When you dreamed of coming to Hollywood and making it as a famous actor, was part of that dream going belly up and filing for Chapter 11 protections? Losing everything you own and being in debt up to your ears? Well, this sad scenario happens to many actors who dream of 5-star hotels, personal chefs, and an everything-and-anything-you-can-imagine lifestyle at their fingertips. Nicolas Cage, one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors, owned two castles, 15 mansions, and a fleet of Rolls Royce luxury autos when he filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Now, let’s be honest, Nic is a weird dude; I think that’s been established.

But he’s certainly not alone when it comes to fiscal irresponsibility in the entertainment business. Stephen Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Ray Winstone, Randy Quaid, Pamela Anderson, Judy Garland, Burt Reynolds, and Gary Busey, to name just a few, all had to beg the IRS for mercy at one time or another. Larry King filed for bankruptcy twice, once in 1960 and again in 1978. There are a myriad of reasons–some would say excuses–why these financially privileged individuals manage to find themselves in the deep end of the pool without their floaties. Mickey Rooney cited alcohol and gambling as the culprit in his financial meltdown; Kim Basinger bought the town of Braselton, Georgia in 1989 (she bought a town–nuff said); Ray Winstone, who starred with Leo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson in The Departed simply said of his financial misfortunes, “I could never deal with the paperwork.” But one thing is certain in all of these unfortunate tales: they could have been avoided.

As a young actor, it would behoove you to start thinking about financial responsibility now, before things get too hectic. Try budgeting your expenses for just a month, and see what happens. It can be as simple and archaic as pencil and lined paper, or as sophisticated as the newest Quicken software. But the idea is to get started right away and find out what strategy works for you. It’s real simple, track the money you bring in and the money you pay out. Look beyond your paper receipts, making sure to include online purchases and auto-renewable accounts. Don’t be afraid to make some phone calls; some of these accounts are confusing because, guess what? They’re meant to be.

Auditing yourself in this manner can be a real eye opener. You see what you realistically can live on, as well as have actual numbers concerning extras you can/can’t afford. This way, you’re prepared when you do land that recurring TV role; you can estimate how long those paychecks will keep you afloat. Then you can make informed financial decisions, “Do  I really want to move to a bigger place? Buy that car? How about that castle?” And remember to keep investing in your dream: classes, lessons, reels, photos, networking. As you know, it all costs.

If you are really dedicated to your craft, you’ll make sure the drama is in your work, not in your finances. You don’t want to strive your whole life for a dream, only to have the dream go belly up once you’ve achieved it.

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