Ever since listening to the intensely popular Serial podcast, I have continued to be hungry for informative, entertaining, audio content that is on-demand whenever I want it. Without boundaries to my curiosity, I've been enjoying everything from Planet Money to This American Life to The Advanced Selling Podcast to Sodajerker to The Nerdist. Better 10 years late to the podcasting bandwagon than never!

What Do Acting and Investing Have in Common?

One cold evening while shoveling a heavy, back breaking, wet snow, I was listening to The Nerdist Episode 598, an interview with two-time Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank. As she spoke about her approach to acting, being an artist, and life within the context of her very successful career, I couldn't help but think that much of her advice and insight could also apply to investing. This was unexpected but why not? Seth Godin writes, “By my definition, most art has nothing to do with oil paint or marble. Art is what we're doing when we do our best work.” Perhaps the science of investing does have room for artists, after all. There are also parallels. An actors' uncertain world of auditions and callbacks can be likened to investing in the current environment of economic and geopolitical uncertainty. Indeed, actors and investors are operating in a world where many variables are completely outside of their control. Here are the investing takeaways that I gleaned from the interview.

Intense Preparation

Swank is motivated by fear of terrible failure. “I'm always scared every single time I walk on to a movie set that I'm not going to be able to figure it out and let people down.” In turn, she prepares intensively calling preparation her “security blanket.” We can approach our retirement savings, college planning and/or general investments similarly. Turn your worries and concerns into a positive. Start early, focus your time and energy into implementing a plan for your financial future.

Have a Plan But Stay Flexible

Swank talks about the importance of having a game plan (1-year, 3-year, 5-year) but she says, “I found that every time I tried to shape it, I was missing other opportunities that were right in front of my face.” We all have ups and downs so often times it boils down to how we handle it, our ability to persevere, remain flexible, and open. Swank was very disappointed to be let go from the hit TV series 90210 after only 13 episodes, but two months later she landed her big role in Boys Don't Cry. You need to stay open minded because investing, like acting, is very much a process.


Swank says that resolutions should not just be a once a year event reserved for the new year. It is good to check in with yourself to see how you are doing – every three months, monthly, sometimes even daily depending on the size and scope of the goal you're trying to achieve. While the financial world often measures progress on a quarterly basis, corporate quarterly earnings for example, I like to review asset allocation and holdings on a quarterly basis and investment performance on an annual basis — then ultimately over a market cycle, usually a 4-5 year period. 

Don't Worry So Much

Swank balances her goal setting by actively trying not to worry so much. She has to remind herself, “That's not worth my worry right now and it's taking me out of this moment that I'm supposed to be in and I won't let it rob me.” I think this is true with your investment portfolio too. It's important to stay focused; but once you have a strategy and discipline in place, you can afford to ignore the short-term movements. That can be a lot of noise that you shouldn't worry about.

Thanks for your candid thoughts, Hilary! And best of luck to all this year's nominees. Whether you're an actor, investor, or both, always strive to do your best work. Be an artist!

If you liked this blog post, you might also enjoy:

Do you have a favorite Hilary Swank movie? What podcasts do you listen to? If you're an artist, please share your investment advice by leaving a comment.

“Hilary Swank ‘You're Not You' at Opening Ceremony of the 28th Tokyo International Film Festival” by Dick Thomas Johnson is licensed under CC BY 2.0