August 1, 2020  • Newsletter

This month, I give you permission to do nothing financial.

Lake Yellowstone, Wyoming (July 2020)

It is the start of August, and in a normal year, we’d be happily and lazily enjoying the last remaining weeks of summer and quietly preparing for the fall. I’d probably be talking about re-visiting your budget for the year or getting ready for year-end tax contributions to retirement plans or your favorite charitable causes.

But this is not a normal year. We are starting the fifth month of pandemic awareness – It seems like only yesterday I was flying home from Boston instead of New York because live events had been suspended.

That was 141 days ago, and yet it could have been last week.

Throughout the 141 days, we have revised budgets. We have managed cash flow. We have navigated confusing unemployment options. We have applied for PPP and EIDL. We have reviewed changing regulations for various programs.

We have continued to create. We have made amazing work. We have re-defined our value in the context of changing circumstances. We have made masks and painted murals. We have supported each other.

We have had successes and shortcomings. We have seen the best of humanity and its worst. We have watched chaos unfold and fought against it. We have relied on leaders at the national and community level for effective leadership. We have celebrated the good ones and fought desperately to rid ourselves of the bad ones.

So it is okay if this month you skip your budgeting work or put off checking your credit score or delay opening that retirement account you always planned to open.

Instead, take a moment to journal about money. I’ve listed three prompts below, but don’t feel bound by them. Let the words, the worry, and the pride flow freely.

Prompt 1: I’ve always wondered…

Example: I’ve always wondered what the difference between a money market account and a mutual fund is. Everyone else seems to know, but I think there’s something I’m missing.

Example: I’ve always wondered how people seem to have emergency savings. I know some of them lucked into it through their parents, but plenty of others seem to be able to save. How do they do that?

Prompt 2: I admire people with this money habit…

Example: I admire people who can have open, honest conversations about money with their partners. We always seem to fight.

Example: I admire people who review their credit card statements in detail each month. Every time I look at the statement, I’m overwhelmed by all the legal jargon.

Example: I admire people who open their retirement statements each quarter. I immediately delete mine because I have no idea what it is telling me.

Example: I admire people who organize their receipts and expenses each week. My records are a jumble of crumpled paper, flagged emails, and sticky notes.

Prompt 3: This part of money feels completely out of my control…

Example: What I get paid feels completely out of my control. There are so many other people desperate for this work, it doesn’t matter if I’m really good at it. Someone else will do it more cheaply.

Example: Whether someone buys my work feels completely out of my control. We’ll have great conversations, I think we’ll be moving forward, and then they will just disappear, leaving me with no income.

Example: Planning for the fall and spring feels completely out of my control. In a normal year, I’d have a pretty good idea of the shows, gigs, and students I’d be teaching, but this year it is complete chaos.

Now What?

Save what you write. But don’t stress over the answers. We can figure out the answers and the solutions together, knowing full well that there may not be easy solutions ahead. But by naming the wonders, the actions, and the intention you’d like to have, you’ll have somewhere to start when you are ready to start.

For now, don’t worry about doing anything, other than taking care of yourself. It’s been 141 chaotic days and you are still here, still creating, still fighting, still existing.

And today, that is enough.

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Arts & Numbers

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