. So, when did cable TV or your car or your phone bill become more important than your future? When it comes to money and finance, the most important rule, in every situation, is to pay yourself first. Your future self will thank you later when you’re not almost 60 years old with nothing to your name, hoping that the day you kick the bucket and the day you physically can’t work anymore are the same (spoiler alert: that’s not how it works)! What’s amazing about working in the dance world is that you literally create your own future every day. You don’t go punch a clock; you say yes or no to things people contract you to do. You have freedom of your time and can create more income for yourself in many different ways. Make enough to pay yourself AND all the bills. Your future self will thank you.
Shifting your mindset is the first step in changing the outlook of your financial future. Life, dancer or not, costs money. You have goals – maybe you want to travel the world; maybe you want to choreograph for a major motion picture; maybe you want to start your own dance company or studio. Goals are funded by dollars and money isn’t evil — you don’t have to be “starving” to be an artist. Stretch your vision for your life to look however you want it to look and you will find a way to get there.
Do you have your goals in mind, but don’t know the path that will lead you there? Stayed tuned for the tangibles in the next few posts in the “Satiate the Starving Artist” series.