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Lin-Manuel Miranda: The Power of Financial Knowledge

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The “Hamilton” creator and star talks with Morgan Stanley about financial literacy, his approach to money matters and who he trusts for financial advice.

When it comes to career-defining Broadway moments, it’s difficult to top the last few years for Lin-Manuel Miranda. Not only did the Hamilton creator and star give birth to the biggest hit in recent memory, he did it by redefining what Broadway could be for the next generation. Both in themes and in music, Hamilton speaks in particular to the Millennial generation—and reminds us the importance of "not throwing away my shot."

Morgan Stanley recently had the chance to speak with Mr. Miranda and here’s what he had to say about financial literacy, his approach to money matters and who he trusts for financial advice.

With the incredible success of Hamilton, what has your journey as a writer, actor and artist taught you about the importance of financial literacy?

This experience taught me first-hand how important it is to educate yourself about the basic principles of financial planning. When you are focused on doing what you love, it can be easy to brush aside the need to understand the monetary implications of upcoming milestones. However, regardless of who you are and what you are most passionate about, everyone should master the fundamentals in order to find and fulfill your own greater purpose. For me, that means dedicating the resources I have available to me—whether it is time, effort, money, or relationships—to important organizations, causes, and passion projects.

"To educate yourself about personal finance is to empower yourself with the resources and tools needed to help you achieve your goals."

What is something about money you wish you had known when first starting out your career?

There is so much I wish I knew about money when I was first starting out my adult life, but in particular, the importance of building good credit. Growing up, I was always cautious about spending.  In fact, I was so nervous about incurring debt that I didn’t open my first credit card until age 28, after my first show had opened on Broadway. As a result, even though I had enough money in the bank, I didn’t have sufficient credit history to purchase my first apartment. My father had to help me buy it by co-signing the mortgage. 

Who do you look to for financial advice? 

As I faced various opportunities and challenges throughout my career, I was very fortunate to have the guidance of my father. Because in addition to familiarizing yourself with the basics, it is equally as important to know when to ask for help. Trusted, professional support can be invaluable when you’re navigating the complex decisions and tradeoffs associated with big life milestones.

Why is building a financial foundation critical for pursuing your passions?

To educate yourself about personal finance is to empower yourself with the resources and tools needed to help you achieve your goals: whether it be owning your own home, starting a business, making a living off of your passions, providing for a family, having a healthy relationship with money, or paying it forward.

What advice would you give to the leaders of tomorrow? 

As the leaders of tomorrow, your collective time, energy, and talent can help create a brighter future. Find a cause that you are passionate about and support it in whatever way you can. I was fortunate enough to learn this lesson early on, as my father was the founding President of the Hispanic Federation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the human services and health needs of the Hispanic community. It is my hope that each of you will begin building the solid ground beneath you, so that you can rise up and achieve your greatest potential.

What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned about money?

In writing about Alexander Hamilton, I had to learn a great deal about the birth of our financial system. He intuitively understood that if the states are tied together financially, we begin to transcend our colonial mindset and thinking of ourselves as one nation. I'd never thought of money as a unifying or stabilizing force prior to telling his story.

What are you saving for today?

My family, my children, and supporting causes dear to my heart.

Money can be an uncomfortable topic, but it doesn’t need to be. Establishing a solid financial foundation can help you navigate the many milestones of adulthood while giving you the freedom to explore new horizons.

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