Kendra Sivertson, CFP, CLU is an advisor at Perspektiv Financial and Sora Group. She works in the historic Gastown neighbourhood in Vancouver. She has been in the financial industry for more than 15 years. Kendra’s primary expertise is creating financial plans for business owners and people in the film industry.
when Kendra Sivertson was a teenager, she dreamt of becoming a famous actress—and might have been one if not for a car accident that left a deep scar on her face.
While she took a pass on the bright lights, her passion for the film industry never wavered. Told she was too young for an MBA in theatre management, she landed a job as a credit-union teller, and realized she was equally as enamored with finance.
Today, Sivertson advises actors, directors and other film-industry professionals. The Vancouver-based advisor with Sora Group Wealth Advisors, Inc., began building a base of movie-related clients through friends in the industry. They now constitute about 40% of her book. “I can live vicariously through my clients,” she says.
Dealing with film professionals is similar to working with business-owner clients, which constitute another 40% of her base. Many don’t make money for weeks, and then get a massive influx of cash. Her highest-earning film clients can make up to $1 million per year—but can see that drop to $350,000 or even zero in subsequent years.
2010 operating revenues of Canadian film, television and video production industry
Ontario has the most film workers employed, followed by Quebec and British Columbia.
To prepare them for slow work periods, Sivertson takes a basket approach. She creates three separate accounts: the first for immediate needs, such as bills; the second for medium-term wants, like a house; and the final account to fund financial independence.
If a client’s show gets cancelled, or he’s off for the summer, Sivertson dips into the first basket to fund his lifestyle. That account is primarily invested in fixed-income to shelter it from volatility. The second basket is an even mix between bonds and equity, and the last account is more weighted to equities.
Generally, Sivertson says, because her clients don’t get regular paycheques and could be out of a job at any time, their portfolios will have a higher weighting to fixed income.
As for retirement, many clients say they’ll never stop working. So Sivertson focuses on financial independence instead. “I say, ‘What happens if you’re not doing this anymore?’ It’s about choosing when to work” rather than aiming for a set stop date.
She also runs scenarios to determine what will happen to clients’ draw rates if they don’t see income for certain periods. Plus, “we set funds aside that we never include in any long-term planning”—at least a year’s worth of emergency savings.
But clients shouldn’t put that cash into TFSAs if, like 30% of her film-industry clients, they’re dual citizens or landed immigrants (most of those hailing from South of the border).
“The TFSA is not accepted as a registered plan in the U.S., so you have to understand where they’re filing their taxes and whether they’re being paid in Canada or the U.S.,” or both.
As well, several industry unions automatically siphon a portion of paycheques to RRSPs, “but if the person isn’t a Canadian and is just working here, she may not be eligible for an RRSP,” says Sivertson. To help her navigate IRS rules, she works with several accountants who specialize in U.S. tax, as well as lawyers who are familiar with American trust laws.
There are other cross-border differences. Her Canadian clients tend to earn less than $1 million per year, while Americans often earn above that threshold. If a client does land a large contract, though, he’ll usually come in telling her about big-ticket items he wants to purchase.
“People come to see me because they know they shouldn’t be spending all of it. Clients say they have my voice in their heads, saying, ‘You shouldn’t be doing that!’ ”
To engender such discipline, Sivertson builds in a reward portion to help manage the windfalls—otherwise they’ll never stick to the plan during lean years. Indulgences like trips or a home theatre are capped at 10% of the lump sum. The remaining 90% is split between the three investing baskets.
Sivertson’s job is rarely dull. She occasionally meets with clients at 10 p.m. on movie sets and sometimes gets invited to industry parties. That means she’s also privy to some hefty industry gossip—oftentimes unintentionally, and sometimes it can be awkward.
“I once sat down with a client who said his contract was going to get renewed for two years, but I knew another client was offered that same contract,” she says. “I couldn’t say anything.”
Yet, even if she hadn’t known that information, she still would have told her client to be ready for the contract to fall through. “A show can be ready to go, and the week before shooting starts, it’s cancelled,” she points out. “So you always have to be prepared.”
Bryan Borzykowski is a Toronto-based financial writer