Figuring out who’s the richest among us is a tricky thing these days. Take, for example, a well-known celebrity versus your neighbor who has an unusually large YouTube following: The one who’s doing best financially might not be who you think. A popular star might be doing fantastic at the height of their career, but if they don’t know how to handle their money or adjust their lifestyle for inevitable ups and downs, they could be in for a rude awakening if their marketability (and income) goes south. Or, the reverse can be true: Someone who’s low-profile could be sitting on a ton of cash, thanks to a one-time windfall or just really good management.
Either way, people often lie — but numbers don’t. And that’s where we come in. We decided to dig up the dirt on some famous faces you’ll recognize from entertainment, sports, and politics to reveal how their true net worth actually stacks up to their public image. (Hint: You may just be surprised by what we found.)
Barack and Michelle Obama
When Barack and Michelle Obama first moved into the White House in 2009, it was easy for us regular folks to imagine they were just like us (minus the secret service protection and that whole first family thing, of course). Estimated to have banked a reported $4.2 million heading into the 2008 election, according to Celebrity Net Worth, the Obamas still had a somewhat humble public image, with daughters Sasha and Malia even attending Inauguration Day in coats from J. Crew.
Yet despite their down-to-earth appearance, time has treated them well financially. Forbes reports that that the former president made over $20 million while holding office in Washington D.C., between his presidential salary and the impressive sales of his bestselling books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope. Not only that, but since the presidency, both Barack and Michelle Obama have signed a joint book deal worth a combined $65 million (via Vox). As we know, the former first lady’s 2018 memoir, Becoming, was a runaway hit — so this figure is likely to skyrocket once again. In fact, the New York Post already went out on a limb and estimated the Obamas’ true net worth at around $135 million.
Google « highest-paid person in television » and you might be shocked to see Judge Judy Sheindlin listed above the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Ryan Seacrest. Her long-running court show, Judge Judy — it’s been on for over 20 years, y’all — has remained a guilty pleasure for young and old alike, garnering over 10 million viewers a day, as of 2018 (via Forbes). The Ellen DeGeneres Show, by comparison, averaged about 2.9 million viewers an episode in 2019, according to The New York Times.
That being said, Judge Judy has certainly made sure to get her due. Her annual salary of $47 million, plus the extra $100 million she received in a 2017 syndication deal with CBS, made her the 47th-richest self-made woman in America in 2019. According to Sheindlin herself, she’s worth every dime. « It’s not a question of how much I make. It’s how much income my program generates, » she told The New York Times in 2011. « It’s just like tuna fish on toast — if I owned a luncheonette and somebody who worked really hard for me saw at the end of the day my profit from making a tuna fish on toast was $1.50, they would want half the profits from that tuna fish sandwich. » To her point, Judge Judy has reportedly generated between $160 and $245 million a year in ad revenue for the network, while the judge herself boasts an alleged net worth of $420 million.
While some celebs can’t seem to stop bragging about their wealth, magician David Copperfield quietly became a billionaire in 2018, according to Celebrity Net Worth. Despite that fact that he’s often poked fun at for being a cheesy, albeit successful Sin City entertainer, Copperfield has apparently amassed quite a fortune. His live magic show at MGM Grand in Las Vegas has been running for almost 20 years at an incredible level — the star is said to do up to four shows a day, 7 days a week, for 42 weeks per year, and has actually sold more tickets than any solo performer ever (via Forbes).
While his Vegas show has been credited for much of his income, Copperfield has dabbled in other areas that have paid off just as well. In 2013, Quartz reported that he owned the world’s largest collection of magic memorabilia (said to be worth at least $200 million), which includes artifacts connected to famed illusionists Harry Houdini and George Melies. He also bought 11 private islands in the Bahamas in 2006 and turned them into a luxury resort called Musha Cay, where he charges guests $37,000 a night. Not a bad racket for Copperfield, whose $1 billion net worth is clearly no magic trick.
We weren’t always used to seeing Tori Spelling so down and out, mainly because of her rich-girl image on Beverly Hills, 90210 and her real-life pedigree as the daughter of TV producer Aaron Spelling. However, when her father passed away in 2006 with assets estimated to be worth $600 million, he reportedly only left his actress daughter about $800,000 after taxes (via E! News). Her mom, Candy Spelling, later told The New York Times that this was due to Tori Spelling’s lavish spending habits, claiming there were times when she « would close a store and drop $50,000 to $60,000. »
Despite her headline-making inheritance, Spelling and her husband, Dean McDermott, have somehow managed to continue their extravagant lifestyle, with one source claiming to E! News that they’ve « gone through $18 million since they’ve been together. » According to the media outlet, Spelling herself opened up about her spending issue in her book, The High Life, confessing, « I grew up rich beyond anyone’s dreams. I never knew anything else. Even when I try to embrace a simpler lifestyle I can’t seem to let go of my expensive tastes. And then there’s my shopping problem. I’ve bought ridiculous amounts of stuff for the kids, clothing, toys, crafts. » As of this writing in 2019, Spelling’s reported net worth is $500,000.
Despite being part of a family of successful actors, Stephen Baldwin has had his share of financial ups and downs. When the star filed for bankruptcy in July 2009, court documents revealed he was over $2 million in debt — thanks to a combination of unpaid taxes, credit cards, and mortgage payments. But unfortunately, his money issues didn’t stop there. According to People, he was arrested just three years later for allegedly failing to pay $300,000 worth of back income taxes.
Even though Baldwin’s lawyer originally claimed he « did not commit any crimes, » the actor later stated to the Los Angeles Times: « Unfortunately, I got some really bad suggestions and advice … from lawyers and accountants. » Lucky for him, he caught a break and was able to avoid a jail sentence by agreeing to earn the money to pay back the debt within a year. While you’d think the other Baldwins would have kicked in a little extra cash to help their bro, the former Celebrity Apprentice contestant told the publication that he didn’t receive financial support from his family, adding, « The responsibility lies ultimately with myself. »
Thankfully, things have since looked up for Baldwin. In addition to paying off his outstanding debts in July 2018, his reported net worth is about $500,000, and he’s even welcomed a brand new family member: His model daughter Hailey’s pop star husband, Justin Bieber.
Paul ‘Pauly D’ DelVecchio
Reality star Paul DelVecchio — a.k.a. DJ Pauly D — apparently held onto every last penny he made on MTV’s Jersey Shore, with his bank account holding much more dough than you’d expect. Considering the show’s original run ended in 2012, how is it that DelVecchio continued to do so well? According to Forbes, he worked at a car dealership after high school in lieu of attending college, while doing modest-paying DJ gigs on the side. After the reality show began, he was able to command around $40,000 per club appearance on top of the $100,000 he received per episode on Jersey Shore. By the time the hit series ended, the TV personality had already made $11 million, landing him a spot on Forbes‘ highest-paid DJs list.
DelVecchio has long-held DJ residencies, including at The Palms in Las Vegas and at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. With a reported net worth of $20 million, he’s definitely taken care of his finances. However, the TV star has also still managed to enjoy the good life — starting with his incredible mansion in the Sin City and his $450,000 Lamborghini. When it comes to his continued success, DelVecchio told People in 2018, « It still doesn’t feel real to me. I wake up in the morning and still pinch myself to make sure I’m not actually dreaming. »
While an alleged $3 million net worth is certainly nothing to sneeze at, it’s surprising that Mike Tyson isn’t worth a lot more, considering he made at least 100 times that amount during his boxing career. So, what happened? After winning the heavyweight championship in 1986 at the age of 20, Tyson admitted he « went crazy » with his money at the SALT Conference in 2017 (via CNN). From jewelry to cars, he spent millions on luxury items for himself and his loved ones — even once buying a $2 million golden bathtub for his then-wife, model Robin Givens. He also owned six homes, including a famed Connecticut mansion that boasted no less than 61 rooms.
By 2003, the former boxer was $23 million in debt, largely due to a $9 million divorce settlement and unpaid taxes on both sides of the pond to the tune of $17 million. He filed bankruptcy that year, but has since aimed to rebuild his fortune through a multitude of ventures, telling SALT Conference audience members, « I plan on keeping it this time. » In addition to opening a 40-acre cannabis resort in 2018, which grows and manufactures its own product line, Tyson upped his on-screen acting credits. In 2019, for example, fans could catch Tyson as Roy in A Madea Family Funeral.
Back in the day, Dennis Rodman’s NBA salary was reportedly $27 million — not to mention the lucrative endorsement deals he received on top of that. But by 2012, his lawyer claimed the former athlete was « broke » and « extremely sick, » telling his ex-wife’s attorneys that Rodman couldn’t afford to pay the $800,000 he owed in child support (via Fox Sports). Citing his decreasing marketability as part of the reason why his income had declined, Rodman’s lawyer claimed that even she was working for him pro bono.
Unfortunately, it looks like things haven’t gotten much better for Rodman since then, considering he was accused of stealing $500 worth of clothing from a yoga studio in Newport Beach, Calif. in 2019. According to TMZ, the former basketball pro walked in with two women and a man, and proceeded to talk to the front desk person while one of his female friends put store items into her purse. Even though the yoga studio filed a police report and caught the alleged theft on camera, Rodman adamantly denied the claims, telling the gossip rag, « We didn’t steal s**t! » Even though he used to make millions, it should be noted that 60% of NBA players are said to go broke within five years of retirement. As of this writing, Rodman’s net worth is reportedly $500,000.
Scott Thompson, better known as Carrot Top, made a name for himself in the ’90s as a stand-up comedian, most notably for his hilarious use of puns and props (and of course, his red hair). He got off to a humble start by doing an open mic night performance with friends, which eventually grew into a career working comedy clubs and college audiences (via ShowTickets.com). But like many other performers who are mysteriously making bank, Carrot Top has boasted a long-running residency in Las Vegas, performing hundreds of sold-out shows a year at the Luxor Hotel for over a decade.
Still — given all the comedic talent out there — isn’t Carrot Top’s act a little odd to warrant this much success? It might be, but while we might have our doubts, Carrot Top has been laughing all the way to the bank. « It’s a great gig. I’m like this semiretired dork. And that’s pretty cool, » he told Rolling Stone in 2006. He went on to ask the interviewer, « Even if I am just a prop act, what’s wrong with being a prop act? Who gives a s**t? It’s just what I do. » With a reported net worth of $75 million, we suppose that’s a fair point.
Say it ain’t so: After all she’s been through, Kim Richards of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fame is apparently barely worth six figures. Being the sister of Kathy Hilton (Paris and Nicky’s mom) and a Bravo celeb, you’d think the reality star would have a little something socked away. But while her reality show salary was reported to be $100,000 per season, her estimated net worth is also said to be $100,000. What?
Reports surrounding Richards’ net worth do tend to vary (while Celebrity Net Worth claimed the $100,000 amount, Born Rich put it at $2 million). However, rumors have suggested she’s had trouble paying her bills regardless. According to court documents obtained by The Blast in 2018, Richards allegedly owed a grand total of $118,000 in back taxes from 2013 and 2014. She was also hit with a $266,000 judgment around that time after a woman claimed Richards’ pitbull bit her in vicious attack in 2015, reportedly causing scarring and psychological damage. Unfortunately, we guess it goes without saying: No matter what Richards’ income is, she might just have a few hefty checks to write — and soon.
It may not seem all that shocking that DMX (real name Earl Simmons) has struggled financially, considering that fact that he has 15 kids, but Celebrity Net Worth has placed his net worth at negative $10 million. We have to admit, being $10 million in the red is pretty extreme and surprising for a performer who once sold more than 70 million albums worldwide and has since maintained a loyal fan base.
However, a look back at the rapper’s financial history revealed a string of troubles. According to The Wall Street Journal, DMX filed for bankruptcy in 2013, claiming he was up to $10 million in debt with only $50,000 in assets. After completing a six-month jail stint for not paying $400,000 in child support two years later, the musician reportedly filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2016, saying he was $2 million in debt. By 2018, DMX was back in court again, this time sentenced to one year in prison for tax evasion (via The Guardian). He reportedly owed $2.3 million to the IRS upon his release in January 2019, which reportedly left his wages garnished until he’s able to pay off his debt.
While President Donald Trump never seems to miss an opportunity to brag about his wealth, his actual net worth has been hard to pin down. According to a 2015 Forbes report, he’s allegedly been exaggerating his net worth for years. After reportedly sending the magazine many eyebrow-raising financial summaries meant to influence his ranking on the Forbes 400, former exec Harold Seneker once said the Forbes staff eventually learned to take any figure Trump claimed and « immediately divide it by three and refine it from there. »
Flash forward four years, and the story hasn’t changed much. When former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified to the House of Representatives in February 2019, he claimed that the president « inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes. » While Trump did move up 51 spots on the Forbes billionaire’s list in 2019, the magazine noted that it was simply because the other billionaires ahead of him had been losing money. Indeed, with his net worth at an estimated $3.1 billion, Trump’s « fortune remained flat » compared to 2018.