Jeffrey fishman has some clients that may not even have an income this year. Or next, if things get rough. Fishman is an advisor to Hollywood and entertainment industry talent and their management, people who have learned that even in good times there may be a few years of plenty followed by a couple of years of lean times. However, now with the writers’ strike wreaking havoc among many in the industry, Fishman is especially vigilant in helping his clients save for their retirement years.
Fishman, who works with broker/dealer Cantella & Co. Inc., runs a fee-based financial planning firm in Los Angeles, JSF Financial, for a roster of high-net-worth clients that also includes those in the legal and real estate professions. “If you are looking to focus on retirement planning for those in the entertainment industry, it is challenging, whether working in front of the camera or behind it,” Fishman says.
It’s hard to predict how long anyone will have a viable career in entertainment, an industry for the young and the lucky. Among actors, men can work longer than women, whose careers more easily go downhill after the age of 35, he says. It could be that someone is on a television show for a couple of seasons and gets a big payout, but shows don’t always go into syndication after they’re canceled, he notes.
Thus, Fishman has clients who go from earning half a million dollars one year to $50,000 the next. With industries that pose unique challenges like this, the first thing to do is set up a hefty emergency fund, Fishman says. Then, he tells clients to contribute as much as possible to their retirement plans when they are working.
John Altschuler, the co-executive producer of Fox’s prime time show, “King of the Hill,” came to Fishman four or five years ago, as have other people working on the show, with an employment horizon that was three years long. Fishman took all the money he was making and invested it, Altschuler says. “He has been very helpful in understanding and working with me to control that uncertainty and fund my retirement and the kids’ college,” Altschuler says. Altschuler, a veteran of the 1988 writers’ strike, invests “as fast as we can while I am making money.”
“When we sat down, we talked about the strike taking three to eight months,” he says. That means a big chunk of his income now will be going to retirement. “They max me out every year,” Altschuler says.