Being a celebrity has major perks—there’s the money, the fame, the money, and also, the money. For many famous faces, it can be too much to handle, but for the rest of us it shouldn’t be. Let’s count down the some big celebrity money problems — those who have had the most staggering financial busts in recent years — and see if we can learn a lesson or two on how to not fall into that same trap.
4) Toni Braxton: Between 1996 and 1998, Braxton ran up the charts with smashes like “You’re Makin’ Me High” and “Un-break my Heart.” She also ran up massive charges, buying pricey home décor items like china and Faberge eggs. When she ran out of cash, she couldn’t un-break her bank account and, at the height of her fame, Toni declared bankruptcy. The singer eventually got out of distress, but then she got back in it 12 years later. Braxton then considered posing for Playboy, but ultimately, she took the more dignified route and starred in her own reality show. Is baring your life on TV more dignified than baring your body in a porn magazine? Let’s call it draw.
3) Mozart: Wolfgang didn’t just write a bunch of great music, he also wrote a bunch of bad IOUs. Back in the 1700s, musicians barely made any money. This didn’t sit well with Mozart—he felt he should live like his wealthy noble patrons. Since he didn’t have iTunes to sell his music digitally, he didn’t have money, either. So he borrowed it. In the last years of his life, Mozart spent less time composing music and more time composing letters to friends and begging them for money. Musical genius? Yes! Financial genius? No-zart.
2) Billy Joel: No celebrity has had bigger problems than the Piano Man himself. He has declared bankruptcy not once, not twice, but THREE times. On top of that, he filed a $90 million lawsuit against his former manager and brother-in-law, Frank Weber, for losing tens of millions of dollars. But since that’s not all Billy’s fault, let’s lay the blame on someone who deserves it.
1) Michael Jackson: The King of Pop left behind a massive legacy: 13 number-ones, 28 Top 10 Hits, and more than $500 million in debt. The public love his music, but when it comes to his finances, nobody rang up charges more crazily and erratically than MJ. Here’s a quick list of his greatest financial hits:
- $1 million: Fee paid to have Marlon Brando appear at a 2001 concert
- $15 million: Production cost of 35-minute film he co-wrote with Stephen King
- ??? million: Rented an entire hotel room floor in NYC for a month because he needed a place to store all the antiques he bought on shopping sprees
With the exception of Mozart, the story is simple: These celebs found success, saw money rolling in, and never seemed to believe it would end. So even when times were tight, they spent their savings like the next big paycheck could come floating in any day — and that’s completely understandable. It’s also a mistake many average Americans make as well. There are other basic reasons why paychecks can end: layoffs, work injuries, an inability to find a job in this tight market. But even with these legit reasons, you still have to pay for food, rent, utilities, and more.
If the recession taught us anything, it was to save and not spend outside our means. This means getting on a budget and sticking to it. If the money is rolling in — great! Now sock a portion of it away every month. That may seem tough but it is necessary — both for your own peace of mind, and for you and your family’s security.
If your money troubles are more extreme, there are companies that help people settle their debts by negotiating lower payments with creditors on their behalf. There are many reputable debt settlement agencies that offer free, no-obligation consultation that can help you evaluate your options. If you choose to use one of these companies, they contact your creditors, then develop an individualized plan that helps you pay off all your debt.
With a little help, you should be able to sidestep the financial follies of major celebs and get your family on a path to a more secure future.