“I’ll never betray or deceive you my friend but…If you show me the cash, Then I will take it” – Lyrics from “Money” by Michael Jackson
When I agreed to write about Michael Jackson and money, I wasn’t worried about a lack of material to back up a story on his debts and spending habits. It’s no secret that Jackson had money troubles. While many of us can use some improvement in our financial skills, Jackson lived beyond his means to an extent that most of us can’t even comprehend. Some reports claim that he was spending $20 to $30 million more than what he was bringing in each year. Even as the managers of his estate have paid off many of his debts from the income generated after his death, Jackson’s estate still owes a whopping $300 million to Barclays PLC.
Many people express shock at Jackson’s and other celebrities’ inability to manage their money. We think to ourselves, “If I had that much money, I wouldn’t get into that type of trouble. If I just had $20,000 more dollars a year or were making six figures, everything would work out fine.” But one lesson we can learn from Jackson is that we should not oversimplify money management and what it takes to live a financially healthy life. Many of us are not so different from Jackson when it comes to how we handle our money. It’s often our relationship with money that impacts our wealth, not the amount of money that’s landing in our bank accounts each month.
Money problems often stem from much deeper psychological and emotional issues and Jackson had more than his fair share of stress and trials. With the first molestation trial accusation coming in 1993 and the second in 2003, Jackson’s experience was referred to as a “walk down a tragic path, financially, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, legally” by his former publicist.
Just as Jackson’s physical appearance was a reflection of some of the emotional turmoil he experienced throughout his life, I believe that many of his financial woes were also a result of some of his internal struggles. Although his life was tragically cut short, reflecting on Jackson’s difficulties can help all of us identify and pinpoint internal issues that make it difficult to achieve the financial freedom that many of us seek. Do you feel like you are losing your financial grip? Consider the following signs:
1) You are lying about your spending to your spouse or partner or to yourself.
2) You ignore your bills or your credit card statements.
3) You don’t adjust your spending when your income decreases.
4) You run out of money before your next paycheck.
5) You’re living off of credit cards and borrowed money.
Several of these signs were present in Jackson’s life. So what do you do if you find yourself in similar circumstances?
1) Be mindful of your money habits. Think about how you feel when you spend money. Are you spending because you’re stressed? Are you spending because you’re bored? Do you buy things because having something new makes you feel better? If you find yourself shopping for emotional reasons, take a step back and consider other ways to improve your mood that don’t involve your credit card.
2) Form or join a support group. It’s not easy to change behavior that stems from internal reasons on your own. Having the support of people who are trying to achieve similar goals can help keep you on the road toward success. When you deal with problems on your own, you may feel shame and let your debt spiral out of control. Oprah Winfrey referred to Michael Jackson as “profoundly lonely” after a 1993 interview. I can’t help but think that this may have contributed to some of Jackson’s unhealthy behavior. You may find that participating in a small group helps you to address your financial demons and get on the right track. You will learn that you are not alone.
3) Determine if you need to seek professional assistance for your internal financial demons. Sometimes it is not enough to join a support group. Sometimes you need a professional who will help you delve into past issues and hurtful situations that are now having an impact on your financial health. Consider speaking with a therapist or a financial coach who can help you work through your relationship with money.
I’m saddened that part of Jackson’s legacy is the debt that he left behind. But we can remember the man for his amazing talent and learn from his actions and his life.
R.I.P Michael Jackson.
Do you think there is a strong connection between how Michael Jackson viewed himself and how he handled his money or do you think his financial literacy or lack thereof determined how he handled his money?
Kimberly Allman, Esq. is a financial planner and the President of Allman Financial Planning, LLC where she assists individuals who are seeking to improve their financial health. She is also the Manager of Homeownership Preservation for the New York Mortgage Coalition where she provides assistance to homeowners in distress through seminars, informational workshops and one-on-one counseling. She started her career as a corporate lawyer where she advised clients on a variety of investment products including hedge funds, mutual funds, structured products and real estate investment trusts.
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