Keeping up with Kardashian’s Kash

Okay, I know you probably groaned when you saw the headline.

Gallery

Gallery

And, yes, I’m jumping on the media bandwagon full of pundits taking shots at Kim Kardashian and her made-for-TV-life. But, as always, I’ve found a personal finance lesson in this story.

But first the recap, just in case you haven’t had access to a TV or newspaper for the last week. Kardashian, a reality-TV star, filed for divorce after her 72-day marriage to NBA star Kris Humphries.

Kardashian cited “irreconcilable differences” in her divorce papers. The filing has triggered a slew of blog posts and columns opining on whether the marriage and grand ceremony were just all about the money.

“It was a pairing born in an agent’s office, and spawned in amoral Hollywood,” wrote Andrea Peyser in the New York Post. “Then, it drove to the finish line wrapped in a dank hell where sacred, holy matrimony is nothing more than a cynical money-making enterprise.”

As for all the money she allegedly made from the wedding? On her blog Kardashian writes: “There are also reports that I made millions of dollars off of the wedding. These reports are simply not true.”

So what’s the lesson here?

Raise your hand for the number of weddings you’ve attended where you’ve shaken your head at the obscene amounts of money that was spent (often using debt) when you guessed correctly that the marriage wouldn’t last long because the couple spent more time and money planning the ceremony than they did in much needed premarital counseling? How many gifts would you want to snatch back?

My hand is up.

To be sure, the Kim and Kris show playing out is sad and shameful.

In a note to her fans Kardashian also writes: “I would not have spent so much time on something just for a TV show!” Then she says: “I got caught up with the hoopla and the filming of the TV show that when I probably should have ended my relationship, I didn’t know how to and didn’t want to disappoint a lot of people. I hope you respect my courage because this isn’t easy to go through. It just didn’t turn out to be the fairy tale I had so badly hoped for.”

It does not take courage to quit your marriage after just 72 days. It would have been courageous to call the wedding off even if it meant forgoing huge amounts of cash for the wedding photos, filming rights, etc. And you don’t go ahead with a wedding because people -- especially a magazine, television network, family and friends -- expect you to carry on so everyone can profit from the spectacle. Whether you’re a Kardashian or regular Joe or Jane, you take money you have at your disposal and pay for good marriage counseling before you call it quits.

But what we see playing out in Kardashian’s life is the same drama we see – I see -- when not-so-rich-and-famous people get married without spending enough time with each other or discussing their values or figuring out how they will handle their finances together. There is too much focus (and again money) spent on the wedding and reception and not enough time on how to make the marriage work.

Maybe money wasn’t the source of this marital breakup, but it certainly is with a lot of the breakups I see.

So if you’re planning your wedding, or contemplating getting engaged, take the focus off the big party and spend some time and more money getting premarital counseling that will flush out all your issues, particularly the financial ones.

Oh, and P.S. I’m not impressed with Kardashian’s gesture of donating the money from all the gifts to the Dream Foundation, as she also notes in her blog. In an interview with RadarOnline.com, Lizzie Post, co-author of “Emily Post Etiquette, 18th Edition,” said,“When it comes to wedding gifts, polite protocol deems that if the marriage lasts less than six months then they should definitely be returned to the buyer.”

It’s great that a worthy charity is getting money, but I also hope Kardashian is going to take the time to send back any wedding gifts along with a personal handwritten note to each guest, apologizing for her immaturity. That would be a priceless and classy act.

Making Money on Your Special Moments

There’s a lot of criticism of the Kardashian clan for their selling TV access to their life and letting all their drama play out for viewers.

But we’ve created a culture of so many wannabe stars that families are recording and posting every precious moment of their lives online, with many of them hoping the video will lead to a big payday.

One mother clicked “yes” to an offer from YouTube to share profits for advertisements that ran on the side of the video she posted of her 6-year-old daughter crying after being told she was going to Disneyland. The video has gotten more than 5 million views, and the family made several thousand dollars. And Disney wants to pay the family to use the video for a television commercial, reports The New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller.

“Creating a video that attracts millions of viewers and becomes a pop culture phenomenon involves an unpredictable cocktail of luck and timing,” Miller writes. “A dash of cute babies or people acting like idiots can only help. But once a video goes viral, making some cold cash depends on quick action.”

The Color of Money Question of the Week: What’s your take on using special moments to make money? Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “Making Money On Your Special Moments” in the subject line.

There’s a Revolution Coming

In keeping with the television theme this week, I wanted to share news about a new ABC daytime show.

“The Revolution” is scheduled to premiere in January and will be hosted by five experts in different areas, including Tim Gunn of “Project Runway“ and Ty Pennington, host of “Extreme Makeover”: Home Edition.

As my Washington Post colleague Lisa de Moraes reported this week, “The Revolution” will take one woman a week and show a time lapse of the five months the show invested in stripping her of the weight she’d put on because food was the center of her life, culminating in a Friday revealing.

“In addition to that weekly transformative fun, ‘The Revolution’ also promises to give viewers a ‘daily boost,’ whether that’s ‘inspiration to accomplish little victories,’ or ‘a road map for a major change,’” de Moraes writes.

That’s where I come in. In addition to continuing my work for The Washington Post, I’ll be joining “The Revolution,” helping some of the featured women deal with and hopefully overcome their financial issues. I’ll also be contributing to a weekly financial segment.

I’m biased, of course, but I’m excited to be part of a program with a mission to help people change their lives for the better. As executive producer J.D. Roth said, this show “will be an exciting, inspirational template for transformation for women all over the world.”

Chats Today

Join me at 11:45 a.m. for my live online video chat, followed by my text chat at noon Eastern Time.

It just you and me today. Be sure to send your money questions in early or read the archive later.

Debt Defeaters

I am still looking for people who have paid off a large chunk of debt.

Send your debt defeater story to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Include the amount of debt you paid off, how long it took to do it and how it feels to be debt-free. Put “Debt Defeater” in the subject line.

If I read your story, I will send you a free debt defeaters T-shirt.

Cellphone Ban Responses

I received an overwhelming amount of responses to last week’s Color of Money question: What do you think of a zero tolerance ban in movie theaters and other public places?

Here are some comments:

“As expensive as movie ticket prices are, I would be willing to pay extra if it would guarantee a better viewing experience without cellphones,” wrote Cheryl Fountain of Annapolis, Md. “I would agree completely with a zero-tolerance policy and would go out of my way to patronize any establishment that does this.”

Annie Goodman of Edwards, Colo., says at certain events –weddings, movies, plays, etc. -- there should be a place where you can check-in your cellphone. “That way no one will be bothered by those obnoxious rings and bright screens.”

I imagine it would be a nightmare to implement a cellphone check-in but nonetheless I love the suggestion.

There were some people who didn’t like the ideas of a ban.

“Please be aware that some jobs require their employees to be on call 24 / 7,” wrote M.A. Reed of Madison, Wis. “These employees can put their phone on vibrate but may not turn them off. The need to stay on call not only impacts the employee, but also his or her family.”

I get it. But if you’re on call and need to have your phone out and ready to disturb others perhaps you need to stay home and watch Netflix.

One of my friends didn’t like my call for a ban despite how annoying the phone use can be.

“Teaching folk courtesy and enforcing the rules of courtesy through social pressure is much more appropriate,” wrote Wiley Hall of Columbia, Md.

Upcoming Events

-- On Saturday, Nov. 12, I’ll be speaking at the YWCA Hartford Region’s 10th Anniversary Money Conference for Women. The organization will be “Celebrating 10 Years of Giving Women the Power to Prosper.” The event will be held at the Hartford Marriott Downtown, 200 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford, Conn. The event is from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free. For information, click here.

-- Tuesday, Nov. 15, I will be moderating The Washington Post’s “Sweet Savings” event, a discussion about finding bargains and stretching your dollars. Panelists include Post Travel section staff writer Andrea Sachs, Local Living staff writer Terri Sapienza and deputy Food editor Bonnie Benwick. The event will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW in Washington. Click this link to register. The event is free for Platinum and Gold PostPoints members who register online. All others must pay at the door. Tickets are $20.

Tia Lewis contributed to this e-letter.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to singletarym@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

 
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