Wednesday, June 2, 2010

5 Ways to Avoid Financial Ruin, Hollywood-Style

Just when you thought Madoff was rotting away in prison, along comes alleged Ponzi schemer to the stars, Ken Starr, arrested last week on charges of swindling $30 million in Hollywood fortunes. Herein, bold-faced lessons for your own (much smaller) fortune.

By Marty Beckerman

Britney Spears Sighting

Oceanic Media Group via FilmMagic

1. Savings

You could... ...make $737,000 a month, just like Britney Spears, then save or invest exactly zero dollars. Just like Britney Spears, according to actual court documents.

You should... ...give away some of that gargantuan salary and all the goodies that come with it. George Clooney donated his Oscar gift bag to charity for $45,000, and the IRS is cracking down on swag anyway.

You're probably better off... ...regularly depositing your earnings into a tax-deferred annuity that would support you in old age and shield you from your worst youthful impulses. Also: adhere to a restrained lifestyle, à la Warren Buffett. Note: this is way less fun than racking up $600,000 in credit-card debt, like Lindsay Lohan reportedly managed to do.

RELATED: How to Save (and Spend) Money at Every Age

Nicolas Cage Sorcerers Apprentice

Walt Disney Pictures

2. Real Estate

You could... ...make like Nicolas Cage and buy a bunch of castles all over the world, then flip them (headache-free!) for a huge markup whenever you want. And by "for a huge markup," we mean "for a loss of unfathomable millions."

You should... ...get a mortgage for a house — one house — now that rates are at their lowest in decades. And remember: you are the king of the sofa, not Bavaria.

You're probably better off... ...keeping some penalty-free liquid assets. The FDIC has bumped-up its insurance guarantee from $100,000 to a just-for-this-neverending-recession cap of $250,000, which you and your spouse can bump up much higher by opening a joint account, two retirement accounts, and dual trusts. Because when you're married, it's always good to have cash on hand for — how should we put this, Tiger? — unpredictable emergencies.

RELATED: How to Blow a a Million Dollars

Shia Laboeuf Wall Street 2

3. Accounting

You could... ...emulate Starr's clients and hand off "total control" of your finances to a mysterious guru — he even allegedly paid their bills — but the federally mandated Securities Investor Protection Corporation only protects $500,000 per account. And the SIPC might deny your claim anyway, as many of Madoff's victims cataclysmically discovered.

You should... ...emulate a (non-dickish) banker and diversify your own portfolio, like Shia LaBeouf claims to have done with a self-made $500,000 in his Schwab account while preparing for Oliver Stone's Wall Street sequel. If you must entrust another, make sure he is not himself entrusting an exotic dancer, a handbag-obsessed secretary, or a "glamorous, club-hopping lifestyle."

You're probably better off... ...double-checking your statements — Uma Thurman's attention to detail apparently led to Starr's arrest. No word on whether she is coming for his scalp with the Kill Bill katana.

RELATED: Celebrities Who Hid Their Money... Poorly


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