Celebrity Cash: Charlie Sheen

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, March 3, 2011; 10:17 AM

I know you have got to be tired of hearing and seeing reports about Charlie Sheen, the 45-year-old star of the CBS comedy "Two and a Half Men." But let me put my financial spin on his antics.

Like so many others, Sheen seems to be suffering from the "sense of entitlement" syndrome.

Let's look at his major symptom. Sheen already makes $2 million per episode for his sitcom and yet he says it's not enough, reports the Post's TV columnist Lisa de Moraes.

"I'm underpaid right now," Sheen said. "I'm tired of pretending like I'm not special."

With the current unemployment rate at 9 percent, one would think a multi-millionaire who had a good job would be more humble and appreciative of his financial state. But Sheen just shows once again money can't buy happiness--or a clue.

Financial 'Frenemies'

Gina Roberts-Grey of Creditcards.com raised an interesting issue in a recent online article. Are your friends good for your credit scores?

If you aren't sure, here are a few friend types that may not be good for your wallet:

-- Your friend tells you all the time, "Oh, come on, you deserve it." This is the friend who guilt trips you into spending money on something you can't afford, or resents your frugal ways and tries to get you to join him or her in being deeply in debt.

-- Your friend is a pusher. This girlfriend makes more than you but is always pushing you to spend like she does.

There is a friendly fix for these people in your lives.

Here's the Color of Money Question of the Week: Do you have a friend who has led you down the wrong financial path? Tell us what happened and the lesson you learned. Send your comments to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put 'Financial Frenemies"" in the subject line.

Race and Recession Feedback

I received a lot of responses to last week's question: Is it still relevant to compare what blacks and Hispanics have to what whites have?

A survey by the Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University found a significant disparity in the assets and investment holdings of blacks and Hispanics compare to whites. Only one in four African Americans and one in six Hispanics reported owning stocks, bonds or mutual funds, the new poll found. Only 46 percent of blacks and 32 percent of Hispanics said they had an individual retirement account or any similar retirement arrangement. Half of whites said they had stocks, bonds or mutual funds, and two in three said they had IRAs, 401(k)s or similar holdings.

Here's what some of you had to say about the poll results:

"There are significant numbers of our people who are lagging behind in the attainment of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the reasons remain complex and demand further study and attention," wrote Michelle Wallace of New York.

Barb K. of Omaha, Neb. says race does still matter. She wrote: "We need to take a look at the big picture. When we see incredible disparities in areas like retirement savings, we need to ask, 'What is causing this?' These disparities need to be examined, and we need to determine, what we, as Americans, can do to turn this around. Without savings and retirement accounts, what will happen when they retire? It is something we need to address now."

Race "is relevant, but not because it is a Hispanic or black problem. It is a problem of our culture and thus, a problem for our future," said David Zwald of Severna Park, Md. "Policy makers need to figure out how to help all people understand ¿ no matter what race or of what origin ¿ that the entitlement society must come to an end, or certainly be pared back."

Warner L. Tyree III of Laurel, Md. says it's not about race but class.

"Race is not relevant," he wrote. "It's about choices and information. The divide today is between the financially literate and the financially illiterate. As financial literacy is taught early and often, the divide will inversely diminish. It is that simple."

Juan Williams Thinks It's About Race

Perhaps color blinded Fox News analyst Juan Williams from accurately reporting on the Post race and recession poll. Or perhaps he didn't want the facts to get in the way of his talking point.

Williams, a former Post writer who last year was caught up in a controversy over his firing from NPR, blasted the Post for supposedly ignoring the positive news from the race and recession poll, which found that blacks and Latinos were twice as likely, 24 percent to 12 percent, to say they are very or somewhat satisfied with the nation's economy than white people.

Sixty-five percent of blacks indicated that they feel secure about their financial situation despite the fact that the black unemployment rate is 15.7 percent compared with 9 percent for the country overall.

Williams wrote: "The Washington Post released a stunning poll. But the news did not make its front page." He continues, "The big papers are not going to use a lot of ink to tell a story about black and Latino people taking a can-do, optimistic, empowered view of life in America."

Williams is wrong.

The results of the poll did make the front page of the Post. In fact, the front page headline said: "Despite losses, minorities remain optimistic." I also wrote about it on the front page of the Sunday Business section.

Nonetheless, Williams wrote: "The failure to report in a big way on the fighting spirit, the economic sunshine coming from minority America, is in keeping with big media's inability to report on good news when it comes to life among people of color." And. "When there is good news on race relations and refreshing evidence of blacks and Latinos leading the way by showing faith in America's future, the big media is just not that into it."

Williams was not just off base but way out of the park. He could have simply pointed out that the polls show African Americans optimistic despite their circumstances. But his column really wasn't about that. It was about how the so-called liberal media distorts the truth.

Not only was there a 1,800-word front-page story, the Post has created a special "Behind The Headlines" Web page that includes features related to the poll:

-- Graphic: Downturn affects all, but no common toll

-- The Root: Survey shows blacks more hopeful

-- Kaiser study: The recession's impact on minorities

-- Kaiser study: Poverty rate by race and state

-- Kaiser study: Gender wage gap by race and state

Additionally, the Post sponsored a town hall meeting to discuss the poll results. Several hundred people turned out at Prince George's Community College for the forum, which I moderated. Here are video highlights from the town hall meeting.

Ultimately, I think perhaps the poll shows that the financial struggles facing blacks are more about class than race.

Responses to "CARD Act: One Year Later"

For an earlier Color of Money Question, I asked how the passing of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act or CARD Act has impacted your financial life.

The new regulation prohibits banks from pushing consumers over their existing balance, prevents companies from charging higher credit card rates and restricts the charge of late fees, among other things.

Here's what you had to say:

"The best thing to come from the act is the notice on your monthly billing detailing how long it will take to pay off balances," wrote Sarah Cedarstorm of Minneapolis, Minn. "For me it was a serious wakeup call. I decided to take some budgeting classes, get a part-time job and pay off my cards ASAP. I have made some inroads and have been able to get rid of nearly all of the balance of one high interest card."

Sylvia Wilkinson of Mesquite, Nev. is excited about the changes. "The Credit CARD Act has kept me from getting caught by sneaky fees because now what the banks and credit card companies are up to jumps right off the page and hits me between the eyes when I'm looking at my invoices and bank statements."

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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