by Rick Allen
Financial freedom can be one of the best ways to boost your creativity. Think about it. The less you're stressing out about whether or not you can pay this month's bills...the more energy you have for doing your job and being creative.
That was just part of the best career advice I've ever got. It came from a middle aged disc jockey. In fact, his words of wisdom made it possible to work at a variety of radio stations over a twenty-year period and totally enjoy both the good times and the tough times. It made me feel more secure about my future and made it a lot easier to have fun. So, in this era of mega-mergers, job consolidation, and the extreme stress of production, the age-old advice he gave me seems to apply now more than ever, and I'd love to pass it on.
It was the day before I had to do battle in tough contract negotiations when I asked the midday jock for his advice on handling the GM. His only question was if I had an "F.U." Account. My blank stare let him know I had no idea what he was talking about. He explained that years before he had started stashing a little money from every paycheck and at least half of his free-lance income into a separate investment account. As the account grew, every time the GM gave him a hard time, he had more and more courage to stand up for himself. Thanks to the F.U. account, he was always ready to look the General Manager in the eye and say, "F you." The funny thing was...he never had to. In fact, with the self assurance of financial security, he was one of the best jocks that station had.
He said the key is to live a little below your income. "Pay yourself first" was his motto. Put money into savings every month just like you were paying a bill. He admitted that it is a hard habit to establish, especially if you're not pulling down a big salary in an industry where your co-workers love to "flash" status symbols. This midday jock didn't drive a Mercedes convertible like the morning guy. He didn't go out partying every night like the afternoon jock. He drove a real nice car, but it was a couple of years old. He and his wife went out for nice dinners, but only a couple of times a month. He didn't live for the "flash."
Today's 401K plans make it easier to save than ever. If your station offers one, fund it to the max! If not, you can still open an IRA or just start out by diverting a few bucks each month to a savings account. Start by trying to save ten percent of your salary. If your first thought is, "I don't make enough money in radio to save anything," you're not alone. It was my first thought back then, too. However, look at it this way: if you think you make an incredibly low salary, ten percent of an incredibly low salary isn't that much money. You won't miss it.
In this era of station sales and mega-mergers, many production people feel trapped and at the mercy of others. This is one area where you have complete control. It's your future at stake. Take charge. Give yourself the freedom of financial strength.