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Guiding Artists to Saving and Investing

Natalie Robin • Off the Shelf • January 25, 2016

Reviewing The Thriving Artist by David Maurice Sharp

The Thriving Artist by David Maurice Sharp aims to teach artists financial independence.
The Thriving Artist by David Maurice Sharp aims to teach artists financial independence.

David Maurice Sharp parlayed a temp job for a Wall Street firm into a more-than-decade long career in finance which he maintained while still actively performing.

And so he decided to share his new wealth of knowledge with other artists, first in an investment group, then in classes and workshops and now in his book The Thriving Artist, which aims to be a guide to “saving and investing for performers, artists, and the Stage & Film industries.” Obviously, I didn’t have time to test all of his methods and watch my money grow BUT I found his approach to be straight-forward, accessible and, surprisingly, fun to read. He also made financial independence seem achievable, instead of buying into the “artists must starve for their art” mentality, which was very refreshing.

Sharp structures his book around the steps a regular artist can take to get their financial life under control and then the various venues available for investments. He clearly defines his terms without coming across as patronizing. And he regularly ties the financial ideas back to the artistic ones:

“Not taking risks as a performer means you are not exploring your full potential; you are ‘too safe.’ That is always viewed as a bad thing. Taking unnecessary financial risks, or taking risks that you do not fully understand or are uncomfortable with, is reckless.”

He starts with simple explanations of steps anyone can take and then moves on to defining the various parts of the equation: risk, types of investments, taxes.

As someone who first learned about the stock market on vacation when I was 8, the refresher course was valuable and easily understandable. Sharp then goes into more detail on each part of a portfolio and relevant institutions or terms associated with this aspect of financial planning. Though aimed at performing arts professionals, Sharp does not fall into the trap to assume that all of his readers are New York based actors. His advice comfortably walks the line between specific and alienating. There is not assumption that everyone’s situation is the same or that everyone has access to exactly the same resources, institutions or funds. He encourages his readers to direct specific questions to a tax preparer or accountant or even a financial planner. There is no claim to this being the “ultimate guide to finance.” Instead, Sharp has provided an accessible and easily readable text for smart beginners.

I really appreciated the straightforward tone and clear information of the text. This is meant as somewhat of a beginner’s guide for the intelligent, critical artist, and I think it is successful as such. The tone is casual and also comprehensible without becoming too dry or pedantic. I read it in one sitting. And I plan to return to it in pieces as I continue to evaluate my own financial life as an artist. 

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