Major Celebrities Who Have Struggled With Debt

According to CNBC, the average American has $90,460 worth of debt. It turns out that this rule even applies to celebrities. While A-listers are some of the highest-paid individuals, even they can spend beyond their means. Read on to see how these stars ended up with millions in debt, or worse, bankrupt.

MC Hammer Owed $13.7 Million

mc-hammer
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

MC Hammer’s classic hit “U Can’t Touch This” rapidly built his wealth. Unfortunately, he lost it just as rapidly. In a few short years, he went from a $70 million net worth to being bankrupt and owing $13.7 million in debt.

How did such a financial landslide occur? For one, the rapper splurged on $30 million worth of upgrades to his 40,000-square-foot mansion! Then there was the private jet, helicopters, and stretch limo. Finally, Hammer sealed his bankruptcy fate by hiring a 200-person staff that cost half a million per month! Fortunately, he learned his lesson and is now worth $2 million.

Nicolas Cage Owed $14 Million

Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images/Getty Images
Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images/Getty Images

Nicolas Cage has starred in huge hits since the ’80s, but that didn’t make him immune to overspending. After racking up a $150 million fortune, Cage found himself bankrupt with $14 million in tax debt. The news really isn’t that surprising considering he owned 15 houses at one point.

The Oscar-winner also splurged on a private island, two castles, and a 70-million-year-old dinosaur skull! The skull ended up being illegal, so Cage had to return it to the Mongolian government. Cage has bounced back since his 2009 bankruptcy and is now worth $25 million.

Toni Braxton Owed $50 Million

Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images
Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images

R&B singer Toni Braxton filed for bankruptcy shortly after her major hit, “Un-Break My Heart” came out, leaving some fans scratching their heads. The financial troubles were related to her record deal, which only gave her 33 cents per album sold.

After some legal pursuits, Braxton was able to recover from her first bankruptcy, but not for long. In 2010 she filed again, having accumulated a jaw-dropping $50 million of debt! Even wilder is that she bought a $3 million mansion just six months later, according to Forbes. Somehow, her recent net worth has bounced back to $10 million.

Wesley Snipes Owed $23.5 Million

JOCE/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images
JOCE/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images

Wesley Snipes established a huge fortune through his acting career, but he also accumulated $23.5 million in debt by not paying taxes. The evasion was so serious that it landed Snipes three years behind bars for multiple misdemeanor counts.

Even after doing time, Snipes was bent on getting his huge debt lowered. According to Forbes, the actor offered the IRS a measly $842,000 in 2014. Needless to say, the IRS was not impressed with the 4% offer. Still, the movie star has a net worth of $10 million.

Charlie Sheen Owed $12 Million

charlie-sheen
Don Arnold/WireImage/Getty Images
Don Arnold/WireImage/Getty Images

At one point, Charlie Sheen’s net worth was a whopping $150 million. He was also raking in $1.8 million per episode of Two and a Half Men, making him the highest-paid actor on network television. Despite his massive fortune, Sheen managed to rack up $12 million of debt, $300,000 of which was on his American Express card alone!

How can such a wealthy person get into so much debt, you might ask. The answer includes a $90k mortgage, half a million in child support, medical expenses, spousal payments, and a very lavish lifestyle. Sheen’s worth has reportedly dropped to $10 million.

Stephen Baldwin Owed $1.27 Million

stephen-baldwin
Kris Connor/Getty Images
Kris Connor/Getty Images

Despite being part of a famous acting family, Stephen Baldwin bit off more than he could chew. The actor ended up filing for bankruptcy in 2009 after his debts got ahead of him. Perhaps the most surprising part isn’t Baldwin’s $1.2 mortgage debt or the million he owed in taxes, but the $70,000 he owed in credit card debt!

Credit cards are notorious for their sky-high interest, but that didn’t stop this celeb. He even served 5 years of probation rather than paying $300,000 in taxes, and had a home foreclose in 2017.

Willie Nelson Owed $32 Million

DISCIULLO/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images
DISCIULLO/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images

Country legend Willie Nelson got himself into some hot water in the ’90s for not paying his taxes. He racked up an astounding $32 million in debt! Fortunately for him, the IRS was willing to slash the amount almost in half, but that still left $16.7 million he had to pay.

To get the funds, Nelson did what he does best: he made an album. This wasn’t just any album though; it was one all about his debt. It was called The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories? The album only generated $3.6 million for the IRS, who let Nelson off the hook after he paid $9 million more.

50 Cent Owed $32.5 Million

RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images
RB/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images

As a majorly successful rapper and one of the founding members of the hip-hop group G-Unit, 50 Cent has made a fortune. However, he lost a lot more than fifty cents when some unwise investments and court cases landed him in debt.

The downward spiral came to a head when 50 Cent filed for bankruptcy in 2015. He ended up with more than $30 million of debt! In 2016, a Connecticut judge approved the rapper’s payment plan and he got his bankruptcy discharged the following year.

Burt Reynolds Owed $10 Million

Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Despite being a ’70s icon, Burt Reynolds’ net worth was a modest $5 million when he passed in 2018. That’s $55 million less than his peak worth but is actually fairly impressive considering that the actor filed for bankruptcy in 1996.

The nosedive came after some poor investment choices and a $40 million divorce from actress Loni Anderson. The turn of events resulted in Reynolds racking up $10 million of debt. The actor reportedly auctioned off his Boogie Nights Golden Globe award on his way to bouncing back.

David Cassidy Owed $10 Million

Hayley Madden/Redferns/Getty Images
Hayley Madden/Redferns/Getty Images

David Cassidy was a star from a young age, reaching teen idol status as a lead in The Partridge Family. The singer sold millions of records over the course of his career, but he still ended up with $10 million of debt.

Cassidy reportedly owed $21,000 just on his American Express card! He also owed six figures to Wells Fargo and to an attorney. At the time of his passing in 2017, Cassidy’s net worth had dwindled to about half a million dollars.

Gary Coleman Owed $72,000

James Peterson/Online USA, Inc./Getty Images
James Peterson/Online USA, Inc./Getty Images

$72,000 may not sound like a lot for a celebrity, but that just shows how much Gary Coleman’s wealth had dwindled over the years. The debt pushed him to file for bankruptcy just 14 years after the show Coleman was known for, Different Strokes, ended.

At one point, the actor was bringing in $64,000 per episode! Though he had millions leading into the ’90s, Coleman only had $75,000 to his name when he passed in 2010. Reportedly, a large portion of the actor’s $18 million fortune went to his adoptive parents and legal fees he spent trying to get the money back.

Miles Teller Owed $100,000

TM/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images
TM/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images

Miles Teller’s $100,000 of debt may not seem like much given his multi-million dollar status, but there’s a catch. He didn’t accrue the debt when he was already famous. Like so many young adults, he did so while going to college.

Teller took out the large loan to pay for his tuition at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, which is among the toughest film schools to get into. The actor also studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. Given his current status, the pricey education wasn’t done in vain.

Gary Busey Owed $1 Million

Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images
Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images

Despite having a long and fruitful career, Gary Busey famously filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Reportedly, his worth had dropped to a meager $50,000 after accumulating $1 million in debt! According to Time, the actor owed money to the IRS, Wells Fargo, the UCLA Medical Facility, and others.

Even Busey’s manager chalked up the pile of debt to “unfortunate choices.” His fall from financial grace is just another reminder that raking up money is only half the battle. You also have to know how to manage it! After performing in dozens of blockbusters, Busey’s net worth is now half a million dollars.

Aaron Carter Owed $3.5 Million

Ray Tamarra/GC Images/Getty Images
Ray Tamarra/GC Images/Getty Images

Aaron Carter was just ten-years-old when he released his first album, which sold millions of copies. As the adorable younger brother of Backstreet Boy sensation Nick Carter, Aaron had a huge advantage when it came to establishing himself as a pop star.

While Carter was able to amass a large fan base at a young age, he still ended up filing for bankruptcy in 2013. He cited $3.5 million worth of debt and claimed that his income was a meager $2,000 a month! The celebrity managed to bounce back and now has a net worth of $400,000.

Sinbad Owed $11 Million

Pixplus/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images
Pixplus/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images

Comedian Sinbad rose to prominence in the early ’90s, garnering a large fanbase through his stand-up specials. At one point, he even landed his own show. After appearing in a few movies, the actor fell below the radar, and so did his wealth.

In 2013, the funny-man filed for bankruptcy claiming $11 million in debt. The majority due was in taxes, along with a $375,000 American Express balance. The actor told HuffPost that he’d been waiting for a movie role to wipe out the debt, but an offer never came. He’s since achieved a net worth of $4 million.

Wayne Newton Owed $20 Million

wayne-newton
Mike Pont/WireImage/Getty Images
Mike Pont/WireImage/Getty Images

Wayne Newton has performed for decades, most notably in Las Vegas. He’s so well-established there that he’s among the best-known entertainers in the party city. While Wayne’s impressive career has garnered him a $50 million net worth, it wasn’t without some setbacks.

By 1992, the singer owed $20 million in debt and had filed for bankruptcy! The crazy thing is that he was still making a quarter of a million dollars a week from his Vegas shows! According to the Los Angeles Times, poor investments were largely to blame. The entertainer has clearly learned his lesson since.

Victoria Gotti Owed $650,000

David Pomponio/FilmMagic/Getty Images
David Pomponio/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Victoria Gotti was destined to be famous, being that she’s the daughter of Mafia boss John Gotti. She cemented her spot in the public eye by becoming a reality tv star, appearing in both Growing Up Gotti and The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Being in the limelight wasn’t enough to keep Gotti’s mortgage payments up-to-date following her husband’s imprisonment, though. She ended up filing for bankruptcy after falling $650,000 behind in mortgage payments, which resulted in a foreclosure. Still, her net worth is a solid $2 million.

Michael Vick Owed $17 Million

michael-vick
Larry French/Getty Images
Larry French/Getty Images

NFL quarterback Michael Vick landed in debt after being convicted of partaking in an illegal dogfighting ring. After his 21-month prison sentence, Vick managed to land a spot on the Philadelphia Eagles.

The draft didn’t come until a year after he filed for bankruptcy with $17 million in debt. Vick went on a restrictive budget from 2010 to 2014 to pay all of his debt back. He made his final payment in 2017 and is now worth $16 million.

Pamela Anderson Owed $1.7 Million

Ricky Vigil/GC Images/Getty Images
Ricky Vigil/GC Images/Getty Images

Pamela Anderson has fallen behind on her taxes numerous times. According to Accounting Today, she owed $1.7 million to the IRS in 2009! Two years later, she got handed a tax lien for the amount of $370,000.

More recently, Jon Peters was claimed to have paid $200,000 worth of debt on behalf of the Baywatch star. While Anderson initially denied the claims, the Daily Mail reported that she admitted to Peters giving her $100,000. Regardless of the technicalities of her debt, the star still reportedly has a $20 million net worth.

Mike Tyson Owed $20 Million

Wil R/Star Max/GC Images/Getty Images
Wil R/Star Max/GC Images/Getty Images

According to The New York Times, Mike Tyson amassed $400 million in the years leading up to his bankruptcy filing. By 2003, all of his massive fortune had gone to his lavish lifestyle, and the boxer found himself in more than $20 million of debt!

His wealth should have gone toward the $17.7 million he owed in taxes and the $2.6 million he owned to trainers, managers, and law firms. Instead, Tyson spent his money on huge mortgages, car payments, shopping, and a pet Siberian tiger. His net worth is now $3 million, a tenth of what he used to make from a single match!