This New Year’s celebrations were overshadowed by the death of beloved actress Betty White at the age of 99. Social media was flooded with images of White being greeted at the gates of heaven by the other “Golden Girls” and cast members from the “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” ”, and the many dogs she rescued.
Last week, we also lost an icon of the silver screen, Sidney Poitier. He wasn’t just an Academy Award-winning actor; he was an ambassador, director, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, British gentleman, novelist, and Grammy winner. He died at age 94 on January 6 at his Beverly Hills home, where he was cared for by his wife of 45 years. Next to him were his five daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Ideally, many of us aspire to stay active and healthy for as long as possible, live comfortably into our 90s or even 100s, and then die of natural causes while surrounded by loved ones. Unfortunately, for the famous and the not so famous, this is often not the case.
For the past few weeks, our column has been discussing celebrities and, more importantly, the common mistakes stars make, especially with their finances. Many celebrities are great role models of how to live well in old age. James Earl Jones and Rita Moreno recently became nonagenarians. They are joined by celebrities Mel Brooks, Harry Belafonte, and Angela Lansbury, all in the mid-1990s.
What can we learn from active senior celebrities, especially regarding their finances?
Most successful celebrities learn a lesson early on: Value your time and hire agents to promote your career and financial professionals to manage your money. Before hiring professionals, some celebrity clients had friends or family members who mismanaged their finances and nearly bankrupted them financially.
CPA firms that specialize in celebrities and high net worth clients refer to themselves as “business management” firms. I trained to be a CPA at renowned business management firms, and many clients were happy to share life advice.
A story last week about White reminded me that many of our clients who were “household names” had close and long-standing relationships with their management team. In interviews, White’s agent claimed that he played gin rummy with her during the last weeks of her life. You could tell that he had people he trusted who cared about her and took care of her. I think as we get older, we all need that too.
Work past retirement age. Many on our nonagenarian list have continued to work past retirement age. They write memoirs, make guest appearances, and work behind the camera. William Shatner, 90, has just traveled to space. Tony Bennett, 95, performed his last concert last August while battling Alzheimer’s.
Stay married if you can. It may have taken them a few times to find the right person, but most of the high-profile celebrities mentioned here have been married for many years. Do you remember Johnny Carson? Divorces are expensive and stressful.
Buy a comfortable house. One of my clients wanted to sell me his little Brentwood cabin many years ago for $475,000. Today it is worth more than $2 million. (Maybe I should have listened.) Most of our biggest celebrities bought homes in the Los Angeles area near studios early in their careers. Because they shopped in desirable locations, their homes were sometimes their best investment.
Put something of what you do aside. Another surprising lesson is that many older celebrities don’t feel the need to spend everything they have, even if they are very rich. White had an estimated net worth of $75 million when he died, and Poitier was worth $20 million. Jay Leno, a relatively young 71, says he kept up his childhood habit of working two jobs, spending the income from one and investing the income from the other.
Support causes you care about. According to Look to the Stars, a celebrity charity news website, 96-year-old Dick Van Dyke has volunteered at Los Angeles’ Midnight Mission for more than 20 years. The site lists many famous high-profile philanthropists who created foundations and used charitable gift planning techniques to maximize donations and minimize taxes. For example, Quincy Jones, 88, donates to 23 charities that support the arts, children and medical research.
Stay positive. If we live long enough, we will experience health problems and losses. Poitier revealed in a 2007 Vanity Fair article that one of the “happiest” moments of his life was when he beat prostate cancer. On losing the love of his life, Allen Ludden, White said, “You can’t be a professional mourner. It doesn’t help you or anyone else. Relive the good times. Be grateful for the years you had.”
Yes, be grateful for what you have. While many celebrities may not share the details of their finances with the public, it seems that many of them are open to giving tours of their homes, and what you’ll notice is that they don’t show off the grandeur of their homes, rather they are proud. of the souvenirs, photographs and prizes.
As 90-year-old Barbara Eden said while sharing her genius collectibles: “I’m so lucky. I have dear friends. I have a wonderful family, a very supportive husband, a dog who is adorable, but a brat! Yes I am very happy. I believe that life, everything, has to work alone. There’s a reason for most things, and I can’t wish for it.”
We can learn some practical life lessons from older people on screen and in our lives. My favorite post about White was that if you die at 99 and people say you’re gone too soon, you’ve lived your life well!
Michelle C. Herting specializes in estate, trust and gift tax, and business valuations. She has three offices in Southern California and is president of the Charitable Gift Planners of Inland Southern California.