Try Not To Judge Abby Lee Miller

Bri Cooper
Opera Singer

I was watching the news about Abby Lee Miller and her bankruptcy.  I got into a conversation with another performing artist who was really bashing her. I just could not bring myself to join in. As I explained to him, we only know what the news, tell us and what she says. We do not know the decisions that led her to making her choices. In the performing arts world, we can be put in the situation of touring in another country and literally getting paid in cash. That one act of putting cash in her pocket (from an appearance she made in another country), and not being familiar with the law from one country to another as it pertains to a bankruptcy (filed years ago), is what turned one “innocent” act into a crime.

For some reason I began to think of my marriage, and business. Much like Abby Miller, my Dad did everything for me. He paid for our education through undergraduate school. Both of my parents supported my classical singing career. Whatever I needed, I had. I never had to think about money, how I was going to make money. He paid for everything. I knew nothing about money, how to respect it, take care of it. All I knew is that I had to earn it to pay for things.

I decided to go back to school, because if I had to be the breadwinner, I had to not only learn about business, but I had to learn about how business, finance, economics, and a performing arts career intersect. I wanted to learn more about the business side of how the world works, how the economy affects the performing arts. I needed to learn the skills that would help me to become a better business woman if I wanted to run my own company, or someone else’s company. It is nice to have someone do it for you, but even better when we have to learn and apply the foundation ourselves.   After three years, I earned my M.B.A. with a concentration in International Business.

Now, back to Abby Lee. One of my first classes, I learned exactly what Abby Lee is unfortunately learning the hard way. If you are still reading, I am assuming you want some tips as to how to avoid some of the pitfalls regarding business and being a performing artist. Everyone’s situation is different. (Remember to consult with a certified financial planner to come up with a strategy that will best suit your needs).

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  1. Open a checking and Savings account at two different banks. You will be less tempted to touch the money you are trying to save when you do not see it. For a long period of time, I never had an ATM card associated with my savings account.
  2. Invest – If you have not invested yet, now is a good time to take some of the money you have set aside and put it into a no load mutual fund (s) that will suit your needs. Even if you just want to get your feet wet, choose a fund that you are familiar with, invest and take a few months to a year to observe what happens. If you are not making a lot of money, that is ok, still do it! Your money needs to work harder and longer for you, than you do for it! You also have to know your risk limitations, so think about that during this step and step 3.
  3. Consult with a Financial Planner – Whenever I get stuck or overwhelmed, I seek advice from others who are experts in the field. This goes beyond reading a blog post (clearing my throat). It means doing some research, picking up the phone and setting appointments in person. Make sure that they are a certified financial planner first (ask during your initial inquiry, or check their website). Ask if they have free consultations.
  4. Apps – Make use of apps that will work for you. There are tons of apps that will help you be a more productive person in your professional and personal life. Think of the areas where you struggle, and then find an app to help you. For example, I used to hate writing out a budget. Now I use an app, that tracks the amount I am spending for things like entertainment, education, food, housing.  You can also go old school and write one out, keep a ledger and do your checks and balances.
  5. Bankruptcy – The dreaded “B” word. Let’s call a spade a spade. In the performing arts business you, or someone you know of has considered or filed for bankruptcy.  Before you judge, remember, bankruptcy is often used as a tool.  Divorce, bad investments, the economy and more are reasons that you should consult with a bankruptcy Attorney. Keep in mind that filing bankruptcy is serious business. Give it the respect it deserves. Educate yourself on the big ticket purchases you want to make in the future; If you own a business, how will that impact your business; Bankruptcy is the LAST stop, after you have done everything you can do to dig yourself out of a hole.  If you just want to get rid of credit card debt, consider calling the company and making a settlement on the balance owed. Once you file bankruptcy, it is a game changer if you do work outside or inside the U.S. If you are confronted with an opportunity, that pays large sums of money, consult with a bankruptcy attorney about how this will impact you and what you need to report.
  6. Everyone has to start somewhere – Even if you are starting at the bottom, and you are feeling unsure of yourself, remember, you have to start somewhere.  Just START! Join a networking group! Sign up for a class that is of interest to you.
  7. Mind your business – At the end of the day, what we can learn from Abby Lee is that it is up to all of us to learn our craft AND our business. There are tons of books out there that can get you on your way. It is up to you to know who is signing what check; It is up to you to know how every check you make from a business overseas impacts your taxes; It is up to you ask the questions that can often times be uncomfortable for many, but that one question you were too polite to ask, could be the answer that will make your decision legal or illegal. For example, in some states your drivers license will be suspended if you do not pay a parking ticket over a month, owe money to an insurance company,  or drive without insurance. However, if you say to yourself “I’ll pay that ticket when I get around to it” , you get in the car and drive, you are pulled over…..guess what? Your license could be suspended without you even realizing it.  Sound familiar? Something so innocent, turns into a big legal nightmare.

If you ask Abby Lee today, I bet she would say “I had no idea that there was a limit on how much cash I could bring into the country after filing bankruptcy”.

If you liked this blog feel free to leave a comment! What are some of your helpful hints about saving money?

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