Sorry Zooey Deschanel, but your spending habits are so not adorkable.
Yesterday The Wire took readers on a whirlwind tour of “The New Girl” star’s finances. They look solid on the surface—no debt, a cool $1,578,000 in the bank, $1,645,000 in stocks … heck, she even donates to charity!—but if her career were to go up in smoke (as many in Hollywood do) she’d need to save a pretty penny to keep her $600 a month dry cleaning habit.
Your Money spoke to Libertas wealth management adviser Adam Koos to get the scoop on what the twee actress should do to get her finances in check, based on her divorce filing papers. There’s probably a lot the actress isn’t disclosing—clothing campaigns, films and her indie pop project, She & Him—so we’re going by what her attorney said she spends ($22,500!) and earns from “New Girl” ($95,000) per month.
Plan for disaster
Even though she’s young, Deschanel, 31, shouldn’t take her success for granted, said Koos.
“If she read this she’d probably say nothing’s going to happen, but Hollywood isn’t an easy place to work as you age, and what if disaster struck? She would not be able to sustain the amount of spending she’s doing.”
Especially if she were to become disabled or the hit sitcom mysteriously wasn’t renewed. On the surface, Deschanel seems set for the next century. But a little number-crunching tells a different story.
Deschanel currently brings in $1,140,000 per year. Let’s say she pays 40% in taxes. Her after-tax income would be $684,000 yearly ($1,140,000 x .60), bringing her total net worth, if we added the after-tax income to the $1,578,000 she has in the bank and $1,645,000 in stocks, to a princely sum of nearly $3.8 million dollars.
If Deschanel punched out of Hollywood for good, invested her current yearly income and earned an average return of 4 per cent, she’d still be making $153,000 or so per year for the rest of her life. That’s not shabby. But wait a second—if you divided that number by 12, you’d find she’s only taking in $12,800 about month. But the actress spends way more than that: $22,500 per month and $270,000 annually.
There’s no way she could sustain this—unless she invested $6.75 million in the stock market at a 4 per cent return. At an aggressive 5 per cent return, that number would be slightly better ($5.4 million), but not by much.
“You can’t spend money on what you expect to make,” said Koos. “It should be based on the level of lifestyle you’d be able to retain if the worst were to happen. Sure, if Zooey kept making $95,000 a month, she could spend like that forever, but who knows in Hollywood.” Or life.
The actress may now be single, but a) don’t expect her to be for long and, b) even singles should prepare for the worst. Having an emergency fund is key to any financial picture and rising star or not, there will likely be rocky days ahead for the A-lister.
Rein in the spending
It goes without saying, then, that Deschanel needs to get a grip on her spending.
“Zooey hit the lottery on the acting gig, but I’d tell her, ‘Look, you’re young, you’re successful and you should definitely reward yourself, but these things can change very quickly,'” said Koos. “It would make a lot of sense to rein in some of the exuberant spending on things like dry cleaning ($600) and clothes ($2,000).”
Sidenote: How does she spend that on dry cleaning if she’s consistently replenishing her wardrobe? We digress.
Deschanel could easily adopt a few lifestyle tweaks to change her spending habits. Among them:
She could ditch the $600 dry cleaning tab by washing things herself (or paying someone else to do it) and going longer between cleanings. The latter will help her clothes last as long as those red carpet photos.
Rather than drop $500 a month on eating out, Deschanel could ask her friends to split the tab or try skimping on solo meals out when she’s too tired to cook. (See more ways to save on restaurants in 2012.)
Deschanel might try cutting her $800 utilities tab by calling the service providers to negotiate down the price. Her $300 cell plan could also be slashed if she and big sis Emily signed up for a family plan, asked for a group or corporate discount if the plan was for business, or switched to making calls from the web using a device like Magic Jack.
Spending $1,000 monthly on groceries could easily be changed if the singer opted for generic over brand-name goods and switched where she shops (Whole Foods?) to a local food stand or salvage store. The latter might sound off-putting, but a lot of well-off Americans are flocking to these stores to save big on non-perishables like canned goods and crackers.
Finally, the adorkable actress could tear a page out of the Your Money playbook and count to 10 before she splurges on impulse items and think long and hard about why that vintage Chanel frock is calling her name when she already has 10 in the closet.
Ms. Deschanel, if you’re reading this, we love you. Just take these tips as encouragement to plan for the future and keep rocking at your stellar career.