“(These results provide) a compelling picture of a highly qualified, highly skilled, extremely low-paid population, overwhelmingly required to work outside their field of speciality- acting- to secure even minimal levels of income.”

The Australian Actors’ Wellbeing Study

We have previously talked about whether or not our national training institutions have a duty of care to the psychological well-being and career-readiness of their undergraduates. Having seen the results of the Actors’ Well Being Study, we maintain the view that training institutions who graduate people into professions with higher psychological risk should have base-level career survival tactics mandated within their curriculum. Here are two more worrying statistics from the results of the Actors’ Well Being Study:

41% of respondents reported earning less than $10 000 a year from acting

Of those within the survey who had been trained in professional acting institutions, 86% of these reported they received no training in financial management whatsoever.  

The questions remains: Does the training institution owe some basic financial literacy within its psychological duty of care?

As a basic career-related professional skill, I would argue yes. It doesn’t necessitate a full-blown MYOB or accountancy course. Just a day or two of some basic money smarts would be enough to get you on the right path.

If you’re like 90-95% of actors who make less than a basic salary from acting work and make up the difference through multiple jobs, money is going to be a rare commodity with which you’re going to have to be INCREDIBLY savvy… and careful. You literally cannot afford to throw this in the ‘too hard’ basket. Here are the top tips from your mates to help you start making financially savvy decisions in ‘The Biz’: 

LONG HAUL LIFE SAVERS:

  • Don’t live a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget. 

No matter what the size of the current gig’s pay-packet, it will soon pass. Don’t be so obsessed with the sudden influx of funds that you have to go back to waiting tables when you find out you’ve blown it all. Remember that financial independence (i.e. having savings  in your hot little hand) gives you the power to give a big ‘Up Yours’ to the glass ceilings around you and permit you to do whatever you want. If you’re running up some serious debt, a lack of financial independence will insidiously start to drain your bank account and your soul. If you live frugally on a decent pay-packet, you will ensure that leaner times won’t see you making coffees or slowly losing your mind in a dodgy call centre.

  • Have something to look forward to financially.

The daily grind can drain anyone’s soul, regardless of whatever career you choose. After all, what is the point of surviving to the next pay cheque if you can’t enjoy the ‘meantime’? Here’s an idea we’re real fans of: Consider siphoning off a small amount of your pay into a fee-free account (only suckers pay for the privilege of saving) of your choosing and dedicate these funds solely toward something you really want to experience or own. It could be a holiday or those really speccy noise-cancelling Sennheiser’s you’ve been eyeing off at JB. It’s only limited by your vision and financial goals. The main point here is that this system gives you something to look forward to!

  • Arts Accountants vs. Standard Accountants

Accountants who work specifically with artists do exist and they are brilliant at what they do. They will make your books look like those of a real pro and maximise your claims. However, you will pay through the nose for the privilege of using their services. For those of us on meagre budgets, the old ITP or H&R Block type accountant are perfectly fine and will do a sufficient job (providing they’re not a drop kick, so do your due diligence). Just make sure they know exactly what your job (and other jobs) are so they can do the best by you. This will mean keeping up your end of the bargain by keeping any travel receipts, evidence of work-related expenses and any transport logs related to any acting work you may get in the financial year.

  • Use the Union!

If you’re are a MEAA union/equity member, you are entitled to the free financial services workshops that are offered by them. Make the most of these free opportunities. You will also be entitled to additional access to masterclasses, seminars and online resources; many of which will also free.

  • “Long Haul Guy, I know zip about money. There are just so many acronyms and legal terms. It’s completely overwhelming! Where do I even start?”

Nobody is born an economist or financial whiz so it all comes down to sucking it up and starting to learn the basics. Hit up the app store (plenty of free options available here), your local library for a bunch of free DYI financial stuff as well as ASIC’s free online resource : www.moneysmart.gov.au . I recommend a book entitled ‘The Barefoot Investor’ by independent financial advisor Scott Pape. It is an excellent entry-level finance resource aimed squarely at the average Aussie. It clarifies a lot of the jargon and teaches solid, everyday financial skills.

 ***DISCLAIMER:***

For the record, I receive absolutely NO kickbacks from Scott

whatsoever for recommending his book. Wish I was though. That man is killing it.  

  • Research says money doesn’t give you happiness, relationships do.

We mentioned it previously, but we love it when the research articulates what most of us have intuitively known to be true all along. I particularly love this quote from Laura Cayouette that draws a line between fixating on money and enjoying your money :

I have found that money,  power and fame don’t actually change a person so much as reveal them. If you love your friends and family and enjoy money, chances are that you and money will get along just fine.

Laura Cayouette