March 2021 Message
March 1st, 2021
This Month’s Money Message: Reflect
Welcome to March, the month where tax hypotheticals become real. By now you have probably received a handful of W-2s and 1099s from last year, and you may have even gotten some surprising ones for emergency relief grants or unemployment income.
Gather them all. We’re using them as an excuse to look back at last year and reflect on all you accomplished.
Because that is this month’s theme:
Your reflection this year is probably complicated. 2020 was a year like no other, and for those we work with, the numbers range from abysmal to staggeringly prosperous.
We worked with performers and writers whose primary income came from live performances, and for them, 2020 was brutal. We worked with visual artists whose festival and gallery sales were crippled.
But we also worked with individuals who had success navigating virtual workarounds, both through creative outlets and teaching opportunities. We worked with visual and literary artists whose sales skyrocketed as people invested in art and literature to fill their homes. We worked with performers who created uniquely intimate performance experiences to respond to the strange new normal
But it wasn’t always about the numbers.
We worked with creative individuals who were thrilled to have an excuse to pause what they would normally be doing to focus on creating work supported by a bit of emergency relief. For them, 2020 was a moment to exhale.
We worked with other individuals whose home lives changed dramatically as they adjusted to virtual schooling, cared for aging relatives, said goodbye to loved ones, and adapted to life in flux. In response, some were unable to make work. Others were staggeringly prolific.
It is impossible to generalize the experiences of 2020. We can look at industry-level data that shows huge losses in the field, but each individual’s experience was as unique as their creative career.
Which means your reflection should be as well.
The Stack of Forms
Your stack of tax forms may have changed. It may be larger or smaller than what you are used to. It may reflect regular projects or gigs you complete each year, or there may be new names in the “sender” field of your 1099s. Your “stack” of tax forms might be a list of sales you made or random jobs you picked up. Perhaps you are proud to have completed a project despite the pandemic. Perhaps you are proud that you have no tax forms accumulating because you took time away from work to focus on your loved ones. Perhaps you are proud a single tax form exists. Reflect on the stack – whatever it looks like for you.
The Systems of Support
Your tax forms may include Form 1099-G showing unemployment compensation you may have received. You may receive a separate 1099 for COVID-related emergency relief. You may have taken out a PPP loan or an EIDL grant (which won’t necessarily lead to a tax form, but it is still worth noting).
Your systems of support may have been informal. You may have formed a pod to help juggle personal commitments and professional ones. You may have relied on partial family leave or informal flexibility through your employer to navigate unpredictable schedules. You may have made use of food banks or free school lunches to keep yourself and your loved ones fed. You may have built a complex system with those closest to you to support each other.
I hope a system of support exists for you, even if using the systems is exhausting. The formal systems weren’t designed to serve individuals with multiple streams of unpredictable income, and the informal systems grew to fill in our own gaps. The systems are imperfect, but odds are, you didn’t survive last year in isolation. No one did. We leaned on each other—often virtually or metaphorically—to survive and to cope. Reflect on your system of support—whatever that means to you.
The Progress You Made
You are here. You are engaging in this reflection. That means you made progress last year. Ignore what you thought your progress was going to be and take a moment to appreciate what it was.
With that in mind, here are three things to know, do, and believe this month:
Know: What your stack of tax forms does and does not include.
Your stack of tax forms may look different this year, and that’s okay. Know what’s there—plus all the things that aren’t captured in the stack—and take a moment to reflect what you accomplished last year. All 2020 accomplishments represented victories.
Do: Thank your system.
We all relied on systems of support last year–formal and informal ones. As you reflect on 2020, take a moment to thank your system. Whether this is a quick note to the banker who helped you complete your PPP loan, and handwritten note to your neighbor who helped entertain your kiddo while you finished that big project, or a $10 contribution to the food bank that helped during a particularly tough week, all gratitude is meaningful.
Believe: You did it.
2020 was crazy. The growing stack of tax forms and your own reports from the year are probably showing that. But it was your year. The income and expense you’ll report on your taxes doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does provide for a moment of reflection on the year that was. Take it. You earned it.
What We’re Doing
This month, not surprisingly, we’re talking about taxes. We’ll be joining some of our favorite groups for relevant conversations about how taxes are (and are not) changing this year. We’ll be spending time with the writers of TCG and The Lark, artists from the Tuscarawas Arts Partnership, musicians from Next Fest and Anahata Music Project, and the amazing young creators who won YoungArts awards this year..
What We’re Talking About
Taxes, taxes, and more taxes. We have spent a lot of time going over individual tax returns from 2019 and highlighting business income, W-2 income, and the amount of tax people are actually paying. It’s amazing what you can learn from the tax form… And how you can use it to plan forward.
Creative Coaching (1 hour, $110)
If you’d like to chat with me to answer your own questions, feel free to find a time that works with your schedule. Fair warning: These slots are full (ish) for the next month or so.
It is easy to see the tax process as an arduous task to complete each year. And sometimes it is. But it also represents an excuse to look back, to identify victories, to acknowledge challenges, and to internalize progress.
I hope you claim a moment for reflection this month. I can’t wait to hear about what you learn.
Until next month…