5 Personal Finance Lessons from the Rolling Stones

Photo courtesy of Chevall on Flickr
Photo courtesy of Chevall on Flickr

By: Benjamin Gran

The Rolling Stones are one of the world's most famous and longest-lived rock bands. They've sold over 200 million albums, grossed over $2 billion since 1989 and even as members of the band approach the age of 70, they continue to perform to millions of adoring fans worldwide. (Their most recent concert tour earned over $500 million.)

Although most of us will never be rock stars, there are some valuable personal finance lessons to be learned from the Rolling Stones:

Be the owner of your career.

The Rolling Stones created their own record label to have more creative control over their music and keep a bigger share of the profits for themselves. This was at a time in the music industry when many artists were not able to attain that level of freedom and profitability - the history of the music business is full of stories of young musicians who never got a fair share of the rewards of their creative work.

What's the lesson here? Think like an owner of your career, not just an employee of your company. No matter what happens to the company where you work, you need to have transferable skills that will serve you well at any employer. Just like the Rolling Stones didn't want to depend on a record label, try to manage your career in a way that you never have to depend on just one employer. Some of the best job security comes from being flexible and adaptable to change.

Live within your means.

Despite their lavish lifestyles, the Rolling Stones seem to be in pretty good financial shape. They spend a lot of money on cars and luxurious homes, but they can afford to spend it because they make so much more. Even with all the money he's spent over the years, Mick Jagger's personal fortune is estimated at over $300 million. The lesson for the rest of us? You will probably never earn as much money as Mick Jagger, but you'll be better off if you live like Mick by spending less than you earn.

Pay attention to taxes.

Keith Richards has been interviewed saying that the Rolling Stones make most of their business decisions based on taxes - they rehearse in Canada rather than the United States to avoid paying higher tax rates and they don't do any business anymore in the United Kingdom because the tax rates are even higher there. The Rolling Stones are in a much higher tax bracket than most of us, but you can still learn from their example: taxes are one of the single biggest expenses that most people pay in any given year. If you can minimize your taxes with home loan interest deductions, tax-deferred contributions to a qualified retirement plan (like a 401(k)) or college savings plans like 529s (which offer tax advantages depending on the state), you can reduce the amount of money that you owe in taxes, and increase the amount of money that you can keep.

Maximize your peak earning years.

Unlike many other flash-in-the-pan rock bands and one-hit-wonders that had a narrow window of opportunity to make money, the Rolling Stones have become more profitable as time goes by, and as their fan base has grown older (and wealthier) along with them. Most careers resemble the Rolling Stones' in this way - you will likely earn much more money when you're in your 50s and early 60s than you earned at age 25. This makes it important to save as much money as you can while you're in your peak earning years. Age 50 to 65 is a crucial time to save for retirement.

This doesn't mean you should skimp on retirement savings when you're younger - age 22 to 30 is important as well; these are the "wealth building years" when people are less likely to have children, and the earlier you save, the more time your savings will have to grow. Or if you're younger and currently have a high-paying job, and you want to downshift your career or stay home with kids, save as much as you can while you have the big salary; this will make an easier transition to your lower-paying new career.

Why retire if you're doing what you love?

The Rolling Stones are still touring into their late sixties - but apparently it's not because they need the money. If you want to keep working as long as the Stones, make sure it's because you're doing something you love; not because you can't afford to retire.

It may sound strange to use a rock band as an example of the importance of financial planning, but the Rolling Stones have become almost as famous for their financial savvy as they have been for their music. Even if you'll never dance like Mick or strum a guitar like Keith, you can learn a lot from the principles shown by the Rolling Stones. Hopefully we'll all be able to retire like rock stars - in our own modest way.

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Photo courtesy of Chevall on Flickr