Eleven Celebrities on How They Spend Their Money

Financial advice (and failures) from the stars.

Clockwise from top left: Jill Soloway, Lee Daniels, Priyanka Chopra, Lars Ulrich, Shirley Manson, and Jordan Peele.

Photograph: Getty Images (6)

Lars Ulrich

Drummer, Metallica
The band’s WorldWired 2017 tour, in support of Hardwired … to Self-Destruct, kicks off on May 10.

Was there a moment when you figured out that music could be a job?
The first moment was in 1986. We had put out our third record, Master of Puppets, and we had spent about six months rolling around the U.S., touring with Ozzy Osbourne’s first arena outing. The last show, our manager looked all of us in the eye and told us that we had made enough money that we could all buy houses. That just never seemed like it was feasible, doing the kind of music that we played. And so I guess I’m always a little wary—we were trying not to look at it as a job for fear of losing that spark that keeps Metallica going. But obviously, we have a lot of people that work for us, a lot of people that help us out as a company, and that has to be tended to.

What kinds of people?
For guys who are well past middle age, keeping healthy needs to be respected. We have two employees who take care of stretching us, massaging us. We have a chef. We stay in comfortable hotels. There’s private plane travel. We don’t tour in more than two-week increments, so we go home and see our families, recharge our batteries. Touring like this is not financially efficacious, but if we didn’t tour like this, we wouldn’t tour.

Jenny Slate

Comic, actress
Slate stars in the films Gifted (April) and Landline (July).

Slate.

Photograph: Getty Images

Do you remember your first big paycheck?
SNL—and only because it was consistent. I was making scale.

Was that the first time you felt like you had disposable income?
Yeah. I was like, I can go out to dinner. I don’t have to choose between a bottle of wine or flowers. I can have both. I was aware of all the little pleasures I could have. I can shop at Whole Foods. Instead of buying the prosciutto that’s packaged, I’m getting the sliced one from the counter. That was important to me.

Have you made any big mistakes with your money?
No, I’m not like that. I will say my clothes are where I spend my money, like buying a Marc Jacobs letterman jacket. I panicked when I bought my TV.

Is it a fancy TV?
It’s like $300, but I was just like, Do you need a TV? I’ll never forget how it felt to be a stand-up on unemployment. I grew up a privileged person, but it embarrassed me to have to ask my parents for money, and I don’t want to do that again. I save to the point where my business manager is like, “Jenny, please buy a house.”

Priyanka Chopra

Actress, activist
Chopra stars in ABC’s Quantico and the film Baywatch, opening in May.

What was the toughest thing about switching markets as an actress from India to the U.S.?
Educating myself about taxes, immigration law, international law. Where I live, how much time I spend in a particular country, how it’s going to affect my visa. There are so many different ways to go wrong!

How do you manage your money?
I divide it between what I want to save, investments, what I want to spend, and philanthropy.

What’s your best investment?
Land in Mumbai and Goa.

Ever spend money imprudently?
Ten years into movies, in 2013, my mom insisted that I needed to commemorate it. I picked her up, we went to dinner, and then drove to a Rolls-Royce dealer and bought a custom car.

Rufus Wainwright

Musician
Wainwright Libre!, a four-night event in Havana, opens on Sept. 21.

Wainwright.
Photograph: Getty Images

With both your parents musicians, did you grow up with the idea that entertainment could be a job?
Yeah, for me it was a family business. But both my sister and I were keenly aware of the realities of the industry and therefore always had to be pretty ambitious and dedicated to get ahead. My grandmother always told everybody, “There is nothing worse than a third-rate folk singer.” (Laughs) So we grew up with that edict.

What’s the biggest financial mistake you’ve made?
Signing a publishing deal years ago and asking them to throw in a piano. I thought they were gifting me a piano, when in fact I was just paying for the piano. I was confused by the big leagues—financially, it was a no-man’s land. That happens to most musicians. They get screwed by the industry. It’s a rite of passage. Don’t ask for a piano!

Lee Daniels

Director, writer, producer
Daniels is creator of Fox’s Empire and Star.

When did you figure out you could entertain for a living?
When I was a production assistant on Purple Rain. I drove onto the lot and I realized, Oh my god! I’m in! I couldn’t believe somebody was paying me $5 an hour for something I wanted to do.

What did you do with your first check?
I’d made an enormous amount of money prior to becoming a PA, so the money was insignificant. It was about a dream coming true. [In my 20s] I made good money with my nursing agency [which helped HIV patients]. I had a couple million dollars before I stepped onto the set.

What do you wish you’d known about money before getting into showbiz?
That half of it goes directly to the government. And another 20 percent goes to your representatives, so that’s 70 percent of your income right there. You’d better make some money, honey! You’ve got to put $15 of that $30 away for your retirement.

Is that what you did?
No, of course not! That was the learning experience. It took me 34 years to find that out!

Jordan Peele

Director, actor, comedian
Peele, founder of Monkeypaw Productions, directed the film Get Out.

What advice would you give a kid coming into showbiz?
I’d say, “Don’t make decisions from fear.” Anytime I’ve made a decision or I bet on myself, it ended up being the right decision. Anytime I’m doubting my own worth, it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When you first got paid, did you do anything obnoxious?
When I was on MADtv, I was still living month to month. My obnoxious buy would’ve been an Xbox. You realize the value is in not having a side job. Even today I don’t splurge—I’m the anti-Scarface. All these things you imagined you’d buy—none of those would bring me much joy or peace.

What did you imagine buying?
Props from movies or memorabilia—a nerd collection. At some point, I could let go of the fantasy of owning one of the Gremlins.

Dale Chihuly

Sculptor
An exhibition of Chihuly’s work is at the New York Botanical Garden until Oct. 29.

When was the moment you realized you could make art for a living?
Until 1980, I taught full time at the Rhode Island School of Design. When the sales of my artwork matched my salary is when I thought I could make a go of it.

What’s the best thing you’ve done with your money?
In Seattle, Lake Union is a “working lake” that serves the fishing and boat-building industries. I got lucky a few years ago, and a famous boat builder was selling his business and building. I was able to take over the building. Boats go by all day long.

What are expenses most people wouldn’t know you have as an artist?
Shipping the glass. One time, a container of my completed artwork was lost overboard in a storm on the way back to Seattle from France. It’s now at the bottom of the Atlantic.

Shirley Manson

Singer, Garbage
Garbage co-headlines the Rage and Rapture tour with Blondie starting on July 5.

What do you wish you’d known about business earlier?
My first lesson, and the harshest lesson—I was in a band when I was young, and we were improperly managed. When I joined Garbage, my first check had to go toward paying a tax bill from my former band. I didn’t receive any of the financial benefits, but I was stuck with the tax bill because I hadn’t been protected. At the time, it felt like my entire profit from all our success was going down the toilet. I had no idea that I would continue to have a career.

That experience must have paid off later on, though, when Garbage blew up.
We were all long enough in the tooth at that time to know that the income we were enjoying would not last forever. When the success came, I was 30. And my band was even older than me. We saw how excited people got by money and success, and we found it mildly repulsive. (Laughs) We were all prepared for when the merry-go-round comes to a halt.

Any crazy purchases in your heyday?
I have a pair of black boots, which look like ordinary boots, but you know how it is when you see a new pair of footwear: “I have to have.” A stylist had brought the boots to my hotel. I said to her, “I want these boots,” and she went, “They’re very expensive.” I said, “I don’t care.” So I get the boots. I wear them a couple of times. They do nothing for my life. Then I discover they cost $5,000. Every time I look at them, I feel hatred, but I shall keep them for life as a reminder of my own idiocy.

Kaskade

DJ
Kaskade (aka Ryan Gary Raddon) is on his Spring Fling tour in May and June.

Kaskade.
Photograph: Getty Images

I’ve talked to a few musicians, and they all have a story about getting taken advantage of.
Yes, all musicians do, don’t they? That’s just part of the learning process. Artists are that way in general, because, look, I love what I do. I’m still a little bit fascinated with the fact that people will pay me to do what I love doing so much. The secret is, I would do it for free. That’s why artists get screwed.

Does being from a Mormon background help financially, in that you might be less inclined to fall prey to the drinking and drugs of the musician lifestyle?
I’m much more conservative and spend my time and money in different ways than [my contemporaries].

Have you ever done a calculation? Like, This is how much money I’ve saved not buying drugs.
At these clubs, on my rider, they’re always trying to add booze. I’m like, “No, that’s fine. Pay me more.”

Do you get it?
Occasionally, yeah. Promoters love working with me, because they know I’m reliable.

Jill Soloway

Producer
Soloway is creator of Amazon’s Transparent and I Love Dick, which premieres on May 12.

What was your lowest financial moment?
With the writer’s strike and the recession, I got behind on everything. I was trying to get hired on 2 Broke Girls. I remember having a great meeting with [executive producer] Michael Patrick King and saying whatever I needed to say to get a writer job. And he said to me, “You don’t really want to work on this show, do you?” And I said, “Of course I do!” And then I didn’t get the offer, and I was so desperate I sent him an email explaining why I would want to work on the show—and still didn’t get the job.

What’s the biggest financial mistake you’ve made?
Twenty years ago, me and my sister and some friends had a sketch comedy show called Head Cheese, and we sold it to MTV. We created a company to deal with this exciting new business development, called Smell My Productions, and we wanted to do it in a way that respected everybody involved, but five people starting a business together immediately becomes cumbersome. The ship tilted before it even got a chance to sail. I tell people, “Having a communal spirit is important, but if you’re going to create something, be aware that the politics of the group are going to present themselves as troublesome way before the creative problems.”

Moss.
Photograph: Getty Images

Elisabeth Moss

Actress, producer
Moss is starring in Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, beginning on April 26.

When did you first figure out you could make money acting?
I started when I was really young, and when you’re underage, the union is pretty strict about putting a percentage of everything you make into an account that you get when you’re 18. So I didn’t make a ton of money when I was young, but I was aware that it was a job.

What’s the weirdest, most unexpected expense you have as an actor?
You have to pay for hair and makeup. Usually, it’s $500 each. There was a time when I was much younger when I would do my own thing. And then I got a new publicist, and it was like, “Yeah, um, you can’t just go anywhere in your jeans and have your photo taken. That’s not gonna fly anymore.” I’m still like, “Why not? I look great! I love this jacket.”

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