Why Writers Need a Financial Planner

An interview with author Nancy Trejos on becoming financially secure before taking on book-writing for a living

By Marcela Landres
Published on LatinoLA: March 2, 2011

Why Writers Need a Financial Planner

Launching a writing career requires an investment of time--and money. Aside from paper and ink, postage and envelopes, expenses can include: writing class tuition, travel for research, magazine subscriptions, contest entry fees, conference registration fees, etc. If your goals are larger than your budget, consider hiring a financial planner. A financial planner can do for your money what a personal trainer does for your body--get better results faster than if you tried doing it on your own. To learn more about financial planning, read this month's Q&A with Nancy Trejos, author of the timely yet timeless Hot (Broke) Messes: How to Have Your Latte and Drink It Too.

Nancy Trejos has been a staff writer for The Washington Post for more than a decade. She started at the Post as a summer intern in 1998 then moved to Los Angeles to write for the Los Angeles Times. After a year, she returned to The Washington Post, where she has covered education, local politics, real estate, travel and personal finance. She spent two months in the Post's Baghdad bureau covering the war and its effects on the Iraqi people. That led to many travels throughout the Middle East, and she has spent extensive time in Beirut. Her father is from Colombia and her mother from Ecuador. To keep in touch with her roots, she travels often to Latin America. Nancy has written several pieces for Latina magazine. She grew up in Queens, New York, earned a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University, and lives in Washington, D.C.

Q: What top three tips can you offer to folks who want to get rid of debt but don't know where to start?

A: First of all, sit down and go through all of your bank accounts, your credit card statements, your student loan statements, and any other financial statements you have and make a list of how much money you have and how much money you owe. You must be very clear about what your assets and liabilities are. How are you going to fix the problem if you don't know the extent of the problem?

Come up with a budget. You can do this alone or you can enlist the help of a financial advisor or credit counselor. But you have to come up with a plan for paying off your debt, paying your bills on time, and eventually starting to save money. You must learn to live within your means.

Be honest with yourself, your family, and your friends. Often we get into the habit of living above our means because we want to "keep up with the Joneses." Realize that you have a problem and let your loved ones know. If a friend tries to urge you to go out to a restaurant you can't afford, tell him or her the truth. You simply can't afford it. If he or she is a true friend, he or she will still love you regardless of your finances.

Q: Could you share some financial tips specific to writers and writing?

A: Keep all of your receipts, for everything even if you are not sure you can write it off. That means your Internet bill, receipts for any books or magazines you used for research, paper for your printer, postage, drinks or meals with interview subjects, anything that contributed to your book. You can even probably write off part of your rent if your home office was the place where you wrote your book.

Q: You describe in detail in your wonderful book, Hot (Broke) Messes, how you worked with a financial planner to overcome your debt. Would you recommend that others work with financial planners? If yes, how does one go about finding a financial planner?

A: It really depends on the extent of your problem and the type of person you are. Plenty of people can do their own research to fix their finances on their own, if they have the will to do it. I happen to be the type who likes to get help when I have a problem. When I'm sick, I go to the doctor. When I got into debt, I went to a professional. If you're the type who needs someone to push you to make changes, by all means, hire a planner. If your finances are really in trouble, you might want to go to a credit counselor who can go as far as negotiating with your creditors. If you decide to go the planner route, think of it as hiring a therapist. You're going to have to reveal a lot to this person, so take the hiring seriously. Get referrals from friends or other confidantes. Meet with the planner in person and interview him or her. Find out how he or she will be paid. By commission or a set fee? (I would lean towards someone who charges a fee and not someone getting a commission for selling you a product.) Find out if he or she is licensed by your state or Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in Securities or Insurance. Check on his or her background with FINRA, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc., or other relevant professional organizations. Find out if he or she has ever been disciplined by any of those organizations.

Q: In addition to Hot (Broke) Messes, what resources do you recommend to people who want to learn more about financial planning?

A: There are plenty of resources on the Internet. For help budgeting, Mint.com is great. For help improving your credit, go to Credit.com. To find a better paying savings account, go to BillShrink.com. To increase your real estate knowledge, go to Trulia.com. For Wall Street information, go to Quote.com. To save money on everyday stuff, go to Coupons.com. Kiplinger.com is a great overall personal finance resource.

Q: Who is your agent and how did you meet him/her? If you don't have an agent, how did you come to be published by Grand Central Publishing?

A: Robert Guinsler is my agent. He is at Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc. in New York, and he is awesome. I wrote a book proposal, which he shopped around to several publishers. We decided on Grand Central Publishing because of its wonderful reputation. We were also excited to work with Tracy Martin, an enthusiastic, very skillful editor. I was very lucky to end up working with some wonderful people. It was a great experience all around.

Q: You've had a successful career as a journalist and now as a book author. What advice do you have for aspiring writers--particularly Latinos--who dream of quitting their day job and writing for a living?

A: Writing is an amazing profession. I can't believe I get paid to think and put my thoughts into words. Writing Hot (Broke) Messes was the best experience of my career. I actually couldn't wait to wake up each morning and start writing. On a practical note, however, I would urge you to become financially secure before you quit your job and take on book-writing for a living. Make sure you have money saved up. That said, don't give up on your dream. Your book might not sell right away but if you have a good agent and a good product, someone will eventually recognize its worth.

Excerpted from Latinidad?« ?® 2003 by Marcela Landres

About Marcela Landres:
Marcela Landres is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. She is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published and was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster.
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