Because of the nature of my job (tutoring), I spend an inordinate amount of time stuck in traffic. To maintain my sanity in the midst of perpetual gridlock, I've started listening to audio books, namely of the self-help variety. I figured I might as well learn to vibrate at a higher frequency, get the love I want, manifest my destiny, or change my brain so I can change my life whenever I find myself crawling along the 405 at 8 mph. (Say what you will about self-help books, but if I'm not going to help myself, who will?) During my most recent trip to the library, however, I realized that I had practically exhausted the self-help section, so, on a whim, I decided to check out some audio books on finance. I landed on Suze Orman's The Courage to Be Rich and Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Actually, upon closer inspection, I didn't check these books out on a whim.
I've always had a murky relationship with money. As an actress and writer, I subscribed to the philosophy that if I pursued what I felt passionately about, money would inevitably follow. So long as I stayed focused on my creative endeavors, money would, at some point, make its grand entrance. This philosophy offered me a very compelling excuse to avoid learning about the ways and means of money. If it's going to follow me, why bother learning how to invest, approach the stock market, identify and seize opportunities created by the market, form a corporation, etc. Besides, I had no interest in understanding ETFs, CDs, mutual funds, money market funds, equities, or capital gains tax, thank you very much. I'm an artist, after all. I'd gladly read the Hollywood Reporter to keep up with fluctuations in Hollywood, but would adamantly pass on reading the WSJ to keep up with market trends on Wall Street. Of course, I knew I needed money to cover the essentials, so, while patiently waiting for the big bucks, I took on part-time jobs to pay the bills -- I may be an artist, but I didn't want to be a starving one. And I always managed to get by. I remember my grandfather telling me that money is meant for making money. His words faintly echoed in the back of my brain, but I never placed much stock in them. Delving too deeply into the world of money felt base, vulgar, mercenary, and, at bottom, uncreative. If I were to become well versed in financial matters, I'd become artistically contaminated. I even went so far as to think that people who directly seek out wealth are greedy, acquisitive, and ruthless, even though I know this belief is not true -- well, at least not all the time.
This past year, however, I've started to understand that in deliberately distancing myself from money, I've chosen to establish myself as someone who's financially illiterate. And now that I'm starting to think about the future and how I intend to sustain myself over the long term, I'm realizing I need to forge an entirely new relationship with money. Just getting by just doesn't cut it anymore. I want to feel more financially abundant. I'm ready to immerse myself in all things finance. I'm willing to take my grandfather's words more seriously. I'm open to reading the WSJ, watching CNBC, and participating in conversations about money. I'm interested in learning how one goes about making their money grow. And I'm okay with feeling uncomfortable if I don't understand something right away, or if I make a mistake. Money has a dynamic, fluid, and, yes, creative energy that's deserving of respect.
Familiarizing myself with finance doesn't make me any less of an artist. In fact, it better positions me to claim my worth as an artist and, perhaps even more importantly, as a person. A few months ago, I don't think I could have listened to these audio books with open ears or an open heart, but now, surprisingly, I enjoyed listening to Suze explain the difference between a traditional and a Roth IRA, a regular annuity and a variable one. I was intrigued when Robert talked about the value of income-generating assets and the need to mind one's own business. I'm actually excited to become proficient in this new language of money. And, maybe, once I learn to talk the talk, then I can finally start learning to walk the walk.