"I bought my house for $10.5 million cash outright, because as Suze Orman taught me, if you can’t afford to buy a house in cash, you can’t afford it." -Kathy Griffin
One of my best friends just lost his job as a highly-paid executive due to the coronavirus. He is 60 years old and had just left an incredibly successful career in academia about a year ago. He had joined the company shortly after leaving academia but sales dropped dramatically after the virus hit and he was let go.
We have been discussing his next steps and I have no doubt he’ll come out of this stronger than ever. He’s had some pretty severe setbacks in this career over the last 35 years but he would completely skyrocket into the stratosphere a few months, years after. His career trajectory looks like an out-of-control roller coaster. One of the things that he is thankfully NOT worried about is money. He has been very diligent and smart with his investments over the years and will be absolutely fine.
As we were talking, I thought about Kathy Griffin, the female comedian. She caught a lot of flak in 2017 for her Trump picture but is slowly making her way back. She sat down for a very honest interview with The Cut last year about money which I loved and shared with everyone I knew.
I was very surprised by how much money she made over the years (“Since Suddenly Susan came out in 1996, I’ve consistently made between $3-and-10 million a year”) and how honest she was about her future earning potential post-Trump picture (“I’ll never have another day of paid work in my life”). The last part sounds like a real downer but here’s what she said next - “My net worth is $35 million, and I am telling you that openly and proudly to say to these dinosaurs: ‘I don’t need you.’”
Please ignore the politics of the situation and just applaud her for what she has accomplished, especially given the extreme competitiveness of the entertainment world. Kathy Griffin is a lot more successful and rich than most people will ever be. She has a lot more grit and determination than most people I’ve ever met (you just feel the hustle oozing from her pores), and honestly, she’s much more funny than I realized (I hadn’t really listened to her material before).
My best friend doesn’t have as much money as Kathy Griffin does but in both their cases, their financial savviness cushioned them from any major falls.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from Griffin’s interview:
There was an Oprah episode where she talked about how a lot of celebrities and athletes who get to a certain level have a “business manager,” which is a Hollywood way to say a certified public accountant. A lot of these crooks take 5 percent of what you make. Well, over my dead body. My CPA has a monthly flat rate, the same with my lawyer. I’m not giving my CPA 5 percent of the night someone threw a bottle at my head in Auckland, New Zealand — he didn’t catch the f***ing bottle!
Yes, I sign every single check. I even make my CPA come to meetings with my attorneys, just to have another set of eyes. I go, “All right, we’re schlepping to the office and we’re going to go line item by line item.” I’ve done it with Suze Orman personally. I’ve been burned by people, but I have never bounced a check in my life. My credit score is ridiculous. When I say Oprah level, I mean I have zero debt. I bought my house [in Bel Air, CA] for $10.5 million cash outright, because as Suze Orman taught me, if you can’t afford to buy a house in cash, you can’t afford it.
I didn’t want to be an actress with no job security going, “Oh my God, I have this baller house but I’m scared of the mortgage.” No. I bought the one where I went, “Boom. I can afford it.” I can f***ing die in this house.
I’m 58. I don’t make investments that are risky. I make conservative, steadfast investments. My only stocks pay dividends, and diversity is everything: I diversify my money between stocks, bonds, cash, and real estate. In my opinion, don’t invest in f***ing new shit if you don’t know what it is. I have more Berkshire Hathaway than any stock. I feel like Warren Buffett is my personal broker. He famously met with Bill Gates for years because he would not invest in Microsoft. He was like, “I get insurance companies. I get Dairy Queen. I get Geico. I don’t know what Microsoft is,” and I thought, “Okay, if that’s good enough for Warren Buffett …” I should go to his annual meeting in Omaha, but I’m afraid I’d f*** him. That’s my kind of guy.
Anyone who knows me knows that I never shut up about cats and kittens. I don’t have one myself because I moved around too much in my 20s. But now that I’m settled in Los Angeles, I will be getting one soon.
In June 2019, I visited the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and paid extra to watch a cheetah run. One of the cheetahs in residence, Isaka, did the race and it was pretty amazing to watch.
The cheetah is the fastest land mammal and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. I wanted to see this myself and was not disappointed.
After the run, we were able to meet Isaka in person. He was much bigger than I expected (about 150 lbs) and was extremely beautiful. He had a gorgeous coat and just a stunning cat face with black tear-like facial streaks running down the front. I’m pretty sure Pennywise’s face in It was modeled after a cheetah’s face.
I was pretty hooked after this and while we were at the zoo, I googled “big cats” and found the big cat sanctuary Lions, Tigers, and Bears. It happened to be 30 miles away just outside of San Diego in Alpine, CA. I immediately bought tickets and headed out there the next day.
Lions, Tigers, and Bears was pretty amazing. It is an exotic animal sanctuary that specializes in big cats and bears. I paid to do the “Behind the Scenes with the Bears” experience and got to feed the bears and a lion (obviously not with my hands but with a big stick through the fence). The male lion, Bakari, growled at me and I jumped about ten feet in the air. He was very ferocious and loud. I loved it.
Later on, I visited Shambala, another big cat sanctuary in Acton, just outside of Los Angeles. Former actress Tippi Hedren (star of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Birds) founded this in 1983. She previously raised lions, tigers, and other big cats at her home in Sherman Oaks and after the disastrous filming of Roar, decided to open a sanctuary to provide a safe (and more appropriate) home for all the big cats in the movie.
Just FYI, Tippi is now 95 years old and has had a pretty extraordinary life. I would highly recommend her two books Tippi: A Memoir and Cats of Shambala. She talks about being plucked from virtual obscurity after Hitchcock saw her in a commercial, rising to fame from her roles in Birds and Marnie, the sexual harassment she faced from Hitchcock, discovering her love of big cats, the disastrous filming of Roar, and her life after with Shambala.
Later, in October 2019, I was googling “hang out with cheetahs” one day and discovered Project Survival Cat Haven in Fresno, CA. Right there on their website, it said that I could “walk with their cheetahs.” I called them up and confirmed if this was true. “It says on your website that I can WALK WITH A CHEETAH. Are you sure that I can actually walk NEXT to an ACTUAL cheetah?” They said yes and I drove up there that weekend to do the “Walk with a Cheetah” experience.
It was amazing. The keepers brought out Jazz, their male 110 lb male cheetah. Jazz, the keepers, and I hiked up a small hill and I stared at Jazz the entire time with my mouth open in wonderment. I’m sure I creeped the keepers out. They kept telling me to stop moving so close to Jazz. I was hoping they wouldn’t notice but my plan didn’t work. Jazz was SOOO beautiful.
After that, we did the general tour and I got to meet all of the other big cats - snow leopards, tigers, lions, jaguars, the female cheetah, Salsa, and more. I loved it. During the tour, the volunteer announced that they were about to get a snow white baby lion from another accredited zoo in Minnesota. She said to come back in another month or so to see him.
Guess what I did for the next month before going back? I relentlessly stalked the cat haven’s instagram and facebook page for pictures of Barafu and couldn’t believe how cute he was. When I finally met him in person, I practically squealed with delight. He was 4.5 months old, weighed 30 lbs, and looked like a stuffed animal. They said that he would eventually reach a maximum weight of 350 lbs after 1.5 - 2 years and have tan-colored mane. I plan to go back multiple times to watch him grow up.
Why am I mentioning all this?
I’ve been thinking about what kind of impact I want to have in my life and while I still don’t know the answer yet, I’m starting to think it may have to do with big cats. I’m happiest when I get to spend time with them (and of course, when I spend time with my handful of human best friends).
I love cheetahs in particular. They are beautiful to look at, they don’t attack humans (so I can pet one without getting my arm torn off), and they are the fastest land mammal. I like it when an animal is ranked #1 in a category. Today, there are estimated to be ~7000 cheetahs left in the wild. I sincerely hope they don’t become extinct and am starting to think more seriously about what I can do to help. There are no other charities that I care about so I’m glad I discovered big cat sanctuaries. Check back with me in ten years.
“If you ain’t no punk, holla we want prenup, WE WANT PRENUP, yeah! It’s something that you need to have ‘cause she leaves yo’ ass, she gon' leave with half.” -American Philosopher Kanye Yeezy West
When I was in college, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love. The book starts off with Gilbert deciding at age 31 that she wanted a divorce from her first husband, whom she had been married to for six years. She realized when she turned 30 that she didn’t want to have children, she didn’t want to stop traveling around the world as a journalist, and she just plain didn’t want to be married anymore.
Gilbert assumed the divorce would go smoothly. She was wrong. Below is a passage from her book Eat, Pray, Love, which discusses her divorce process:
“It was my most sincere belief when I left my husband that we could settle our practical affairs in a few hours with a calculator, some common sense and a bit of goodwill toward the person we’d once loved. My initial suggestion was that we sell the house and divide all the assets fifty-fifty; it never occurred to me we’d proceed in any other way. He didn’t find this suggestion fair.
A year and a half after I’d left, my husband was finally ready to discuss terms of a settlement. Yes, he wanted cash and the house and the lease on the Manhattan apartment—everything I’d been offering the whole while. But he was also asking for things I’d never even considered (a stake in the royalties of books I’d written during the marriage, a cut of possible future movie rights to my work, a share of my retirement accounts, etc.) and here I had to voice my protest at last.
Months of negotiations ensued between our lawyers, a compromise of sorts inched its way toward the table and it was starting to look like my husband might actually accept a modified deal. It would cost me dearly, but a fight in the courts would be infinitely more expensive and time-consuming, not to mention soul-corroding. If he signed the agreement, all I had to do was pay and walk away. Which would be fine with me at this point. Our relationship now thoroughly ruined, with even civility destroyed between us, all I wanted anymore was the door.”
I was thoroughly confused by what I had just read. Why was this well-educated, able-bodied, healthy, vibrant man in his early 30s demanding so much money from her? They don’t have any children together. They weren’t even married for that long. Can he really ask for all that?
Yes, dear reader. Yes, he can. Just because they were married and had no prenup.
My post below will focus on prenups and why it is so important to consider getting one if you plan to get married. This post is not meant to be judgmental in any way but instead, to educate and inform.
Before we begin, please read the following disclaimers:
Now that we’ve gotten the disclaimers out of the way, let’s get started.
What is a prenup? A prenuptial agreement is an agreement made by a couple before they marry concerning the ownership of their respective assets should the marriage fail. Without a prenup, the court will separate all of the marital property according to the laws of the state.
I personally live in California, which is a community property state. This means that any marital property would be owned by my spouse and I equally. I own 50%. He owns 50%. This marital property includes earnings, all property bought with those earnings, and all debts accrued during the marriage. Some people are okay with this. Some people are not. I personally am not. I would want more control over this process on deciding who gets what, which is why I will most definitely get a prenup if I ever get married.
Some people say writing a prenup is like prenegotiating a divorce. I say it is one of the smartest things anyone can do. There is a lot of advice on how to make money, how to save money, and how to invest money. But there doesn’t appear to be much advice on how to PROTECT your money, especially in the case of divorce.
No one gets married with the intent of getting a divorce (most people, anyway), but given how much people change over time and the high rates of divorce, it makes sense that this is something you should at least consider and educate yourself on.
You see, when I get into my car every day and drive through Los Angeles traffic to get to work, I don’t PLAN on plowing my car into another car. I’m a super careful driver. Both hands are always on the wheel, 10 and 2. I don’t text. I don’t take selfies. I don’t apply mascara with one hand and drink coffee with the other while operating the wheel with my knee.
But you know what? Someone else might plow into me! And that’s why I have car insurance.
So you see, no one PLANS to get divorced when they get married but you know what? My partner may decide one day that he no longer wants to be married to me. I have no say in his decision. Hopefully I won’t be totally blindsided. But I sure as hell will be glad that we had a prenup.
Family law is expansive and somewhat different in every state (e.g. living in a community property state vs a common law state) but here are some important rules to keep in mind:
Everything I just said above might sound abstract. Let’s now go through some numbers. Let me give you some examples of people who didn’t have prenups and what happened to them financially after a divorce:
Jack and Diane got married ten years ago at age 30. At that point in time, Diane had $50K spread out among a 401K, a ROTH IRA, and an individual brokerage account. Jack and Diane are now 40 years old and just went through a divorce in Seattle, Washington, a community property state. When they split, Diane’s account balance had increased to $350K from a combination of her individual contributions and market growth.
To her surprise, Jack asks for $150K, half of the $300K growth that accumulated throughout your marriage. At no point during their marriage did he contribute any money to her accounts. But he is legally entitled to that $150K, because they were married and any money Diane earned is considered community property.
Kelso and Jackie are in their mid-50s. They met in business school 25 years earlier. They have three teenage children. After the second child was born, they both decided that it would probably be a good idea for Jackie to stay at home to raise the children. Kelso works really hard for the next few decades. There’s no way he can quit. They’ve got a mortgage, a stay at home spouse, three kids, and a dog. Kelso works pretty crazy hours at his consulting job. He’s gone from home Monday - Thursday. When he’s at home, he’s so tired he can barely see straight.
Jackie asks for a divorce. They’ve grown apart. 25 years is a long time. Jackie keeps the house where the three children live full-time. Kelso move into a one-bedroom apartment downtown. Jackie gets $10K a month in alimony and child support. She gets half of all Kelso’s investment and retirement accounts. Kelso is still on the hook for the mortgage, college funds for the kids, the housekeeper, the vet bills, anything that costs money, really.
Those two examples I just shared are two real people that I know. I’m not making any of this up. And yes, both of them are not too happy with how everything went down financially.
As I mentioned earlier, the purpose of this post isn’t to be negative about marriage. I just want you to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into and take the proper steps to protect yourself financially.
Having said all that, here are some personal tips to keep in mind:
Good luck, and may the Force be with you always.
Other educational resources:
It’s Over Easy - https://www.itsovereasy.com/insights
Nolo - https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/family-law-divorce
LegalZoom - https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/family-legal-matters
Earlier this year, I froze my eggs. It was a very spur of the moment decision. I woke up one morning and thought, “I’d like to freeze my eggs.” My next thought was “I’d like to eat a strawberry chicken salad for lunch today.” And I made both things happen. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now I think my subconsciousness was telling me that this was something smart to do before I turned 30.
I’m really happy I did this. I unfortunately don’t have any interest in having children now. Most of my co-workers have children and they are wonderful parents as they spend a lot of time with their children and are very involved with their lives. Previously, the idea of children was very abstract to me. But now that I’ve observed what it’s actually like to be a good parent, I have a much better idea of what it entails. Freezing my eggs will buy me time to make this decision.
The actual process of freezing my eggs wasn’t that bad at all. I just called the fertility office, set up an initial consultation appointment, and got the go-ahead after they checked my ovarian reserve, which is the functional capacity of my ovaries, and ran some blood tests. Everything looked good and I was on my way. One of the first things to do is to spend a ridiculous amount of money on fertility medication, which you can pick up at your local drugstore.
Once I started the fertility shots, things really got underway. The shots weren’t bad at all. There are instructional videos online that teach you how to administer them yourself. You don’t even think about them anymore after a few days, it just becomes second nature.
Around the sixth day, there was a feeling of heaviness and I felt like there was something growing inside me. I felt like Noomi Rapace in Prometheus when she finds out there’s an alien growing inside her, she climbs into the medpod, the medpod cuts her open, yanks out the alien octopus baby like a claw crane yanking out an overpriced toy, and then staples her back up. Note to all the ladies reading this: DO NOT watch the clip if you plan to have your eggs frozen. Bad idea.
During the last few days of shots, the heaviness feeling just got stronger. My tummy also got more bloated. I didn’t exactly look pregnant but around the fifth or sixth day, my pants didn’t zip all the way up. I went in every morning around the last week for an ultrasound so the nurse could monitor how the follicles were growing in my ovaries and administer some more blood tests. Things were growing at a good pace and the doctor kept adjusting the dosage of fertility shots I would inject myself with every day. I felt a little weird but there was no pain.
But during the morning of the procedure, I woke up feeling incredibly nauseous and quite terrible. I had never felt this nauseous before in my life. The heaviness feeling started to feel overwhelming. I guess that alien octopus baby wanted out RIGHT NOW.
I made my way to the fertility clinic and once I got on the operating table, the anesthesiologist got to work and I conked out. “100, 99 … ZZZZZZZZ …. Electric sheep. ” When I woke up, the doctor told me how many eggs he retrieved. I gave him a high five.
I felt great if a little groggy. The nausea and feeling of heaviness had completely gone away. I didn’t feel any bad side effects after. I honestly felt fantastic. The hills are alive with the sound of music!
Just to be clear, freezing an egg doesn’t mean you’ll automatically have one baby. It’s not like a magician waving a wand and then suddenly, TA-DA! Presto, chango, this egg has transformed into a baby. Frozen eggs are like baby sea turtles making their way to the ocean. Not all of them make it. There’s always a jerk hawk that swoops in out of nowhere and eats the baby sea turtle.
When you thaw the eggs, some go bad. When you mix the egg with the sperm to create an embryo, not all embryos are good. When the embryo is implanted in the mother, not all of the implantations take. There’s this stat that 10-20 frozen eggs means one healthy child. (That stat varies based on how old you are when you froze your eggs - the younger, the better - but gosh, that’s a pretty tight funnel). I don’t plan on having more than one kid, if any, so I figure I’m good to go.
Having said all this, I am confident I made the right decision for myself. If you are a young woman reading this and you have the financial means to do so, this might be something to consider. My entire out of pocket cost (for the procedure, the medication, the ultrasounds, the blood tests) was around $12K (not including the annual egg storage costs after, which are several hundred dollars / yr). My health insurance, surprisingly enough, covered some of it. Egg freezing costs have actually gone down over the past few years and I think it may even go down more in the future. Companies like Apple and Facebook are even covering that cost for their employees.
In the past, women who wanted to have children unfortunately had to stick to a strict timeline. In your 30s, it’s now or never. I believe that freezing your eggs will give you more control over your life and hopefully help you make smart decisions about who to have children with.
Good luck, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
Ending of the "The Social Network" directed by David Fincher; song is "Baby, You're a Rich Man" by The Beatles
I've never seen the The Social Network (2010) by David Fincher but I hear it's pretty good. I'll get to it someday. I was reading the synopsis on wikipedia and the ending intrigued me.
Mark Zuckerberg has "won." He's won the numerous lawsuits filed against him, built the largest social network in the world, and is the youngest billionaire ever. But at the end of the day, he is alone. He sits in a dark room by himself and thinks about the one thing he can't ever have - his ex-girlfriend. At the end of the day, despite everything he has achieved, he's still searching for a connection. A real one.
I think a lot about money and what it can buy - a lovely home in a great neighborhood, freedom, independence, etc. But I also learned a few years ago that there are some things that money will never be able to buy you. A real, genuine connection. You can obviously buy companionship but if you know deep down that it's not real, then what's the point? It reminds me to be fully present when I'm with people I appreciate and am very fond of. I'm lucky I have those people in my life and I hope I'll always remember to never take them for granted.
What is this?
An anthropological look at how people think about money. Created and edited by Star Li.