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Yanla Vanzant and the truth about Newfound Black Wealth
The importance of money management and a first-hand testimony of how so many minority celebrities experience the “rags to riches to rags” phenomenon. As the Notorious B.I.G once said, “More money, more problems”...
Yanla was very forthright about her situation. She said she lost her money due to a combination of things. For instance, not knowing about the tax implications of certain
acquisitions. In her case she mentioned purchasing a major building as an investment. The associated tax liability and mortgage payments prevented her from renovating the building thus she ended up stuck with a building she could not make money off of.
She purchased a home with a balloon mortgage (low monthly payments for a few years, but with a lump-sum due at the end) which she could not honor when the term ended. By that time, her show had been cancelled, she had lost a daughter and her marriage was unraveling making her unable to deal with the situation. She mentioned not having the right type of accountant, as hers was not an entertainment one. Whatever happened, she lost it all: the house, the cars, the building. She also acknowledged her limited financial education as she recounted a story where she was 20 years old with 3 kids when she opened her first bank account. The bank rep had to walk her through it and teach
her how to fill-out a check.
Yanla called herself a millionaire with a welfare mentality, one who did not really understand money: “You see money in an account, you get it and you spend it”. To paraphrase another comment she made, “All the money has to be gone before you get more money”. Her mentality was still about living from paycheck to paycheck, where all money is spent as it comes in and one is scrapping for change right before the next
payday. Notice that she did not say anything about allowing her money to make more money. The never-ending money tree is a fantasy that a lot of Black celebrities (Athletes or entertainers)
dollars in the bank. To put it simply, with 30% taxes that million is now just $700,000. When you factor in managers/agents taking their cut, you can see that we are getting further and further from that million and are left with $500,000 at the most. In Yanla’s case, it mostly came down to an unqualified team and a clueless client. It is not that she was reckless, but a new level of wealth required a new mentality. No offense to friends and family but most of them simply did not have the skills to assist her at that level of fame and fortune. Plenty of loyalty, yes, but no expertise whatsoever. I believe she said something important that really summed it up: “You don’t know how much you don’t know”
What to do
Indeed most answers we got from people who lost it all start with “I didn’t know what was going on”. Allowing people to run HER affairs without her getting informed or involved, but more importantly not allowing them to teach her is the costliest mistake that Yanla
probably made. A solid team should have walked her through their decision-making
process so she could contribute. We always say to our clients “if they can’t put it in plain English, don’t buy into it”. Celebrities should get people to explain things to them so that they understand what they are signing; otherwise, why bother? Which leads me to the importance of getting a good team. Generally, celebrities do not listen to the advice of people they do not respect or whom we they not take seriously. Your team must command your respect, have a reliable track-record, verifiable credentials (i.e certifications or licenses vouching that they are qualified to do their job) as well as your best interests at heart. It seems that this was not the case for her as a simple concept like a Balloon mortgage
was not outlined to her for 7 years!!!!
The financial victim today is Yanla, but countless others right now are in her situations. Role models or not, Black celebrities still hold the spotlight when it comes to Black Wealth due to their visibility. It is important for as many of them as possible to remain millionaires so that the community at large can benefit. For that to happen, they need to realize that the job is better left to the experts.