Take 5 for Your Career: Smart Spending
Financial planning for dancers usually runs along the liens of "How to live on pennies a day." But what about when you begin to earn a steadier income? Whether you're patching together several jobs or have landed a full-time position, you should develop a financial strategy.
Budgeting may seem dour, even daunting. But a realistic plan will prove invaluable--particularly when you hit hurdles no dancer likes to think about: unemployment and injury. "Our profession is fleeting. One day you could be healthy, the next day you could have a torn ACL," says Ariana DeBose, who was recently in Broadway's Motown: The Musical. "You have to be proactive."
Health insurance should be number one on your list of expenses. If you do get injured, it will ease the financial pain. DeBose gets hers through a performers' union--she's a member of SAG-AFTRA and the Actors' Equity Association. Freelancers also have options--many more with the Affordable Care Act (see "Your Body, Your Health Care," page 116). But there are other priorities, too. From setting aside money for taxes and retirement to spending wisely on daily expenses like rent and classes, planning carefully will help you make the most of your income.
1. Develop a Savings Plan
As a freelancer, it's common to face extended breaks between gigs. In these situations, a rainy day account can be a huge help. As a general rule of thumb, Las Vegas-based financial consultant Jessica Scheitler recommends that most people have enough squirreled away to cover at least six months' expenses. But each individual's needs are different.
When DeBose was building her savings, she used the six-month guideline (plus a little cushion), which put her goal at $20,000. That figure may be overwhelming--especially if you've just started working. But saving doesn't happen all at once. DeBose says she put aside one third to half of her weekly paycheck until she met her goal.
Kristin Klein, choreographer and artistic director of Inclined Dance Project, saves a more modest sum, about 10 percent of her income. The amount is up to you, but the goal is the same. "Everybody wants some sort of stability," Klein says. "It's a way to feel safe."
2. Account for Taxes
For freelance dancers, tax season can be especially stressful. If your paychecks don't have taxes withheld, you may owe a balance on April 15--which often comes as a shock. Setting aside some of your untaxed income will lessen the blow; Limón Dance Company member Logan Frances Kruger says she tries to earmark a third of her 1099 income for taxes. And if you owe taxes one year, you may be required to make quarterly estimated payments the following year--another cost to plan for.
Whether you're a full-time employee or a freelancer, it's also important to understand tax deductions. "Anything that's helping you advance your career is going to be deductible," Scheitler says. That may include everything from dance classes to headshots. But you have to be able to prove these, so organized records--receipts and bank statements--are a must.
3. Pay for Continuing Education
Although investing in developing new skills early in your dance career may seem unnecessary, it will help you in the long run. When Kruger was freelancing, she worked the front desk at a Pilates studio. The position allowed her to take teacher-training classes at a discount and practice on the studio equipment for free. "It was completely strategic," she says. Not only did she build a valuable skill set that can provide financial support during a career change, she uses Pilates to keep in shape when she's touring or unable to take class. Plus, Kruger was able to deduct her Pilates training on her taxes.
4. Plan for Retirement
With your career just hitting its stride, retirement may be the last thing on your mind. But the earlier you start contributing to a fund, the easier it is to save slowly and steadily. Opening a retirement account will help keep you on track: You can take money out of a savings account at any time, but retirement funds won't be touched for decades. (Withdrawing money early almost always incurs penalties.)
If you have a full-time employer, you may be able to pen a 401(k) retirement fund. All Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers, for instance, are offered a 401(k) options in their contract, negotiated by AGMA. One facet of their agreement is a company match; if a dancer puts money into her retirement fund, PNB matches her contribution.
If you're a freelancer, the most common option is an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). There are two main types, Roth and traditional, with significant differences. Do you r research before making any investment--whether that's talking with financial professionals, researching online or reaching out to friends and family.
5. Spend to Save
After living on so little for so long, you'll want to enjoy your influx of cash. Rather than completely altering your lifestyle (and your budget), remember that small luxuries can go a long way. Kruger has been able to save and invest without sacrificing creature comforts. One frugal choice: She cooks most of her meals at home. But she treats herself to indulgent items, like truffle oil. And rather than buying the cheapest bottle of wine, she now splurges on a $10 bottle--sipped out of a nice wine glass. "Little things like that are worth it," she says. "They help you stick to your plan and goals."
Katie Rolnick is a freelance writer and TV producer based in New York City.
Image courtesy iStock.
"Besides the stage, baking is my other happy place," says New York City Ballet corps member Jenelle Manzi.
Four years ago, she thought her baking days were over when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Manzi had been dealing with pain, frequent illness and joint inflammation for nearly 10 years. Once she cut out gluten, Manzi gradually started to feel better, noticing a transformation in how her body felt and functioned. She found her joints were less inflamed, and she got sick less often.
New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan and American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary spend every day making their hard work look effortless and graceful both in the studio and onstage. That's exactly what makes them the perfect spokesmodels for the dance-inspired activewear line, Belle Force.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."
Many people see dance and choreography as separate pursuits, or view choreography as a dance career's second act. For some dancers, however, performing and choreographing inform one another. "That's just the kind of choreographer I am. I feel things so deeply in my physicality. I have to do it to know it," says Jodi Melnick, who is a prolific performer of her own work. She also maintains an active practice as a performer for other choreographers: Throughout her career, she's worked with Trisha Brown, Twyla Tharp, Tere O'Connor and Donna Uchizono, to name a few.
Though a dual career can be fulfilling, simultaneously inhabiting the roles of dancer and choreographer requires focus, organization and a great deal of energy.
New York City is getting an embarrassment of riches this week—riches of the Emerald, Diamonds and Rubies variety. The Bolshoi Ballet, Paris Opéra Ballet and New York City Ballet will be sharing the stage at Lincoln Center to present George Balanchine's Jewels in celebration of the iconic ballet's 50th anniversary.
One of the many stars we're excited to see is Olga Smirnova, our June 2014 cover girl, who will be performing the lead in "Diamonds" as well as the role of Bianca in Jean-Christophe Maillot's Taming of the Shrew next week.
I have always been extremely dramatic. I think "extremely" might even be an understatement. As a child, I was constantly in costume. Never clothes. Always a costume.
When I was 8 we moved into a new house, and took a home video to send to my dad's family. My siblings were performing a song for the camera. I desperately wanted to join them, but they got annoyed and said no. In the video I run out of the room crying hysterically, and you can hear my dad saying, "It's okay, Sam, you can dance for the camera later."
This is followed by about 45 minutes of me dancing. Music changes, style changes, costume changes, the works. Dance was, and still is, the best way I know how to express myself.