Olympic-size financial trouble

The glamour of winning gold may have worn off for Olympic gold medal winner Gabby Douglas. With fame comes scrutiny. The celebrity Web site, TMZ, found out that Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, filed for bankruptcy a few months before the Olympics.

Hawkins filed for Chapter 13 reorganization, listing assets of $163,706.10 and liabilities (mostly consisting of her home mortgage) of $79,754.14, TMZ reported. In a Chapter 13 proceeding, debtors agree to repay over a period of time, typically three to five years.

TMZ also reported that the parents of Olympic swimming gold medalist Ryan Lochte are having financial trouble. CitiMortgage claims Steven and Ileane Lochte are behind on their mortgage, according to a lawsuit also reported by TMZ.

About her bankruptcy filing, Hawkins told reporters: “It’s my story, it’s part of me. I’m not even embarrassed about it.”

We might assume that if either Lochte or Douglas gets a big payoff from their Olympic triumphs, they will help out their struggling parents.

Lochte has nine big endorsement deals among them Speedo, Gatorade, Ralph Lauren and Gillette, which presented him with a blinged-out razor to match his diamond American-flag grill at a press event Aug. 5, according to a report by Daniel Miller of the Hollywood Reporter. Fortune has estimated his 2012 endorsement earnings at $2.3 million, Miller wrote.

Sports marketing experts believe Douglas, who won the all-around gold in gymnastics, could get endorsement deals worth between $2 million to $3 million dollars, USA Today reported. That’s far less than the stories circulating on the Internet that claim she had already signed a huge endorsement deal.

“I just Googled my name and I read, ‘Gabby just signed a $90 million contract!’ What? They were saying she’s worth, two to three to four million dollars,” USA Today reported Douglas saying in response to the fodder about her financials. “I need to stop, when money gets involved, I have to go on Twitter and don’t read anything about myself. I do want an Acura NSX.”

Whatever happens, hopefully Douglas and Lochte become good stewards over their golden paydays. There are enough stories of professional athletes who win in sports and lose in money management. As I continue to point out, their financial failures are proof it’s not how much you make but how you make do with what you have.

Olympic Watch Warning

Be careful or your Olympic watching could cost you your job. So, for that matter, could using the company computer for online entertainment.

Los Angeles city employees were warned to stop watching the Olympics at work. Randi Levin, the Los Angeles city chief technology officer, begged thousands of workers to stop watching the Olympics online because it was affecting city operations and could cause a massive computer crash, reported Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times. Watching streaming material takes up a tremendous amount of bandwidth.

“City employees aren’t paid to watch the Olympics on their computers or TV. That is not what the taxpayers are paying them to do,” Los Angeles councilman Dennis Zine told the Times. “The question is where are the supervisors when this is going on?”

And speaking of online watching at work, some Pentagon employees are being put on notice as well.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency has warned its employees and contractors to stop using government computers to look for porn Web sites, according to a memo obtained by the Bloomberg News.

“These actions are not only unprofessional, they reflect time taken away from designated duties, are in clear violation of federal and DoD and regulations, consume network resources and can compromise the security of the network though the introduction of malware or malicious code,” wrote the agency’s executive director John James Jr.

The agency’s spokesman Rick Lehner said in an e-mail that the memo was in response to just a few people downloading illicit material, according to Bloomberg.

Why risk your job – a good government job at that – for behavior you should know employers are looking out for? And this at a time when people are begging for jobs.

But of course stupid is as stupid does.

“In addition to tangible dollar losses due to lack of productivity, very serious and costly threats can occur when employees act or click on something they shouldn’t from a work computer,” said Jason Judge, chief executive of SpectorSoft, which sells computer and mobile device monitoring and analysis software.

In a recent survey SpectorSoft found that nearly 40 percent of employees are not deterred from using corporate computing resources for personal use, despite policies against it.

Are You Better Off?

From now through Election Day, Washington Post journalists are traveling through Virginia, a key presidential campaign battleground state, to talk to voters. One of the questions recently asked: “Would you say you, yourself, are better off financially than you were when Obama became president, not as well off, or in about the same shape as then financially? Why?”

“Definitely better,” Linda Firth of Roanoke said. “He is one of five presidents in the history of the United States where the ... stock market has increased more than 50 percent in the first three years.”

Stephen Fuller of Arlington said, “It’s easy to complain. ... Almost everything that’s happening in the public domain seems to be dividing society and generations and not pulling them together to understand what they need to do in order to succeed in this world.”

I want to hear what you think. The Color of Money Question for the Week: Are you better off financially than you were when Obama became president? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your name, city and state. Put “Are you better off” in the subject line.

Retirement Reservations

In a New York Times opinion piece, Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor at The New School of Social Research, argued that the current retirement system is ridiculous and sets many Americans up for future financial failure. She offered an alternative. So I asked what you thought of her plan.

Here are some of your comments:

“I think Ghilarducci’s plan for a guaranteed retirement account besides Social Security is excellent,” wrote Mary Ann Coxson of Vienna, Va. “However, I believe the mandate would be criticized as harshly as the Obamacare mandate and would have little hope in coming to fruition.”

Richard Barbieri of Oak Bluffs, Mass. is a 66-year-old retiree and grateful to be the child of Depression-era parents.

“I started saving for retirement in my mid-20s, often putting away 20 percent of annual income, and now have nearly 100 percent of my pre-retirement income in a lifetime annuity and Social Security, with a good deal more in reserve. I fear that people whose parents did not suffer through the Depression have a different level of caution, as well as having less skepticism about the investment world.”

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@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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