For movie stars,  earning millions is not unheard of because many have managed to do so during their careers. Similarly, it would not be difficult to notice famous stars who died penniless despite generating significant revenues for themselves. Did these stars overextend themselves? Were they too lavish during the prime of their careers? 

No. While some lived luxurious lifestyles, others did not find it easy to handle their finances. They just went from being stars to being worthless individuals. The number of well-known public figures who find it difficult to manage their finances appropriately is long. It includes people who generated revenues more than $500 million but were found to be in debt for a similar amount. Let us consider some of the famous personalities that had everything going for them but were left with nothing when the heavens opened up for them. 

“I think being famous is more of a hindrance, a constraint, than just letting yourself be free.”— Martin Yan

Joe Louis 

Joe Louis was a boxing legend who was ultimately beaten by Mohammed Ali. He held the title for heavyweight boxing from 1937 until 1949. Joe Louis was a successful boxer who was able to generate a huge personal revenue. Estimates are available that Joe earned approximately $4.6 million during his career, but only received around $800,000 for his efforts. 


Joe Louis was a generous person and spent the money earned by sharing it with family, friends, some business interests that went wrong and donations to the U.S. Army. Worse was to follow for Joe when he was forced to perform as a wrestler and to work as a greeter at the Caesar’s Palace casino in Las Vegas. 

In 1981, Joe Louis suffered a physical breakdown, which confined him to a psychiatric hospital for five months. He passed away on April 12, 1981, after a cardiac arrest.

Sammy Davis Jr. 

Sammy Davis Jr. was an acknowledged dancer, musician, singer, actor and an Impressionist. During the 50s, he held the position of being one of the most popular stars in the world. He was a member of the “Rat Pack” which belonged to Frank Sinatra. Sammy Davis made approximately $50 million during his career. Unfortunately, he couldn’t hang gone to the fortune. His decline in popularity resulted from substance abuse and a lifestyle which was beyond his means. Sammy Davis continued his struggles from the late 60s until 1990. When he passed away, he had debts amounting $15 million.

 I don’t like being famous – it is like a prison. And driving for Ferrari would make it far worse. Valentino Rossi

Oscar Wilde 

Oscar Wilde was acknowledged as an Irish writer and poet. He managed to become affluent from his highly renowned work, The Picture of Dorian Gray. During his lifetime, Oscar Wilde was flamboyant with his clothing and had a wit that was quite famous. When the London stage held a performance for The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar was already on the way down financially. He made an attempt to ignite his literary success while spending two years in jail.  However, Wilde was never able to garner the fame he once had. He passed away penniless within a Paris hotel at the age of 46.

Judy Garland 

Judy Garland was an American actress and singer. Fred Astaire named her as “the best entertainer who ever lived.” She was acknowledged for her role as Dorothy within the Wizard Of OZ. Judy Garland had a successful career, but it wasn’t sufficient to keep her financially stable. She was also not fortunate with her five marriages, which resulted in four divorces and contributed immensely to her debts. Garland passed away on June 22, 1969, at the age of  47. At death, her debts totaled to $4 million. 

Michael Jackson 

The King of Pop rose to number one position and became a dominating force during the 80s. “Thriller” is Jackson’s an all-time bestseller. Michael Jackson made about $750 million during his lifetime apart from another $400 million for appearances in concerts, endorsements, and merchandising. He was also a spendthrift. Therefore, he fell into debt by indulging in expenditure that was beyond the amount he had earned. When Michael Jackson passed away in 2009, people estimated that he left debts worth $500 million. 

Gary Coleman 

Different Stokes was a hit television show, and Gary Coleman contributed mightily to the popularity of the show. Coleman is reputed to have made about $100,000 for a single episode for Different Stokes. Unfortunately, he could not hold on to his fortune. After the end of the show, Coleman was unable to succeed like he once did. He had to file for bankruptcy in 1999, claiming that he was responsible for his failures along with his adoptive parents, agents, and lawyers.

Gary Coleman also suffered from renal problems and had to undergo two kidney transplants along with a heart surgery. He passed away at the age of 42 when he fell down the stairs. Gary Coleman was virtually poverty-stricken when the curtains finally came downward upon him. 

This is a list of some of the famous stars who died penniless after generating significant revenue for themselves and their partners. For some reason, they could not hold on to the Fortune until the end.   




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