Retirement Planning for the VFX Artist-Part 1


The harsh reality of working in visual effects is that no one looks out for you. You are the captain of your career, and it is up to you to steer your ship through any and all rough waters that you encounter. Visual effects is a young industry, which is why I want to talk about retirement planning. 

You are responsible for planning your retirement, no one else. There is no visual effects pension plan that is waiting for you when you turn 65. You have to take responsibility for this, especially if you have, or if you plan to have, children. No one wants to be a burden to their kids. 

Retirement planning is a big subject, so I have to take it slow.  I hope to have a series of posts on this subject that will walk you through the process of setting yourself up for a successful retirement. At the very least, it should get you thinking about this subject. 

One thing I want to stress is that it's not too late. Ok, maybe if you're in your 60's and you haven't started yet, it might be too late and you have to defer your retirement a few years. If you're in your 20s, 30s, 40s or 50s, there still time to put money away to have a better retirement. 

(One caveat in all of this: keep in mind that I'm not a financial planner, I'm a compositor. I have researched this a lot, but you should run this by someone smarter than me before you do anything. Don't sue me, blah blah blah.)

Why am I writing this on a site about finding visual effects jobs?  Well, I don't think people talk about this very much in our industry. Retirement is something that we will all deal with at one time or another, I figure someone should start talking about it.
Step 1, find out how much you are currently worth

The first step is figuring out how much you are currently worth. This is meant to wake people up who might be fooling themselves. Do you have credit card debt?  Are you paying off student loans?  Have you taken out a line of credit?  When you're saving for retirement, the fundamental truth is that you have to spend less than you make, or you will never save anything. I know that this sounds obvious, but it's amazing how many people don't put this into practice. 

There are worksheets on the internet we can use to help us with this. There's one here.

I want you to work through this sheet. Don't guess your way through this, take some time, research it and put in accurate numbers. 

When you're done, take a good hard look at it. You'll either see one of two things. Either you owe money or you don't. 
If you don't owe money, that's great. You have a solid base to work from. If you do owe money, don't panic, it's normal to owe money, especially if you have a mortgage or car payments. The purpose of this first exercise is to see where you are, to take stock of where you're at right now, and not to fool yourself. What's the point of thinking you have a few thousand in the bank, but you owe 20 grand in student loans?  An honest look at your numbers is the first step in figuring out a plan. 

In the coming weeks, I'll be writing more about this subject as we work through the steps to figure out a retirement plan. The important thing to remember is that you can do this. It is much better to confront this now than to wait until you're older. If you have comments or questions I encourage you to write in the comment box below so everyone can see it.