Investment Secrets of the Rich and Famous
Hollywood celebrities, recording artists, and professional athletes are among the highest paid people in the United States. According to a celeb ranking on Forbes, Taylor Swift and Tiger Woods each pull down over $50 million per year while Will Smith surpasses the $20-million mark.
It is true that many with exceptionally high incomes aren't rich due to bad financial management. But there are noteable exceptions we can learn from — Steven Spielberg with a net worth of $3.2 billion and Oprah Winfrey with $2.8 billion, both on Forbes' list of richest Americans. The wealthiest of non-billionaire stars include Bono, Jay-Z, Will Smith, and Ellen DeGeneres with total assets ranging from $100 million to $600 million.
How Celebrities Build Wealth
There's no one-style-fits-all investment formula among celebrities that I could detect. However, I did notice some investing themes worth sharing.
Invest in Yourself
Celebrities realize that their bodies, brains, and brands are their most important assets. The wealthiest find ways to maximize their payouts and leverage their names, generally through contract negotiations and celebrity endorsements. Money spent on promoting and positioning themselves as a brand is more investment than extravagance. (See also: 5 Ways to Make Extra Income Online Today)
Invest in Tech Startups
The most common type of outside investment is the technology startup. Celebs often envision possibilities for tech applications pertinent to their industries and up-and-coming generations. Plus, the deep pockets and media presence of pop culture stars may be attractive to founders of startups who seek investment dollars and publicity.
Examples of technology investments:
- Golf professional Tiger Woods invested in Google prior to its initial public offering.
- Singer Justin Bieber and comedian Ellen DeGeneres contributed to the funding of mobile-app Stamped that was later acquired by Yahoo!.
- Actor Will Smith invested in Fancy, a shopping site; he and rapper Jay-Z also put money into Viddy, an iPhone app for video sharing.
- Lady Gaga led funding for Backplane, which provides web power for online communities of fans (the first was LittleMonsters.com for Lady Gaga herself).
- Actor Ashton Kutcher joined an investment group that purchased Skype for nearly $2.8 billion and then sold to Microsoft for $8+ billion a few years later.
Leverage Expertise in Business Ventures
Celebrities often launch or become part owners of entertainment-oriented ventures, such as professional sports teams, luxury properties, restaurants, fashion empires, and television networks. Many of these businesses are closely tied to their areas of expertise.
For example, talk show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey invested her time and money in OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), a joint venture with Discovery Communications. Former NBA player Earvin "Magic" Johnson runs MJE (Magic Johnson Enterprises), which includes investments in real estate and private equity funds, a chain restaurant, and a media company. These are departures from Johnson's basketball career but consistent with his urban-oriented, multi-cultural brand image.
Place Money With Investment Managers
Putting money with outside money managers seems like a boring way to make your assets grow in value. This method of wealth building may not seem as newsworthy as a stake in a tech startup or a professional sports team. So, the number of celebs that adopt this tactic may be underreported.
However, I recently learned that Taylor Swift's father is an investment manager for high-net-worth clients. Presumably, Taylor is one of his clients or, at minimum, he provides her with financial advice such as "save your money."
Others who have hired professionals for money management include talk show host David Letterman and tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. Notably, U2 lead singer Bono is a co-founder and managing director of Elevation Partners, a global private equity investment firm.
Lessons for Regular People
Just like the rest of us, celebrities make smart moves and stupid mistakes. We can learn from their successes and failures.
Start by maximizing your earnings throughout your career. Personal finance expert Jonathan Clements advises me that our capacity to make money through a regular job or business is often the most overlooked income-producing asset.
Invest in Tech
With thousands rather than millions of dollars to invest, the average investor may not have the access to or risk tolerance for funding early-stage tech startups. However, you can purchase tech-oriented stocks or a specialty mutual fund or ETF in the technology sector.
Invest in What You Know
Like celebrities, you can invest within your circle of competence even if you don't start your own business. Acquire shares in companies with which you are familiar and make money in ways you understand. (See also: 17 Places to Find Investment Inspiration)
Take Advantage of Online Management Tools
Finally, although private management is largely considered a perk of those with more than $500,000 of investable assets, portfolio management is becoming more accessible to regular people with modest wealth. Online brokerages offer a variety of money-management services, for example. (See also: 5 Best Online Brokerages)
To build and keep your wealth, avoid common celebrity mistakes: Don't count on high income forever, spend within your means, and steer clear of investment scams.
Have you learned anything about investing from celebrity hits and misses?