Timing is Everything: How to Make Financial Planning a Priority When You’re Swamped

It is frequently noted that the ebb and flow of income is a key challenge faced by both artists and other free-lance workers.  An often less emphasized, but equally important one, is time management.  Time is precious and we often strive—futilely—to find more of it.  When you are at your busiest—in production, meeting a deadline, preparing for an exhibit—it can be all too easy to embrace the excuse that you have too much going on to deal with your finances and investing.  Focusing your time, energy and attention to the project is crucial to ensuring that you and your work are shown in their best light.  However, during these demanding periods you still find time to eat, have laundered clothes to wear and maintain a clean(ish) home, among other essential elements of daily life.  Finding ways to keep your financial well-being moving forward at all times—even the most hectic—will ensure that don’t short-change yourself.

Establishing procedures to assist in keeping your financial plan consistently progressing will aid  in your quest for financial soundness.  In particular, incorporating limited attention-requiring processes into your financial planning during your slower work load times will allow progress even when you are swamped.  The more you can set up your investing and saving to manage itself, the more of your attention can be spent on your pursuits—and the less likely it will be that you harm yourself by inaction.

One great way to do this is by setting up automatic transfers.  If you are just beginning to take control of your finances, this can be as simple as scheduling an amount to move from your checking account to your savings account once or twice a month.  If you are farther along, you can schedule regular transfers to a mutual fund, brokerage account or other asset in which you’ve already begun to invest.  In addition to ensuring that you continue to save and invest at all times, these automatic monthly investments will allow you to take advantage of dollar cost averaging—buying fewer shares when the asset price is high and more shares when it is low.   During slower work times you can evaluate whether your monthly transfers should continue to be directed to the chosen assets or switched to different ones.

Scheduling a weekly appointment with yourself for financial work is another great strategy to ensure that your financial planning keeps moving forward and that you don’t lose touch with your investments and goals.  The last thing you want to do is slip backwards during your busiest times.  This shouldn’t require devoting a lot of time each week—after all, you want to make sure that your appointment doesn’t become a burden to be skipped. Fifteen to thirty minutes each week will help you keep your finger on the financial pulse and attend to anything requiring immediate attention.  Once your workload slows down, you can lengthen the time to facilitate reassessing strategies and adding new components to your plan.

To optimize the likelihood that you keep your appointment, schedule it on a day you know will always be relatively slow— such as your ‘dark’ day in theatre or a weekend if you freelance for the business community.  Alternatively, schedule it around a weekly event, such as while you are waiting for your laundry to finish or just before you read the Sunday newspaper.  Making it a habitual part of your routine will keep you on track at all times.

Creating and maintaining a ‘hit list’ of financial tasks you want to tackle is another great way to keep your financial wellness progressing.  This will enable you to easily remember and assess items that will keep your financial portfolio growing and evolving.  At the beginning of each month, assign some of the tasks that you wish to accomplish throughout the month.  For busy work months, commit to completing only one or two tasks to avoid being overburdened while knowing that in slower months you will be able to tick off more from the list.  As new ideas come up simply add them to your hit list for future attack.

Setting up and maintaining organized financial records will help you to spend less time keeping track of your growing investments.  It will also ensure that your information is always readily accessible.  Whether you set up digital folders for your regular statements or use old-fashioned file folders or binders, it will make it easy to file your statements as soon as you get them instead of letting them pile up in your to-do list.  It can also be helpful to set up a simple summary spreadsheet in which you can keep a list of all of your assets and their total current value.  As new statements arrive, update the spreadsheet with the information and then file the statement—easy!  This gives you a quick reference to your asset status whenever you need it.

More than ever, we are being pulled in many directions, with so much daily stimuli seeking our constant attention.  During times that we are engrossed in projects this becomes exacerbated.  On the up side, often at the end of really busy periods there is a nice influx of income which you want to be sure you are taking full advantage of.  Keeping your financial well-being plan always growing and progressing will help you to invest and utilize these extra funds to benefit you—and your career—the most.

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