Boris Becker, and the stars who have been declared bankrupt

Boris Becker bankruptcy

Boris Becker has joined the long line of celebrities who have faced bankruptcy. In this case, in June, he was taken to court by bankers - who he had owed money to since a court judgement in October 2015. He is applying to have this judgement set aside, but in the interim, he can comfort himself with the fact that this could happen to any celebrity - and has done so to an enormous number of them.

SEE ALSO: Cannon and Ball star Tommy Cannon goes bankrupt

See also: Insolvencies reach highest level in three years

Becker's debt situation seems unusual - as he is confident he has the income and the assets that can be moved around a bit to free up enough cash to pay it off - given enough time. He said in a statement that it was due to be repaid in full next month, and that he had requested the hearing be postponed until then - but the court had refused. He added: "My earnings are well publicised and it is clear that I have the means to repay this debt. The value of the asset in question far exceeds the debt owed."

The debt itself is unusual, but the case also revealed that Becker has one of the five common traits that land celebrities in financial hot water. All five have laid any number of stars low financially.

1. Lack of financial skill

During the case, Becker's advocate said: "He is not a sophisticated individual when it comes to finances." Arguably there's no reason why any celebrity should be a financial genius. They came to prominence because they could sing, act, play sport, or otherwise excel - not because they were a whizz with a calculator.

In some cases they employ people to deal with the money aspects for them. Alternatively, they assume that the level of cash they are earning will protect them. We know from the likes of Mike Tyson that even when you earn hundreds of millions of dollars, it's still possible to spend more than you earn. Tyson filed for bankruptcy in 2003.

2. Lack of reliable income

The boyband Blue are a classic example of what can happen when you're on the losing side of the fickle fame game. The entire band has now filed for bankruptcy - for various reasons - but first to end up there was Antony Costa. When they split in 2004, Costa's income dropped from £250,000 a month to earning £400 a month in Blood Brothers. He tried to continue living the high life on the money, but soon ran out of cash, lost his home, and ended up in court. He said later that he hadn't received any advice, and he thought the band would last forever, so he hadn't saved anything as he went along.

Kerry Katona bankrupt

3. Tax

One of the problems with having an unreliable income is that celebrities build up a big tax liability in a good year, and then have to pay it the following year - when things may not be quite so good. Paul Rouse, partner and head of the National Creditor Services division of Mazars, says: "Often, a celebrity has a sporadic income, with small peaks and long troughs. The lifestyle that they enjoy when times are good and when work floods in, is unsustainable when times are bad, either professionally and personally".

Kerry Katona, perhaps the most famous face of bankruptcy, is one of many who filed for bankruptcy in the face of a tax bill she couldn't afford - that was the first of her two bankruptcies - in 2008.

The celebrity who is most famous for his tax woes, meanwhile, said he didn't know he had to pay tax bills. Wesley Snipes filed for bankruptcy in 2006, with millions of dollars of unpaid tax. He was found guilty of not filing tax returns in 2008, and was jailed in 2010.

4. Divorce

There's a long list of celebrities who have suffered financially after divorce. John Cleese, with his self-proclaimed Alimony tour, is far from alone in paying a hefty price for decisions relating to their love life.

There are those, however, who end up not just in a difficult situation, but in bankruptcy. Marvin Gaye filed for bankruptcy in 1976 after his divorce settlement meant he had to pay his ex-wife the royalties from his forthcoming album (Here, My Dear) as a substitute for overdue alimony payments.

5. Illness

Martine McCutcheon declared herself bankrupt in 2013, with debts of £187,000. The former Eastenders and Love Actually star ran into financial difficulties when she was suffering from ME, Lyme Disease and depression. She was paying medical bills, and was too ill to work. She told the press at the time that she had been through seven years of hell, but she has since returned to health and has released a comeback album.

It's difficult for any celebrity to predict when they will be hit by a change of fortune. However, it's a salutary reminder to anyone who spends every penny they earn, and doesn't take advice or consider saving for the future, that while it may feel like you are getting away with it now, it doesn't take much for it all to fall apart.

Most common causes of debt
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Most common causes of debt

There are some very common reasons for building up problem debts. Here we reveal seven of the most common, and what you can do if you face them.

Unemployment or illness that means one or more of the household’s earners are unable to work will bring a profound change in family finances, and according to the Money Advice Service is the most common reason for getting into problem debt.

If your circumstances change, therefore, you need to immediately address your family finances, and put everything on a minimum spend lockdown. You should also look into the benefits and tax credits that are available sooner rather than later, to try to close the gap.

If you are on the kind of contract that means varying hours, it can be incredibly difficult to work out what you can afford to spend - making it the second most common reason for getting into debt - according to the Debt Support Trust.

Rather than swinging through the extremes from week to week, the best approach is to establish a budget that will work in the leanest of months, so you don't find yourself getting used to the months when you work more hours.

According to Citizens Advice, trying to service too much debt is the third most common reason for getting into difficulties. The TUC found that those with problem debts spend 40% of their income on debt repayments.

If you are in this position, you officially need some help with your debt problems. If you continue to rob Peter to pay Paul, you will end up owing more and more, so you need to take stock and talk to a debt charity about all your options.

The double-whammy of the legal bills combined with the incredible cost of establishing two separate households is enough to make divorce or separation the fourth most common reason for going into debt - according to the Debt Support Trust.

There's no easy solution, but if you are going through this, it can be helpful to talk through your financial situation with someone you trust or a debt charity, who can help you balance a stretched budget.

Problem debts aren’t necessarily caused by a sudden shock to the system. According to the Money Advice Service, 20% of their clients are simply trying to live on an unsustainably low income.

If you are in this category, it’s important to seek help on the benefits and tax credits you may be able to receive. It’s not always easy to navigate the system, but charities like StepChange have experts on the benefits system who can talk you through what’s available.

The combination of rising costs and stagnating wages over the last few years has meant increasingly people saw their monthly wage cover less and less of their monthly outgoings. This position has started to ease more recently, but has left many people far worse off than before the financial crisis. The Money Advice Trust said a combination of this and unexpected costs was responsible for almost one in ten problem debts.

If you consistently spend more than you are expecting, it's well worth keeping a spending diary. That way you can establish the real cost of living, and start to identify where you can cut costs.

The Money Advice Service says it commonly deals with individuals who have struggled to get to grips with budgeting and debts, and have got into debt because they don’t have the skills and knowledge to manage their money effectively.


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