Celebrity Cash: Erotic Lit Author in Hot Pursuit by Tax Officials

Kristina Laferne Roberts, a best-selling author, whose titles include “Zane’s The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth,” leads this year’s list of Maryland’s top individual tax evaders.

Roberts owes the state almost $341,000 in back taxes and owes the IRS almost $541,000, according to court records and state officials, reports DeNeen L. Brown of The Washington Post.

Roberts’s business was put on blast in a Maryland program designed to embarrass the state’s top tax scofflaws.

“These are not people simply down on their luck and unable to pay, but individuals and business owners who knowingly thumb their noses at the vast majority of Maryland taxpayers who fulfill their legal obligations to the state,” said Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.

Court records show Roberts, who writes under the pseudonym “Zane,” has had other money problems. Brown reports that four years ago a lien was placed on Roberts’s Upper Marlboro, Md., home, which she bought for more than $1 million. Roberts was able to avoid foreclosure after falling 79 days behind on her mortgage payments.

Brown writes: “The real-life twist on Zane’s success has left some of her readers wondering how Roberts — a well-known businesswoman who is publisher of Strebor Books, an imprint of Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, and creator and producer of two Cinemax television series, “Zane’s Sex Chronicles” and “Zane’s The Jump Off” — could end up in a financial mess worthy of a character in one of her novels.”

We don’t know why Roberts has had trouble paying her tax bills or her mortgage. She won’t talk, Brown reports. Perhaps she’s a bad money manager. Maybe she got bad financial and tax advice. But here’s why Roberts story matters and why you should take note. Financial issues like hers play out for a lot of celebrities and other high-profile people who make good money but nonetheless end up in financial trouble.

In a recent column about former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, I wrote about the financial difficulties people face when trying to live above their means. The same thing I wrote about the McDonnells applies to Zane. Anyone can mismanage his or her money at any income level. So I look at these cases and check myself. I use it as a reminder that it’s not how much money you make that matters but how you make do with what you have.

Color of Money Live Chat

Join me today at noon ET for a live online chat. I will available to answer your money questions. The nationwide financial fast I was spearheading ended earlier this week. If you participated, I want to hear from you during the chat. What changes will you make to keep the momentum going?

Don’t Spend a Lot of Money on Your Honey

Alfred Edmond Jr., senior vice president and editor-at-large of Black Enterprise, sums up Valentine’s Day pretty well. It’s a holiday that “often leads to bad money decisions, because it encourages emotional spending, out of love, obligation and even guilt.”

Edmond gives some good advice and some tips on keeping your spending in check. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from him about avoiding overspending on Valentine’s Day in the name of love:

-- “Being overly generous when money is tight does nothing good for the giver or the receiver.”

-- “This is specifically for the guys, repeat after me: No waiting to the last minute! Desperation or impulse spending nearly always results in spending more money than intended, or getting a less than ideal gift—or worse, both.”

-- “Spending irresponsibly is no way to say, ‘I love you,’ even on Valentine’s Day. No one who really loves you would want you to do it.”

Starter Savings Accounts: Obama’s ‘myRA’

In an effort to get more people to save for retirement, President Obama announced in his State of the Union address that he was authorizing the Treasury Department to come up with a starter savings account, dubbed “myRA.”

The “myRA” will be set up like a Roth IRA but is similar to a savings bond and, like savings bonds, will be backed by the U.S. government. People would contribute after-tax dollars. It could take as little as $25 to open an account, and contributions could be as low as $5.

For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “What do you think of the new ‘myRA’ starter retirement account?”

Here’s what some of you had to say:

On Facebook, Pamela Spruell of Washington wrote: “I still believe that some people can benefit from going this route.”

Joyce Eberhardt of Richmond loves the idea. She wrote: “I am a divorced mother of two high school children. I was laid off from my job in Dec. 2012, unemployment has ended and all savings including retirement savings are close to gone. When I start work again I’ll be way behind the eight ball so to speak when it comes to saving for retirement. It would be nice to know that something like myRA would be available to help me reach my retirement goals.”

“I think it’s great that the President has initiated this new saving plan!” said Cyndi Scheib of Wheaton, Ill. “I would like to see about starting accounts for my nephews and nieces to put them on the path of saving. I believe that many of the economic problems middle class Americans have currently is due to not thinking about saving.”

Mike Barton of Westfield, N.Y., had a different take: “The myRA is going to pay about 1.5 percent interest. That won’t even keep up with the inflation rate each year. That equals a loss of purchasing power for those who save. This myRA looks like a better deal for the Treasury Department than it does for the paycheck to paycheck people.”

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/michelle-singletary

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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