by Manisha Thakor
What can four drunk airplane passengers, first time parents, and a delightful new book called Celebrity, Inc. do for your wallet?
Let me start with the drunks and new parents. Monday night I boarded a very delayed flight from Houston to Los Angeles. Behind me were four 20/30-somethings boisterously swigging from “coffee” cups. (Our gate was across from a Cantina and you could practically smell the tequila in their paper cups.)
As the boarding continued they grew increasingly animated. Their frenetic energy seemed to wind up not just each other but everyone around them. Fellow passengers were visibly agitated.
Just before the plane doors closed, a young couple came on with a sleeping baby. The last two open seats were amongst this motley crew.
Suddenly, everything changed.
The presence of the earnest and exhausted parents had an immediate calming effect on both the inebriated passengers and those around them. It was as if a mirror had been placed in the center of the plane to remind us all of our humanity.
Enter, Jo Piazza’s delicious new book, Celebrity, Inc: how famous people make money.
To me, this book is the figurative version of the newborn’s parents getting on the plane. It serves as a mirror reflecting back the reality what’s in the “coffee” cups of the celebrity scene.
That got me wondering what other financial lessons the author of Celebrity, Inc. might have stumbled across while writing this fascinating book. Thankfully, Jo Piazza was willing to share with us…
Q: Of the celebrities you profile in Celebrity, Inc. whose money attitude were you most impressed with and why?
Jo: Despite current controversy I was completely impressed with the Kardashian’s money attitude and their work ethic. I have never met a celebrity crew who works so hard to maintain their brand. I don’t necessarily agree with the massive amounts they are paid to do what they do, but unlike a lot of celebs they truly do work for it. And beyond that they manage their money well. They budget, they funnel funds back into new projects, they try not to spend excessively and they do donate a portion of their income to charity each year.
(2) What surprised you the most about the money habits you observed during your Celebrity, Inc. research?
Jo: So many of the people I talked to over-spent their budgets on a consistent basis even though they were making crazy amounts of money. Spencer Pratt told me he and Heidi Montag pulled in about $10 million in 4 years but because they thought it would keep coming at the same rate they blew through it all. That’s a common thread I found with a lot of celebs. They’re making so much but they’re spending just as quickly. They buy $5 million houses and spend half a million on a security detail and they rarely save a dime. I just don’t think they realize the shelf life of fame is shorter than ever and they may not be famous tomorrow.
(3) What personal finance lessons do you think the rest of us can take away from the way famous people live their lives?
Jo: Budgeting for a rainy day is the best thing we can learn from celebrities in terms of personal finance. I saw so many cases of celebs who thought it would last forever and then forever came up really… quick.
I was inspired by the extent to which celebs expand their personal brands. Tim McGraw went from country singer to fragrance king. When Valerie Bertinelli’s career as an actress seemed like it was over she reinvented herself through a weight loss campaign. I don’t think we see these instances of celeb entrepreneurship as inspiring enough and I truly think they should be a lesson in taking chances, building a new business and making lemonade out of lemons.
In many ways our celebrity culture is like a group of chaotic drunk people. It lurches rapidly from one topic and fad to the next. In the heat of the excitement money can feel like no object. But the financial hangover of being, or trying to emulate, that lifestyle can result in a serious financial crash.
So pick up a copy of Celebrity, Inc. and tell me what you think. Does our national obsession with the lifestyles of the rich and famous ever cause you to do things with your money that you later regret?