For as long as I can remember, people would tell me music is a dead-end profession and I would likely never be able to support myself, let alone a family. So, in high school, I naturally began thinking about a lucrative career like medicine. I delved into the hard sciences with discipline and did quite well but music was lodged so deep inside of me I simply couldn’t shush its bellowing call. It was so decidedly a part of me I endeavored to pursue classical voice and piano as my profession.
To this day, if I could turn back the clock, I still would have chosen music over any other pursuit. Yet my path in the world as an artist/musician has certainly given me ample opportunities to ponder the cautionary tales of the naysayers warning me my wallet would be empty all too often . . .
- lazy summers or harsh winters wondering about the next potential gig
- finishing one contract and realizing how many hands await a portion of the hard earned honorarium
- bumping into the reality of self-employment and the ever-changing tax laws and its accompanying costs
- revolving costs of keeping performing chops and personal appearances at an optimum level at all times
- rates of inflation intrinsic to the wanderlust bohemian lifestyle not always keeping up with earned income
Having had the privilege of studying and performing with top-tiered teachers/artists in the profession, I acknowledge music is indeed costly. Running the numbers daily, I used to tell my peers at the Eastman School of Music our education was literally costing us $400 an hour (between 2004 and 2008). At $6.67 a minute, I certainly took my education seriously (practicing 5-6 hours a day) with the hope of securing professional engagements post-graduation.
Engagements came and money exchanged hands . . . but my wallet must have had a huge leak because no money was staying in. I am sure some months the money was out before it was even in.
You see, in order to fund my highly prized education, I had to rely on loans which aunt Sallie Mae (now Navient) was more than happy to furnish with terrible interest rates, I might add. Every month, saddled with an astronomical payment, I had no choice but to part with the money that should have been allotted to my freedom and abundance.
Such is the plight of far too many individuals in this country.
Insult added to injury, embezzlement on the part of a publisher robbed me of significant royalties from two of my published books. And soaring costs related to the unexpected deaths of five family members between 2012-2016 further drove my funds to plummet. Talk about emptying the wallet . . .
But hope came.
My extended family had a reunion in Montreal in July 2017. One morning I woke up and there was this sense of purpose and renewed energy in me. It was like having an out of body experience and I could see plainly several financial “sins” I had committed:
- I had no real financial foundation.
- I had no plan for the money I earned.
- I had very little reserve, little savings.
- I had been paying back my loans but not aggressively.
- I hadn’t been intentional with investment vehicles to help fund my later years.
- I was very intentional with providing for the needs of others to the detriment of my own family.
And the list went on for miles . . .
An amazing revelation occurred. Not one of those financial “sins” had something to do with music, per se. They all had to do with financial ignorance and financial stupidity. If there’s one thing I learned about ignorance and stupidity in all my years in academia it is this:
Ignorance can be cured but stupidity is terminal.
Stupidity is knowing what’s right but doing the opposite regardless. Ignorance is simply not knowing.
Well, I did know what to do; I had just stopped practicing what I preached. In fact, as a hypocrite, I had conducted several sessions in camps and churches and many families turned their financial situations around through what I had taught them. I just didn’t apply it to myself and my own nuclear family.
I came home from the family reunion and admitted my failures to my wife. And we decided together to start afresh. I had always heard of Dave Ramsey but decided to listen to his show for the first time and apply the principles he teaches. That was a year ago.
Today, our financial map to freedom is completely different. I am still in music (loving it even more) but my wallet is no longer empty—no siree, no ma’am—because I am using money how it was intended.