Occupation: Freelance television documentary director. I’ve spent most of my career working on true-crime documentaries. After film school I got an internship working on a feature documentary about Charles Manson and things progressed from there.
Earnings: About $120,000 a year
Assets and liabilities: I have about $47,000 in an RRSP, invested in GICs and mutual funds, and about $7,000 split between a high-interest savings account and a chequing account. I’ve just opened a TFSA, which has about $1,000: I know I’m supposed to have a TFSA but I don’t really know why. And I co-own my Toronto home (appraised in spring 2018 at $945,000) with my former husband. The only debt I have is my mortgage, at $316,000.
For the past decade I’ve been constantly contracted by different television shows with the same two companies. So, I have permanent work but it could go at any time. I’m constantly working toward my next gig—and getting more comfortable with that uncertainty. Financially, though, it’s a challenge, because I know that I need to pay my mortgage for all of 2019. So far this year I’ve landed a contract for the winter, and I’m confident more work will come.
I’m not incorporated. There’s so much conflicting information in the freelance TV industry about whether you should incorporate, and when: When you bill more than $100,000 a year? When you don’t spend more than 30% of what you bill? Nobody really knows. It would be good to sit down with a financial advisor and really understand whether it makes sense to incorporate.
I don’t actually see retirement as a reality for my future. That’s partially for financial reasons, and partially because I’m a very active person and I’d go crazy if I weren’t working. It’s super satisfying to be able to take something from concept to screen. Right now, though, I’m essentially a hired gun. I’d like to get to a place where I could create more of my own content, have creative control over my work and be able to produce my own documentary. Essentially, my retirement goals are to not have to work until I’m 100 and to be able to travel. I’m a storyteller, and there’s no age limit for that.
The fine line between ‘mansplaining’ and educating
I’m not super financially literate. I did find a financial planner through a friend of a friend, and in the upcoming year it would be wise to sit down with him and make plans. I feel like I need someone who understands the instability of freelance work, who gets my situation as recently separated and who appreciates my conservative approach but will push me a bit. How should I best manage the money I have with the future I want? And there has to be a fine line of not “mansplaining” things to me but also educating me—keeping in mind that I don’t really want to know all that much.
Up close and personal
I grew up with middle-class parents—my dad is an artist and my mom did odd jobs—who were conservative financially. I’ve internalized a lot of that: my aversion to debt; my low risk tolerance.
On the other hand, I have memories of my mom delaying a trip for many years. She wanted to go to Mexico to visit a friend of hers and she kept saying, “Oh, maybe when we get you guys through university.” And she died when I was a teenager, and she never got to go on that trip because she was always trying to be responsible. I want to live in the now a lot more than my parents did. For example, I bought a small sailboat last summer, and I paid cash. My perspective is, “I’ll buy it now, because maybe I won’t live long enough to retire.” My mom would have gotten a kick out of me buying a boat.