About Elaine Grogan Luttrull

Elaine Grogan Luttrull is the founder of Minerva Financial Arts, a company devoted to building financial literacy in artists and arts organizations through education, coaching, and counseling. She is also an assistant professor at the Columbus College of Art & Design, where she serves as the Department Head for Business & Entrepreneurship. Elaine previously served as the Director of Financial Analysis for The Juilliard School and in the Transaction Advisory Services practice of Ernst & Young in New York. Her presentations have been featured nationally by the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, Americans for the Arts, the Arts & Business Council of New York, the College Art Association, Playwrights of New York, the Lark Play Development Center, Theatre Communications Group, the Juilliard School, the New England Conservatory of Music, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Ohio Art League, the Ohio Arts Council, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, the City of Bloomington, and the Foundation Center. Elaine is the author of Arts & Numbers (Agate, B2 2013), and a regular contributor to Professional Artist magazine. She serves on the boards of SocialVentures, the Short North Alliance, and the Financial Therapy Association. Elaine is a CPA with a PFS designation, and she completed a graduate certificate in Financial Therapy.

September 2022 Message

This Month’s Money Message: Manage

It’s no secret that your costs have been going up. Supplies, transportation, and especially food are noticeably more expensive right now – even though prices are a bit lower than they were last month.

You are probably noticing the numbers – or at least hearing about them everywhere – and you might find it harder to pay those credit card balances in full. You’re not alone. 53% of cards have an outstanding balance on them, and overall credit card debt is inching upwards again after falling during the pandemic.

So this month, let’s manage your debt. Let’s figure out what you owe, what it is costing you, and what a realistic plan to reduce it might look like. (Let’s embed some self-care in that plan as well… Depending on what is going on in your life, eliminating credit card debt may or may not be your biggest priority. Let’s make a plan that works for you – even if that plan is simply coping with the debt.)

Let’s make a plan that works for you – even if that plan is simply coping with the debt.
So what does “managing debt” look like? You won’t be surprised to learn that it includes a little bit of knowledge, followed by some actions, plus examining some beliefs along the way. The knowledge part – gathering the data – comes first.

List your debt. All of it. Start with the name of the debt. Then add the current balance (including interest that has accumulated). Then list the interest rate and the payment schedule (if you have one). If there are special things about the debt, makesure to include that as well. Here’s what that process looks like when we do it with clients:

It’s a lot. It takes time. It probably requires pulling statements and dusting off old log-ins. Take the time you need to gather all the data. It may take even longer if you have student loans, given all the changes to repayment pauses and forgiveness that have been in the works lately. Take your time.

Once you’ve got the information, you can make a plan. The plan will involve some relatively complex math using interest rate formulas, but don’t let those formulas scare you away. Look at what you can afford to put toward the debt each month (realistically) and then figure out how to prioritize those payments over time. The general rule is to prioritize debts with the highest interest rates, but that general rule may or may not work for you. In this example plan, the individual can put $500 toward (non-mortgage) debt each month. This is on top of what they are paying for the rest of their living expenses. Under this plan, the debt will be gone in 35 months.

But the plan will only work if you examine your underlying beliefs. Do you believe it is possible to live without debt? If not, it may be hard to prioritize these payments. For what it is worth, it is possible – even though it may not seem common – and there are ways of getting there that can work for you. We’ll help you find them.

To recap the things to know, do, and believe this month as you manage your debt:

Know: The amount of debt you have, plus the interest rate on each debt.

Do: Make a plan to pay off the debt based on information that works for you and your life.

Believe: Your debt is manageable (even if it doesn’t feel manageable), and you can eliminate it over time.

What We’re Doing

We’re sharpening pencils and opening fresh notebooks this month to visit NYU and NEC (virtually of course). Then, we’re road-tripping to Parkersburg, West Virginia to help artists take over the town (and learn a bit about money along the way).

What We’re Talking About

The back-to-school season must be on everyone’s minds because we are doing a lot of “snapshotting” for folks: Checking in on big picture numbers and seeing where things stand. Not surprisingly, expenses have gone up for most people, which means some creative navigating of the other numbers (earnings, savings, and debt) to keep things on track.

CREATIVE COACHING (1 HOUR, $125)

If you’d like to chat with me to answer your own questions, feel free to find a time that works with your schedule.

Manage

“To manage” can mean to administer, to run, to be in charge of something, or simply to cope. All of those options work when it comes to debt. If you’re feeling up to it, take some time to actively take charge of your debt this month. You’ll be glad you did.

Until next month,

   

August 2022 Message

This Month’s Money Message: Invest

I had three particularly impactful conversations last month: Two in person and one via email. They all followed a similar script:

Creative Person: So I looked at my [retirement/investment] account yesterday, and I’ve lost [big number]. I’m thinking about moving it to [something safer/bonds/cash]. Should I?

Me: Nope. (Followed by validation, information, and permission.)

Validation

It can be terrifying to look at a balance that was big and see that it is now small. So far this year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (a proxy for “the market”) is down almost 14%. When someone looks at their retirement account and sees they have lost $30-40k in a few months, the natural instinct can be to do something about it.

But before doing anything, sit with the feelings. I’ve heard three key feelings emerge this month from my non-scientific conversations with clients: Fear (about what might keep happening), discomfort (about what has happened), guilt (for not knowing more about how investments work), and sometimes even shame (for letting this happen).

Three of those feelings are backwards looking; only one is about what might happen next.

Sit with the feelings and name them instead of trying to make them go away. Our instincts about how to make them go away are often reactionary and wrong, but if we have a better understanding of the feeling, we can take actions that are thoughtful (and often more effective).

But before doing anything, sit with the feelings.

Information

Once we’ve named the feelings, we contextualize them. Yes, the market is down from its high point. But if you take a wider lens and look over, say, the past five years instead of the past few months, the market is actually up. Way up. In each case with each client, when we looked at investment performance over a longer time period, the overall balance was up. (It wasn’t always “way up” but it was up.)

Yes, there may have been a setback on your path to whatever goal you have named… But your overall progress is still noteworthy.

Then we look at the timing. If you are in your 30s, 40s, or 50s, you probably have some time before you’ll need this money. That means you have the flexibility to wait until the market goes back up. (If you are in your 60s or 70s, we should be having a very different conversation, depending on your goals. You may not have the luxury of time for your investments, especially if you plan on accessing the funds within the next year.)

You can use this as a benchmark and check in with it monthly to see if the balances are going up or down. You can use this to remind yourself of that time in 2022 that you didn’t panic: You didn’t liquidate your investments, you didn’t lose your mind.

Yes, it is hard to think about the long-term, but when you have the luxury of time, you should take it.

Then we look at the alternatives. On person’s friend had suggested a bond fund, someone else had wanted to move the money into cash. It will not surprise you to know that the bond fund was also down for the year, and with the rate of inflation, holding too much cash actually works against you. (But please remember I want you to hold some cash! Don’t leave your cash entirely!)

As you dig into other options, take comfort in seeing how widespread this correction is. It is not only affecting you; it is not only affecting individuals without financial advisors; it is not only affecting those without economics degrees. These corrections happen, and it is not your job to avoid them.

Yes, more conservative holdings may be less volatile, but there is not a perfect alternative that will never go down in value. Your plans are flexible enough to ride the highs and lows.

Permission

The permission is my favorite part. This is the part where I remind folks that they have the agency to decide what to do next. They can exhale, review the information to contextualize their feelings, and do nothing, knowing the investment choices they made are right for their own goals. Or they can make a different choice. And that’s okay too.

So with your own agency in mind, here are three things to think about this month:

Know: Whether or not you care about how your investments are doing.

It is perfectly fine to ignore the noise around investments right now, especially if you are comfortable with your overall plan.

Do: Nothing (unless you make a different choice).

I don’t often advocate doing nothing as a general rule, but in the context of investments and an overall market correction, you do not have to do anything. And by doing nothing, you’ll probably participate in future upsides.

Believe: Investing is a rollercoaster business. It’s okay to just hang on and enjoy the ride, especially if you have already checked your safety harness and secured any loose belongings.

What We’re Doing

August starts with a reunion with those who have been through IAC’s On-Ramp Program. We’re hosting On-Ramp 2.0 at two sites in Indiana providing next-level business training to creative folks who have been through the fellowship. Later in the month, we gets to work with fellows from two national fellowship programs to help them incorporate strong financial habits into their fellowship years.

What We’re Talking About

Investing, investing, and more investing. In addition to the three folks who brought up very specific questions, just about everyone else has investments on the mind (or in the news feed). You know we don’t give investment advice or manage money, but we can certainly talk through your feelings.

CREATIVE COACHING (1 HOUR, $125)

If you’d like to chat with me to answer your own questions, feel free to find a time that works with your schedule.

Invest

Validate your feelings, gather some (reliable) information, and give yourself permission to make a choice that works for you when it comes to your investments. Keeping things simple in a world of chaos is always good advice.

Until next month,