Recently, I needed to take a leave of absence from work to help care for my mom, who is in hospice care.

Yes … it’s been very hard. I’m so grateful for the supportive community of family, friends and colleagues that are helping me through it. Especially my husband, who just spent his spring break here with me and my family.

My situation is a little unusual. I’m twenty-seven years old, and my beloved mom is only fifty. All my colleagues, young and invincible, probably feel that parental illness is far, far away. I certainly wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I don’t want to blog extensively about my personal life here, but I did want to share something that I’ve learned from my experience so far.

My recent leave of absence has really taught me the value of financial planning. Because I have a savings account with a few months’ expenses, I was able to take two weeks off from teaching without feeling too much of a financial blow. I’m so glad that I had this emergency fund. When an emotional earthquake strikes your life, the last thing you want to be freaking out about is money.

Here are some good articles I recently read about personal finance in your twenties. It’s solid advice, but it’s amazing how important this stuff seems, especially for musicians:

Because we have great months and terrible months, we should be putting lots of money away when we have a great month.

Because retirement benefits for freelancers don’t exist, we should be saving in our own retirement accounts.

Because our time and money is so precious, we have to think carefully about where how our spending matches up with our values.

Money especially matters because, as artists, we need to continue to invest in our careers during our twenties. Do we need a graduate degree? a new instrument? two weeks’ sabbatical to finish a major composition? This stuff costs. And life is too short to miss the stuff that really matters.