How 11 Celebrities Overcame Massive Debt (We’re So Impressed With Kim Basinger)

Discover the inspiring tales of 11 A-listers who bounced back from financial rock bottom.

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Updated July 11, 2024
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Celebrities can be just like you when it comes to wearing sweatpants at the grocery store or picking the kids up from school.

They might also be like you if you’re struggling financially. Some celebrities have even had to go as far as to declare bankruptcy to get out of trouble.

So, which celebrities have had to climb out of debt, and how did they do it? Here are a few you may already know about and a few that might surprise you.

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Evander Holyfield

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Evander Holyfield is a former professional boxer and a four-time heavyweight boxing champion.

But his success in the ring led to spending out of the ring and falling into debt. The boxer even had his mansion in Atlanta foreclosed and put up for sale at auction.

Holyfield has since downsized to a small apartment and boosts his earnings each year with public appearances to help get himself out of debt and become financially fit again.

Nicolas Cage

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Actor Nicolas Cage never filed for bankruptcy, but he did find himself struggling financially and admitted he was $6 million in debt at one point.

Cage said he was over-invested in real estate when the market went bad and ended up taking on extra roles just to pay the money back. But he has insisted that he paid his debts without filing for bankruptcy.

50 Cent

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Rapper 50 Cent filed for bankruptcy in 2015 due to bad business decisions and money he owed as part of a lost lawsuit.

The rapper’s bankruptcy allowed him to work on his finances, and he’s been able to escape financial trouble. He also earned an estimated $100 million as an investor in Vitamin Water, which Coca-Cola bought.

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Meat Loaf

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Meat Loaf saw singing success in the 1970s, but lawsuits related to his music career and other financial mismanagement led to the singer declaring bankruptcy in 1983.

Meat Loaf had several albums that didn’t sell after that before finally getting another hit in the ‘90s to help rebuild his finances.

Allen Iverson

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NBA star Allen Iverson blew through millions of dollars in two years and got to a point where he couldn’t pay his debt to a jeweler in Georgia. He eventually filed for bankruptcy.

But Iverson had a unique clause in a contract he signed with Reebok in 2001. The deal included a $32 million trust fund set up by the athletic company that Iverson gains access to when he turns 55. 

So, while the basketball star may have spent millions of dollars, he also stands to receive a big payday in a few years. He also gets an annual salary of $800,000 directly from Reebok.

Cyndi Lauper

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Cyndi Lauper wasn’t so unusual when she had to file for bankruptcy in 1981 after she was sued by the manager of a band she once belonged to called the Blue Angels.

She eventually settled the lawsuit using funds from her successful solo album "She’s So Unusual," released in 1984. And her musical success from that album and beyond helped her rebuild her financial success.


MC Hammer

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Sometimes, helping others can also sink you, as was the case for MC Hammer. The rapper became financially successful with his first album in 1990, but he ended up employing 200 people. It was a boost to his community but at the expense of his own finances.

The rapper declared bankruptcy in 1996 and has since started his own record label and performs throughout the year. He’s also become smarter about investing and has invested in internet start-ups.

Kim Basinger

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Actress Kim Basinger spent the early ‘90s in debt. She and other investors bought private land around Braselton, Georgia, that they sold for less than expected, and she lost a lawsuit filed against her after backing out of a movie deal.

Basinger filed for bankruptcy in 1995 but continued working. She starred in movies such as “L.A. Confidential” and “8 Mile” to escape debt again.

George Foreman

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Former heavyweight champion George Foreman was at the top of boxing in the 1970s, but he decided to walk away and work outside of boxing. That change caused a severe hit to his finances, and he declared bankruptcy in 1983.

The boxer fought back, however. His endorsement of the George Foreman Grill led to a lucrative payday for the former fighter, making him a kitchen household name as well as world-famous athlete.

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Burt Reynolds

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Burt Reynolds ended up in debt after spending lavishly and didn’t invest wisely, leading to the actor falling $11 million in debt. The lost money included bad investments in various struggling restaurant chains.

Reynolds declared bankruptcy in 1996 and was able to work after that to earn money again. He also sold off memorabilia in 2014. At the time, the actor said it was because he was cleaning things out that he didn’t want and not because he was in financial trouble again.

Elton John

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Singer Elton John may be known for being over the top, and that extravagant lifestyle led to his financial struggles. He declared bankruptcy in 2002 due to excessive spending and issues with properties he owned worldwide.

However, the singer bounced back with more albums and tours as well as income from his previously released work.

Bottom line

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It can be tough to see a way to get out of trouble if you’re struggling financially, but there are ways to do it even if you aren’t a celebrity.

Consider creating a budget to help you get your finances under control. A budget can keep your spending in check and help you find ways you may be losing money.

You should also think about ways to make in extra money, such as selling items if you tend to buy too many things or getting a side hustle.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.