5 Financial Lessons to Learn from Celebrity Deaths

by Kevin on June 30, 2009

Unless you’ve been living under a rock without access to radio, TV, the internet, Twitter, or Facebook for the last week you know that several celebrities have passed away from various causes.

As a society we’ve lost TV pitchman Billy Mays (heart disease), entertainer Michael Jackson (who knows), actress Farrah Fawcett (cancer), entertainer Ed McMahon (no formal reason given), and comedian Fred Travalena (cancer).

Death isn’t a fun topic, but I think there are some lessons to be learned from these celebrity deaths. Here’s a list to start with.

5 Financial Lessons from Celebrity Deaths

1. Money isn’t everything. All the money in the world doesn’t matter. All five of these celebrities made a ton of money during their lifetimes. As nice of a lifestyle as they got to live using that money it still did not prevent death. (Hint: nothing prevents death forever.) The pursuit of money, in the end, is fruitless.

2. If you don’t have your health, you have nothing. Of the five listed above only one, Ed McMahon, likely died of old age. The rest died of some sort of medical issue. Mays and Jackson were just 50 years old. In theory they should have had many more years to live on this earth. All the money in the world can’t stop cancer.

3. Life insurance and health insurance are really important. The likelihood of average folks like you and I having to worry about millions of dollars is slim-to-none. But we may suffer from the same health issues that these celebrities did. Heart disease in America? Check. Cancer? Check.

Now imagine if you didn’t wake up from going to sleep last night. Would your family be covered with a term-life insurance policy on you? If you were diagnosed with cancer today would you have health insurance to cover your treatments? Bottom line: skimping on insurance is not the way to go.

4. Having an estate plan is key. Again, imagine you didn’t wake up this morning. Does your spouse know where the will is? (Do you have a will?) An estate plan maps out for the courts exactly how you want your estate — your belongings and money — handed out. Do you want to give it all to your spouse? Do you want to leave some for the kids? Have you appointed a guardian for the kids?

The Jackson case is a perfect example of this — his mother has won temporary custody of the children and control of the estate. But is that what the will said to do?

5. Get your financial house in order. You can be “rich”, but still severely in debt. There is a significant difference between appearing wealthy and being wealthy. Jackson was $400 million in debt when he died last week. Ed McMahon was in the news a few months back for being on the brink of foreclosure on his mansion. These are two individuals that made millions upon millions of dollars and still were in debt.

The Correct Financial Path

This blog is about teaching you how to get out of debt, stay out of debt, and build wealth. Here’s an idea: spend less than you earn. These principles apply no matter your income level. You hear stories of professional athletes that get paid millions of dollars in bonuses and salaries… and ten years later they are filing for bankruptcy. Turn around and you hear stories of school teachers retiring on a healthy nest egg, then donating millions of dollars to their schools.

Use these deaths as a reminder that you’re not going to live forever. That today could be your last day living. Use this knowledge to not only make the most of every day, but to get your finances straightened out now rather than later.

What other lessons should we learn from these celebrity deaths?

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This week’s financial blog reading » JoeTaxpayer
July 5, 2009 at 6:05 am

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc June 30, 2009 at 9:05 am

very prudent financial advice I guess for celebrities and non-celebrities alike.

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FinanciallySmart June 30, 2009 at 10:14 am

Your article has pointed out so many things that we take for granted. You are right money is not all but having a good financial life is. Money cannot cure sickness but it can help to cushion some of the bills. It is not what you earn but how you save and once we practice this in our lives there will be less debts. A lot of times we looked at the death of a person but never at the lessons that come across when that person died. A will should always be foremost in someone lives even if there is no money especially if there are small children involve. It is sad that there are doubts where Michael Jackson children are concern but this teach us to live today as if we are dying tomorrow always live our life in a responsible manner.

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SailboatFamily June 30, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Let’s add David Carradine to the list of recent celebrity deaths.

What these deaths teach us is to enjoy every single moment we have. The number of moments is finite and not tied to wealth.

Identify what brings you joy and pursue it with all your heart. Don’t be seduced by the joy sold to you by marketing machines otherwise you will die unfulfilled and broke. Life is precious so don’t waste yours on someone else’s desires.

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Kevin June 30, 2009 at 7:35 pm

@Roshawn: That’s the idea! I can’t believe some celebrities don’t have wills (or at least easily accessible ones). Amazing.

@FinanciallySmart: Well said. It is sad. Life isn’t all about money. Money is just a piece of the equation.

@SailbotFamily: Enjoy every moment is so true — hard, but true. If you do something you love you’ll never work a day in your life, etc.

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funderbug July 1, 2009 at 6:52 am

Everything you said is spot on! I find it amazing that anyone would not have a will, especially when children are involved. My husband and I had one written up when we were in our mid 20′s. This was mostly due to a bad experience I had when my grandmother died with no will and her husband ignored her requests. Truly sad.

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