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David Maurice Sharp

Book Interview: The Thriving Artist: Saving and Investing for Performers, Artists, and the Stage & Film Industries

THriving Artist

Getting To Know The Author: David Maurice Sharp

Isaac:

For this week’s interview I am happy to introduce David Maurice Sharp and his book: The Thriving Artist: Saving and Investing for Performers, Artists, and the Stage & Film Industries. David, how are you doing today?

David Maurice Sharp:

Doing well, thanks! Happy to be here!

Isaac:

Great to hear, we are glad you could take some time out to do this interview! Now off the bat I want to ask you about your unusual professional career. Very rarely do you hear someone transitioning from an artistic background (in your case dance) to a financial career. How did you get your start in dance, and why the transition?

David Maurice Sharp:

I went to New York University to study drama and while there had the opportunity to take a modern dance class with Anna Sokolow. At first, I didn’t really know much about her but loved the work that we were doing and got hooked on modern dance. After graduating, I still did some theater work but focused primarily on modern dance. I was fortunate to be able to dance for some amazing choreographers such as Lucinda Childs, Rachel Lampert and Mimi Garrard.

Since modern dance was rarely lucrative in terms of income, I was always on the look out for ways to supplement it. I landed a temp job with a Wall Street company that specialized in things like corporate takeovers and tender offers. I really didn’t know much about it when I started but learned on the job. They provided me with a flexible enough schedule that I could keep dancing. While there, I also learned a lot about investing in the stock market which was an added bonus!

Isaac:

Wow, that must have been an interesting experience working in two very different settings.

David Maurice Sharp:

It was a little disconcerting at times because they are such different worlds but very beneficial because I really was able to learn both sides of the experience.

Getting To Know More About The Book

Isaac:

Of course, and you translate that dual experience into your book. Now the book’s title is an obvious play on the trope of ‘the starving artist’. As someone who has been on that side of the fence, why do you think so many artists mishandle or don’t pay attention to their finances as much as they should?

David Maurice Sharp:

I think there are a couple of reasons for that. First and foremost, there is a real lack of financial literacy education to the average person. For artists, it is particularly difficult because the financial information that is available is not geared towards the life that they find themselves living–i.e. inconsistent income, multiple employers, often a lack of any company sponsored retirement plan, etc. So the artist has a two step process when trying to understand investing; they first must figure out what it is and then try to determine how to apply it to their experience.

Another problem is that they often feel that with limited assets to invest it won’t be worth it for them. Often, financial professionals and organizations support this idea and don’t want to work with artists that don’t have a lot of money. All of this can undermine their confidence in taking control of their finances and finding ways to save & invest so that their assets help to support their artistic pursuits, rather than hinder them.

Isaac:

Thats a great summary David, especially regarding the inconsistent income that can arise from that lifestyle. In your opinion what are the most common pitfalls you see artists falling into when it comes to managing their money?

David Maurice Sharp:

Without question it is that many don’t find a way to escape from the “feast or famine” mentality. I’ve heard so many stories of artists having periods of time in their field in which they are bringing in a lot of income and they fail to save any of it. When the inevitable lull happens they realize that they should have saved for this time.

Isaac:

Right, it turns into a vicious cycle then. I’d like to focus more on the book now, while it’s clearly aimed at artists and those with similar financial situations, can the average person get something out of your book?

David Maurice Sharp:

Absolutely! Many non-artists that have read it have found that they learned a lot about investing that they could apply to themselves, even though they weren’t living an artists’ life. I’ve also had a great response from Millennials, who find themselves in a very different work environment than previous generations. The expectation of staying with any company for long periods of time is no longer the rule, so they need to understand how to take care of things like their retirement accounts while moving from job to job. They also benefit from taking charge of their investments because it can give them more flexibility in the kind of work they choose to do.

Isaac:

Exactly, I was just thinking of some of the parallels you could draw from being an artist and the new millennial ‘gig economy’ that we are seeing a huge growth in. Both these groups experience part time or non-secure sources of income and have to learn to manage that. Its great to hear that the book can help the average person on the street too, what would you say are the main lessons or values you try to get across in your book?

David Maurice Sharp:

I really encourage everyone to do what they can to understand the basic ideas of investing. Then they can make their own decision as to whether they want to do it on their own, through a financial adviser, or some combination of the two. What’s important is for them to understand enough to feel empowered so that they don’t worry that they are being taken advantage of. I also encourage diversification and taking the long approach to building their assets. The idea of “instant” success doesn’t apply to artists–who spend their whole careers honing their craft–so why should it apply to their finances?

Isaac:

I guess that mindset is an unfortunate stereotype of the market being a get-rich-quick scheme! Wrapping the interview up, how did you research the book? Obviously your own experience in the finance industry will have played a part, and your experience as an artist gave you knowledge as well, but did you do any additional research for the book?

David Maurice Sharp:

I think some of the most important research that I did was to listen to the artists who attend my workshops. Hearing the concerns they had, areas of investing that really confused them, and what they hoped for in terms of financial well-being really helped me to shape the information that went into the book. I also try to teach people how to learn in the book, so that they understand how to keep furthering their exploration for themselves. Rather than putting in information that would date quickly, I try to point the reader to sources they can further explore once they understand the basics.

Isaac:

Thats great David, like the old ‘teach a man to fish’ saying goes right? Now to finish off the interview, if you had an interested reader in front of you and could tell him one thing to convince him to pick up your book – what would it be?

David Maurice Sharp:

Dare yourself to dream as big as you can in pursuing your art, and dare yourself to thrive while doing it!

Isaac:

Excellent thought David! It has been a real pleasure having you for the interview and I hope you have have a great day!

David Maurice Sharp:

Thanks, Isaac! You have a great one as well!

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