Larry Kahaner

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The ‘Starving Writer’ Notion Needs to Die

The ‘Starving Writer’ Notion Needs to Die

By Larry Kahaner

When I decided to make my living as a writer, lo, those many years ago, I realized that I better learn about money and investing. Why? Because I knew that being a writer can sometimes be a financial up-and-down kind of life. If you’re a writer, or plan to become one, you also better learn how to hanbella-new-writer-in-cafedle your money. If not, you’re in for a lifetime of disappointment, frustration and regret.

First, the good news. Being a writer is a great job. Do I really need to explain why?

However, some writing jobs or books don’t pay a lot of money. That’s why you have to be extra smart about your finances and money management.

After years of writing about business (one of my specialties) and investing my own money, I decided to offer presentations to colleges about personal finance. I call it the Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp and my goal was to help college students prepare for financial adulthood. During a presentation at the University of Connecticut, Waterbury, an attendee came up afterwards and asked me about my assertion that anyone could become a millionaire or more by the time they retired simply by saving and investing. She said: “I’m planning on becoming an artist and artists often don’t make a lot of money. Can I still become a millionaire by age 65?”

My answer was ‘yes,’ and for purposes of this blog change the word ‘artist’ to ‘writer’ and my answer remains the same.

I explained that the key to becoming rich is not about much you make, but how regularly you save and invest. By putting aside what you can each month into a stock index fund when you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, it will grow at around 9 percent annually for many decades and you’ll be a millionaire by age 65. (If you’re past these ages, this works, too, but you’ll end up with a lower amount.)  There will be hills and troughs so you have to hang tough. Through the power of compounding (remember compound interest from middle school?) your investments will grow large. See this blog for details.

“What if there are months that I have no money invest?” she asked.

I replied: “If you miss a month or two, your nest egg won’t suffer in the long term, but try to put something away, even if it’s only $20, every month. Even that small amount will make a difference if you start today.”

Is it more complicated than that? Yes, but you don’t have to know everything right now. Take it slow and no whining about how you’re a writer/artist/musician and you shouldn’t have to know about money. That kind of thinking is for suckers.

Remember, the starving writer is a myth perpetrated by people who find poverty a romantic notion. If anything, penury keeps you from producing your best works.


The adage ‘do what you love and the money will come,’ seems a bit outdated and unrealistic to me. I believe the true key to life is to discover what you love to do and then figure out how to make a living at it.

For those of you who are interested in learning more, drop me a line and I’ll suggest some easy-to-understand websites and books to get you started.

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