Sunday, April 29, 2007

ADA: More on the Emergency Fund

Alternate Dimension Andy (ADA):

You're thinking about this emergency fund bullshit. You want more details: how long do I have to worry about this shit? How much money needs to be in this fund? Where should I put this money? What constitutes an "emergency?"

Well, Get Rich Slowly has an oldie but a goody of an article on this very topic. Unfortunately for you, Mr. Roth is of the opinion that you need to decide for yourself what the right amount is. I am of the much more realistic opinion that you are a moron incapable of making such an informed choice.

Sorry, ADA, just call 'em like I see 'em.

This is the paradox of choice: to the uninformed, a slew of options does not constitute a "choice." When you don't know what you're doing, when one option sounds just as good as the next, when you're thrown to the wolves and told to choose what's right for you among a sea of choices about which you have zero knowledge, you're not going to be choosing. You're going to be "picking." You're going to be rolling dice, or picking the option that has the coolest name.

Since I sincerely doubt you're actively learning much about personal finance, since I doubt you currently know the merits of a savings account vs. a municipal bond, I'm just going to give you some answers. This will be the advice that you stick to for the time being. If, in the coming months, you learn more about personal finance (either by reading this blog or by going to a legitimate source), then feel free to make some changes.

The advice I'm about to give isn't law. None of my advice is ever law. It's only a suggestion until you can figure things out for yourself. Here goes:
  • How much money do I need to put away? Go back to the post about budgeting. What are your essential monthly expenses (item #2)? Take this number, add 10%, and multiply by eight. Should you go into emergency mode, you will need to be able to get by for at least eight months. This number is a safe estimate of what it will require for you to get by. I say "add 10%" because I like to err on the side of caution, but in reality, you'll probably need even less than what your current expenses are, since you'll be canceling your internet connection, moving into a cheaper apartment, etc.

  • Where should I put this money? Put it into a savings account at the same bank where you have a checking account. Sign up for overdraft protection, and link that protection to this account. I wouldn't normally recommend a savings account as a place for you to put your money, but since the world of art is feast-or-famine, you'll need very high liquidity (That means "really easy access to all your money").

  • What constitutes an emergency? Don't be an asshole. You know what an emergency is, ADA. If you are put into a situation where something you need to pay for cannot be paid for, take your money out of the emergency fund. Since you're sticking to your allowance plan, since you're not building up credit card debt, this shouldn't be a problem.

    Good examples:
    • Car repairs
    • Lost job
    • Moving expenses

    Bad examples:
    • Totally sweet guitars
    • Vacations
    • Booze

    Also worth noting: once you're in emergency mode, all the rules change. If you've lost your job, you shouldn't be contributing to your retirement fund until you've found a new job. You also don't get an allowance 'til you have another job.

  • How long do I have to worry about this? Until you have enough in your emergency fund. If you ever have to take some out because of an emergency, then put it back in as soon as you're able.
Stick to that emergency fund, ADA. For someone like you, it is entirely necessary.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

About the Free Monologues


From now on, I will not be writing new monologues, except upon request. If you want me to write you a custom-made, never-before-been-used monologue, please contact me; just leave a comment under this topic. Otherwise, all monologues posted hereafter will be either old or guest-written.

Free: Yodlee

Alternate Dimension Andy (ADA):

Lemme tell you about something that will eff you up for life. There's this website called Yodlee, and it's truly, rockin' awesome.

Yodlee puts all of your online financial shit in one place. Online services you can manage via Yodlee:
  • Checking accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Bills
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Insurance
  • Loans
Basically, if it's about your money, and if it has a website, Yodlee will aggregate it and put it all on one page for you.

While that is an amazingly impressive start, Yodlee does much more than just let you look at all your accounts:
  • If you can pay your bills online, you can pay then via Yodlee. You pick the checking account from which you wish to pay, and Yodlee manages the rest for you.
  • Yodlee automatically sets up a calendar telling you when all your payments are due.
  • Yodlee knows what you're spending money on, and can generate a spending report. Without you entering any information (except in rare cases), Yodlee will know that you spent 25% of your income on rent, 12% on pet supplies, and 5.3% on gas.
  • In tandem with the spending report feature, Yodlee will let you set up a budget and track your ability to stick to it. If you know you only want to spend 60% of your income on pets, Yodlee will give you an honest approximation of how much you're spending at Petco and other pet supply stores.
  • Even though you probably don't want to know the numbers, Yodlee can tell you what your net worth is (minus things like the value of your cars and home).
  • Yodlee is also a webmail aggregator. You can check Hotmail, GMail and Yahoo! mail directly from the Yodlee site.
  • Yodlee will send you email reminders. You can set it up to send you an email when you go over budget on pet supplies, when a bill is due, and when your bank accounts have large transactions.
  • Even if Yodlee hasn't already integrated one of your billing accounts -- a student loan, for instance -- you can still track the student loan via Yodlee. You just tell Yodlee what your balance is and when payment is due and Yodlee does the rest.
Okay, you are probably not geeking out as hard as I am right now, but there is one more aspect of Yodlee that I think might sway you:
  • Yodlee is free to use.
So here's my recommendation to you, ADA: Sign up for Yodlee. Start checking your Yahoo, GMail and/or Hotmail accounts from Yodlee. Make it a habit to give a shit about your personal finances; make caring as automatic as checking your email.

Monday, April 23, 2007

ADA: Get Out Of Credit Card Debt Now

Alternate Dimension Andy (ADA):

Let's talk about credit card debt. I know, I know, your favorite topic. Calm down, calm down. No horseplay.

I said calm down, motherfucker.

Here's the story as I imagine it: you wanted a guitar or some other such flashy, expensive, and heretofore-unused item. Since you're poor as hell, you paid for it with a credit card. You knew it was a bad idea, but you did it anyway.

Then, you wanted a nice amp to go with it. Then, a whole wardrobe of brand new clothes that had been made to look as if they were not brand new. Perhaps then a series of other such uncool, ill-advised purchases. A collectible Darth Vader Pez dispenser?

Now, you have credit card debt in the thousands of dollars.

ADA, pay that shit off now. Paying that off is more important than your emergency stash, more important than your retirement, and more important than any other debt you're paying off.

See, credit cards grow at rates like 13.45%. If you have bad credit -- you do -- the rates are closer to 18.99%. That debt grows way too fast to keep a lid on it. With your retirement and your nest egg you couldn't make money that fast except in the rarest of circumstances. You could never, ever count on making money that fast for a sustained period of time.

I'm going to sound like a hypocrite here: skip building your nest egg and saving for retirement until you've paid off that credit card debt. Think about it like this:
  • Once you've paid off your credit card debt, your credit limit will still be the same. In case of emergency, you'll be able to put yourself back into awful credit card debt. For this reason, paying off credit card debt is more important than contributing to your nest egg.
  • Credit card debt will grow much, much more quickly than your retirement account. What good is growing your retirement account if you're growing your debt even faster? For this reason, paying off credit card debt is more important than contributing to your nest egg.
Once you've paid off your credit card do not -- do not -- close your credit card account. If you close your credit card account, that's bad for your credit history. If you ever want to take out a loan for a car or a house, you want the best credit history you can get.

Keep the credit card. You might need it for emergencies. And if you're really disciplined, you can use the card to your advantage.

Pro-tips!: Get a card that offers rewards. Make most of your purchases with the card and pay them off immediately. Only buy things with the credit card if you can pay for them with cash; after you've made your purchases, go home and pay off the debt immediately. You'll earn the rewards -- cash back, airline miles, whatever -- without ever having to pay interest. It's sort of like free money, and it's good for your credit history.

So what are you going to do first, ADA? That's right. Pay off credit card debt.

I said calm down, motherfucker!

Friday, April 20, 2007

ADA: This Is What It's Like In This Dimension

Alternate Dimension Andy (ADA):

In this dimension, I have an incredibly hot wife. That's right. I got married. Before I even graduated college.

I know. Can you fucking believe it? You so wish you lived in this dimension right now.

Anyway, before I married this lady, she and I went into non-Jesus-style pre-marital counseling. The idea was, "This really seems like it's going to work, but are we just fucking kidding ourselves?" In NJSPMC, she and I learned a pretty alarming fact: of the approximately 50% of marriages that end in divorce, most cite money problems as a serious contributing factor. Tad Sears, the totally awesome dude who led the NJSPMC suggested that we make a budget together.

While it is probably impossible to reliably measure why people get divorced, I do believe that if a couple can't even get their financial act together, they may have trouble taking care of slightly more complicated things like "cleaning the living room before in-laws arrive" or "raising a child." I'm not going to say, "THE SECRET TO A GOOD RELATIONSHIP IS HAVING A BUDGET" or anything as asinine as that. If you're in a shitty relationship, managing your money well isn't going to change the fact that you're in a shitty relationship. I will argue, however, that because we manage our money well, we fight about money far less than other couples. We have one less thing to fight about.

The number one thing my wife and I do to manage our money well? We make the money management automatic. My retirement contribution is automatically taken out of my paycheck and put into my 401(k). Then, our allowances are direct deposited into our respective checking accounts. The balance of my paycheck is direct deposited into our joint checking account. All of hot wife's check goes into our joint account. We use our joint checking account for rent, bills, groceries, insurance, etc. Note that this requires absolutely no recurring work on our part; our employers handle all of the deposits for us.

Reason I mention this, ADA: if you are employed, these are all things that it's likely you'll be able to do. Most employers do direct deposit. Most employers have a retirement plan. It's not hard to make it automatic.

By making it automatic, you're ensuring that you're not cheating yourself. That you're not saying, "I can afford skipping the retirement contribution this week, since I'm so far ahead." You're also making it less tempting to dip into your everyday expenses to fuel what should be allowance-style expenses; if the math has already been done for you, you can't very well argue, "I don't remember how much I've spent on myself this month, but I'm sure it's okay if I take out another $100 from my checking account.

I don't think I've got all my shit together. I don't think I'm the best organized person in the world, or the person best qualified to give you financial advice. I do believe in this plan, though, and if you implement it in your own life, you'll see changes immediately.

The platitude they use in the finance biz is "pay yourself first," and trite though those words may be, that's a great way to remember this lesson.

Pay yourself first, ADA. Seriously.

ADA: You Can Still Have Fun

Well, Alternate Dimension Andy (ADA), I imagine you found the previous post sobering. I know it's unnerving to realize that in an average month you make less than $800. Or that your rent is 60% of your take-home pay (FUN SIDE NOTE: For most people, rent should be at most 28% of your total income, which by my estimates is 40% of your take-home pay; since you're flat broke, though, we have to bend the rules).

I have some other news which you probably will not like: you do not get to spend the remainder on whateverthefuckyouwant. You have two other things to worry about:
  1. What happens when you get fired from your shitty-ass busboy job.
  2. What happens when you retire.
In case it's not self-explanatory why you'd need to plan for something like losing your job: if you don't have a job, if you get hurt and can't work, or if you suffer some other kind of economic hardship, your landlord's not going to stop asking you to pay rent. Groceries will not become free. You will still need running water and electricity. Saving for such circumstances, I think, makes sense even to those who don't lend much credence to the art of personal finance.

Saving for retirement is probably a tougher case for me to make, but I promise it's just as important. I'm sure you've heard all this math bullshit before, but here it is again:

Suppose Ernie and Bert are both 25 years old. For ten years, Bert puts $1000 into a retirement account every year, and Ernie puts none into a retirement account. When they turn 35, they reverse roles; Ernie puts away $1000 a year until he retires, and Bert never contributes another penny to his retirement account. When they turn 65, which of the two will have more money?

If the answer were Ernie, it wouldn't be worth asking the question. And indeed, the correct answer is Bert, assuming that they were pulling in 7% in interest every year (which is a pretty trivial requirement).

Not that tables are particularly fun or interesting, but you need to look at this one:

AgeErnie AddsErnie's TotalBert AddsBert's Total

In the end, Bert has more money, even though he only ever put in $10,000. Ernie, on the other hand, put in a total of $30,000 and in the end has $10,000 less than Bert. ADA, this is why you can't afford to wait on saving for retirement.

Just as important as saving for hardship and saving for retirement, though, is taking care of yourself. What good is saving if you hate being alive, right?

So here's what you're going to do, ADA. You're going to take that disposable income, and you're going to put it into three separate accounts:
  1. 1/3 of your money will go into a savings account for hard times.
  2. 1/3 of your money will go towards your retirement plan. I'll talk more about choosing a plan in a later post.
  3. 1/3 of your money will go into an "allowance" checking account. Spend this on whatever the hell you want. Go out with your friends, buy a new TV, purchase Smurf memorabilia on eBay. Do what you can to keep your sanity by spending this money on fun things.
If you can, make putting money into 1. and 2. automatic. Your employer might have a direct deposit system that lets you split up where your money goes; you can automatically put some money into your savings and not have to rely on yourself to remember. Your employer probably also has some kind of retirement plan, which automatically deducts money from your paycheck and puts it someplace where you can't touch it 'til you're 65. Use tools like these to make sure you're honest with yourself!

ADA: In some upcoming posts, I'll tell you how you and your totally hot wife have worked out finances in this dimension; and I'll tell you how to pick a retirement plan.

Enjoy your allowance. Don't spend it all in one place.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Monologue: Bedfellows

by Andrew M. Kasper
Originally written for Matt Olsen
work is licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain License.

SETH: Honey, I'm home earl-- WHOA! Whoa, whoa, whoa. Yikes. Sorry. Didn't mean to startle you, sweetheart. Who's this? Sorry, I'll let you two get dressed. Hi, I'm Seth. Nice to meet you. I didn't mean to startle you, hon. I'm sorry. Wow. Pretty amazing. I guess I never thought of how I'd react to something like this, but now that it's happening right here in front of me... wow. I'm surprised to say that I'm not angry or anything. Not that I'd expect myself to be; I've never been the jealous type. But this, I mean this is... wow. Look at me going on. I'm sorry. Rude of me. Can I get you anything to drink? No? You, hon? No? Was that weird? That was weird. And now I'm staring. And now I'm talking about staring. My God, talk about making an awkward situation worse. Am I right? Tell you what. I won't even look at you. I'll just stare at the ceiling. Sound good? Honey, funniest thing happened at work today. Tim was asking about contracts for the 2006 fiscal year, but John Raimer thought he was talking about 2005. So, they got into this-- you know what? Not a very funny story. Funny, though. I thought things were going fine with us. You and me, I mean. Not you. I've never met you. Really did think things were fine. We never fight. I guess we haven't had sex in a while. Makes sense now. All right. Going to the kitchen. Last call for drinks! No one? I might stay at a hotel tonight, honey. Just seems like that's the sort of thing you do in a situation like this. I'll see you later, I guess. It was nice to meet you, Miss.

ADA: How Much Do You Spend?

Alternate Dimension Andy (ADA):

Yesterday, I read this article which I'm quite certain you did not read. Executive summary:
Make a budget! Here's how:
  1. Look at your credit card statement.
  2. Track your spending for a month by writing down everything you spend money on.
  3. Make a spending plan.
  4. Stick to that plan; think before you spend money.
Not to be overly condescending, ADA, but I just know this won't work for you. It's step 2 that I'm particularly concerned about. You would rather die than whip out a pad of paper every time you bought a cup of coffee. You would most certainly not be caught with a spending patch wrapped around your credit card.

Hell, you're probably not even convinced that a budget is a good idea. I mean, you're an actor! You probably live off of tips! Not all of your income is steady, so how can you possibly predict where you're going to be spending money?

Dude, shut up. That is the most twisted, idiotic logic I have ever heard.

Why do you need a budget? Well, think about the last time you were worried about money. Perhaps you were worried about paying rent on time. Maybe you were already late on rent, and the threat of eviction loomed large. How stressful was that? How much hassle was that? Now, compare that stress with the estimated stress inflicted by making a budget. Perhaps making a budget will be really stressful... as stressful as worrying about rent three times over! But you'll only have to make a budget once, and after that, you'll never have to worry about it again. It's a one-time cost, bitch.

Let me also mention this: it's far easier than you think it is. Seriously, if you have access to the Interwebs, you'll find tons of sites that make it easier. Additionally, Yodlee is a free service that will handle 90% of the work for you; I'll talk more about that in a later post. There are a lot of resources out there to help you with this; there's no excuse not to make your budget.

Here's my worksheet for your budget. If you have your checking account statement and a pay stub handy, you should be able to do it in under ten minutes. For every question, err on the side of caution:
  1. How much are you guaranteed to make (take home) each month? Assume a worst case for tips (if you usually make $100 a shift, but some shifts you only make $50, assume $50 a shift). Don't include acting jobs or other irregular, non-steady jobs. Use this formula:

    [Hourly wage * number of hours worked per week * 52 weeks in a year * 0.7 for taxes] /12 months.

    Example: You work at Starbucks 30 hours a week, where you earn $8.00 an hour. 8.00 * 30 * 52 * 0.7 / 12 = 728. You take home $728 a month.

    It looks complicated, but it's not, I promise. You can just punch it into the calculator in that exact order.

  2. How much do you have to spend every month? Here are typical expenses. If you're unsure, err on the side of caution:
    • Rent
    • Loan Payments (Student loans, car payments, etc.)
    • Food (groceries and eating out)
    • Gas, the Subway, etc.
    • Bills (Gas, garbage, electric, water, insurance of all types, cell phone, cable, etc.)

    Add all of these expenses up.

  3. Subtract the result of 2. from the result of 1. This is your disposable income.
Hopefully, the result is a positive number; if not, you need to find a new job, cut some of your expenses (cable may need to go), or find a cheaper place to live. Sell your car and buy a less expensive one? Get another roommate or move to a different apartment, maybe?

If the number is a positive one, though, you're in luck. In my next post, I'll talk about what you can do with this money. Here's a preview:
  • Save it for emergency or unusual expenses.
  • Save it for retirement.
  • Spend some of it on fun stuff.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

ADA: You Know Less Than You Think

Alternate Dimension Andy (ADA):

Stop and think with me for a second: where do people who know how to handle money learn that skill? It's not taught in school. There's no special segment on Sesame Street. I'll give you a hint: who knows how to handle their money best? The wealthy do.

An interesting fact you may have noticed about the wealthy: many of them had wealthy parents. While it seems obvious that people who inherit money will become wealthy, there's much more to the story than that. Having money is not enough to make you wealthy; you have to know how to handle your money as well. Consider, for instance, the multi-million dollar lottery winner. How many times have you heard the story of the lottery winner who cashes out and immediately spends money the way he thinks rich people spend money? Five years later, he's back exactly where he started.

Can we agree that having money is not enough to give you financial security for the rest of your life? Can we agree that managing money is an important skill in this equation? That if someone knew what to do with ten million dollars, he would never need to work again for the rest of his life?

Back to the original question: where do people learn to handle money? You've probably figured it out, but here's the answer anyway: the wealthy learn from their parents. People who know how to manage their money recognize that it's an important skill; they teach it to their children.

Consider your own family's financial history, ADA. Your grandparents were poor and raised during the Depression. Their financial plans were essentially, "Keep it in a coffee can under the bed." They knew to save and to plan for hardship, but they didn't consider scary things like inflation. They didn't trust banks or the stock market. They didn't really understand enough about money to take advantage of their retirement plans. They lived in fear of money, and so they were very frugal.

Your parents were Boomers. They had grown up with parents who didn't want to indulge them, and as soon as they got jobs, as soon as they had disposable income, they started blowing it on things that they thought would make them happy. "Finally! We're adults! We can buy all the toys we want!" Look at the house your parents live in. Look at the cars they drive. Look at the $1000 rug they have in their living room. Look at the myriad of $20 DVDs your dad has on his shelf. Your parents are not at all bad people, but they do love toys. Also worth noting: they did not teach you to manage money, because they did not know how.

So it's only natural that you should buy a car, only to have it repossessed a couple of years later. It's only natural that you should have to work almost-full-time while you go to school. It's only natural that you should have no idea what a bond is. It's only natural that you should have no idea how to plan for retirement.

Normally, this wouldn't be a concern. You'd grow up and get a job where you could safely live paycheck-to-paycheck. You'd be able to pay rent, possibly even buy a home with the help of your wife/ girlfriend/ sex slave/ whatever it is you're into in that alternate dimension of yours. You'd have money troubles, but they wouldn't be terrible until retirement came around. Hell, you might even experience moderate success.

But ADA, you are doubly screwed, 'cause you got into the arts. There will be little or no stable income for you. You're probably waiting tables or doing some other job for which you are grossly over-qualified, but underpaid. That's what artists do, since they, you know, have to pay rent and eat and all that jazz. The problem is that you will be barely squeaking by until one of the following happens:
  1. You make it big.
  2. You are too old to work anymore.
In the case of number one -- and trust me, I hope against all hope that this is the fate that befalls you -- you will have more than enough money. You'll be purchasing $100,000 cars that you never drive. You'll have a house that puts every house in Stillwater to shame. Your retirement plan will be "live off of royalties."

In the case of number two -- unfortunately, the more likely outcome of the two -- you'll just have to... I don't know, live on the street? Choose between medical care and food? Just rely on social security (I hope you're at least in touch enough with politics to realize how much of a joke that is)? Basically, it's way the hell too scary to think about.

But your parents didn't teach you personal finance, so you should be completely off the hook, right? Natch, that is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. You're entering a career for which it is even more important that you learn to manage your money well. You're going to go through a lot of dry spells, and if you don't have a nest egg, don't have some kind of security, you're going to be completely screwed.

Listen, man. I know you don't want to be rich. I imagine you don't have any qualms with being rich, but I understand that it's not the highest priority for you. And that's great. I feel the same way. I'm not sayin' you have to be rich. I'm saying that you need to have a plan so that you can eat, have a place to sleep, have medical care, and so forth.

Conclusion, ADA: you know less than you think about personal finance, 'cause your parents never even taught you the basics. Only reason I know anything is because I've been teaching myself. And every time I learn something I think, "Fuck! Is there even a chance that ADA knows about this shit? Probably not." It is up to you to learn, Bro, because no one else in the world is going to take care of you. In fact, I think very few people are going to be sympathetic to your case, since you've chosen to be an artist. The "Real World" thinks that artists bring their awful financial fates onto themselves.

Just sayin', it's worth learning. We cool, ADA? I thought so.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monologue: Angry People Talking About God III

by Andrew M. Kasper
Originally written for Matt Salmela
work is licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain License.

LEON: Homework problems? Psh. You have nothing to worry about; God made this place too goddamn big. Today, I was learning about tying knots and stuff -- you know, for when you’re sailing -- and I started thinking, “What the hell does this matter?” I mean, how important can something be? Then, I started thinking about what the most important thing ever would be: the end of mankind, probably. The end of the world. Like, if a bunch of bombs went off and everyone died. Or if the earth got cracked into a billion pieces by an asteroid. Hey, that’s not even one piece for every person who would be killed. Holy hell. And even if that were the case, even if it were the end of humanity, so what? People have only been around for a few seconds on the clock of All Time. And that’s assuming that even the most conservative estimates of how old the universe is are even close to true. I mean, life has only even been around for a few minutes, unless it started up earlier on some other planet, in which case, maybe a few more minutes than we thought. As far as we know, though, only a few minutes. If we all died, what would it matter? It would just be one of nine known planets near one of millions of known stars in one of billions of galaxies in the hugest place ever. How meaningless would it be to the universe -- to God, the only being who really matters -- if we all died? It would be like Ted Turner dropping a penny. Not even that. It wouldn’t even register as a fart, cosmically. What I’m saying is, cosmically, no one gives a good goddamn about you or your homework, and it doesn’t pay to worry about it.

Monologue: Angry People Talking About God II

by Andrew M. Kasper
Originally written for Matt Salmela
work is licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain License.

LUCAS: Call it bigotry all you want, you little puss; I call it the truth. They really are money-hungry, deceptive, evil. It’s just a fact. Plain, simple fact. Don’t hate me for it. It’s just how they are; hate them. They’re the ones raising the interest on your loan. You’re paying them for your house and your car… Listen, just forget it. I can’t believe you’re pussing out like this. You don’t even have to do anything that bad. We’re not even going to hurt anyone. Break some windows. It’s like when you hit a foul ball through the neighbor’s window; you saying Mr. Winslow is worse than a Jew? You’ll smash his window? Fine, but if you tell anyone, you’re dead. And when you die and get to Heaven, God’s gonna say, “What’s the matter with you, you little puss?”

Monologue: Angry People Talking About God I

by Andrew M. Kasper
Originally written for Matt Salmela
work is licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain License.

NILS: Where are you going to go? To look for God? If you see him, tell him I said, “Up yours.” Get back here. I can tell you something about God: he doesn’t love you the way I do. If he did, he would put a roof over you head; he would make love to you; he would at least show up every once in a while. If you want to leave me, fine: your loss. But if you want to leave me for God, I can tell you that you’re never even going to find where he lives because the asshole doesn’t exist. Figment, that’s it. People need the idea for comfort or an excuse to go to war or a reason to hate brown people. He’s not even real. I’m real. Stay here. You can stay here and put up with my ‘harsh reality,’ get some love and attention, have someone to care about, or you can go look for God and fail miserably. I know what I’d choose.

Free Monologues

Alternate Dimension Andy, I'd like to save you a few bucks; save you a few minutes of your time.

I'm cleaning off my old hard drive, and I've found a few of the old monologues I wrote. I'll start posting them here so that you and other starving actors can use 'em. Some are for women, so be sure to share them with your alternate dimension actor girlfriend. None of 'em are particularly great, in my opinion, but hey, they're free! What did you expect? Hopefully, these'll be useful to you and to people who don't have the time to run to the library or don't have the money to purchase monologue books or scripts.

Some notes about these monologues:
  • Free monologues will be tagged with "free" and "monologue," plus a gender tag: "male," "female" or "gender-neutral." Should make it easy for you to find them.
  • The opinions of the characters speaking the monologues do not necessarily reflect my own beliefs.
  • If you have monologues that I've written that aren't posted here, I'd appreciate you send 'em my way so I can share 'em with the other starving actors.
  • Any actors other than Alternate Dimension Andy who are in need of monologues can request them here. Just send me an email or post a comment in this thread.

The Idea

Last night, I thought, "In some alternate dimension out there, there's an Andy running around doing theatre. He's a starving actor in New York or L.A., possibly respected, more likely not. He can barely afford rent and doesn't know the first thing about personal finance. Maybe he has a goatee."

I thought about some of the financial luxuries that Real Andy takes for granted, but which Alternate Dimension Andy (ADA) doesn't know anything about. The things ADA doesn't care about and thinks he can't afford: owning stocks, contributing to his 401(k), etc. Notice that I said "thinks he cannot afford." See, what ADA doesn't realize is that he cannot afford not to know about and take advantage of these things.

Recently, I've added "Personal Finance" to my ever-growing list of nerdy hobbies. I read about a book a month on the topic. I check Google Finance, Money Magazine, and about a dozen blogs and websites about finance on a regular basis. I've gotten my financial act together, and I'm trying to get the people around me to do the same.

To anyone who knows me, it might seem like a strange hobby. After all, I've had some rather serious financial problems in my time. There have been all the usuals -- a late rent payment here, a bounced check there -- and there have been far more serious incidents -- namely, my car being repossessed after I failed to make a couple of payments. In my mind, this actually better qualifies me to dispense financial advice to ADA: I've learned some important lessons.

But why am I, Real Andy, even worried about Alternate Dimension Andy? I'm worried because it is only by chance that I fell into the very important hobby of personal finance. I'm worried because I think I have a rough idea of what ADA knew about personal finance when he graduated from college -- namely jack shit. I'm worried because I want that goatee-donning bastard to eat and to have a roof over his head.

I don't necessarily care if he's rich; I know that's not important to him 'cause it's not important to me. I just want this: when the time comes, after a lifetime of struggling and starving for his art, for him to have the option to retire. That is, if one day he hasn't made it (or, perhaps more likely, he's gone through a lifetime of feast-or-famine), he'll be able to take a day off and sit at home reading the newspaper. He won't be 65 with aching joints, unable to afford medical care, working 60 hours a week as a too-old busboy in a scary part of Brooklyn. Not unless he wants to, that is.

I'm writing this blog so that if we ever get inter-dimensional Internet access and Andrew Kasper in Dimension 24XS-B (ADA) decides he wants to look himself up in Dimension Alpha Prime (Real Andy), he'll find this blog and take some lessons away from it. And if my fellow starving artist friends, in the process, can enjoy and learn from this blog, then I'll be that much happier.