As you may know, unless you’ve been unplugged and living on Mars, former Manafort partner Rick Gates has been testifying this week that he helped Manafort hide money.
I’ve been fascinated by the details of Manafort’s fantastical spending. And, it’s not just that he bought a $15,000 ostrich-leather jacket.
As Washington Post reporter Rachel Weiner summed up: “From 2008 to 2014, prosecutors allege, Manafort funneled about $30 million through offshore accounts, including $6.4 million he spent on real estate in New York and Virginia, $5.4 million to renovate his Hamptons home, $1.3 million to improve his house in Florida, a million to an antique rug store and $850,000 at a New York clothing store. Of that, $13 million was disguised as loans to Manafort-controlled companies to lower his tax burden, according to prosecutors.”
But here’s the thing: Manafort’s own bookkeeper testified that “his seven-figure lifestyle lasted until about 2015 when the cash ran out, the bills piled up and he and his business partner began trying to fudge numbers to secure loans,” The Post reported. “Prosecutors allege that Manafort made $60 million between 2010 and 2014 while working for various interests in Ukraine.”
• $1.9 million home purchased in cash for his daughter
• $18,500 jacket made from python skin
• $334,000 in clothing from one boutique from 2010 to 2012
• $450,000 in landscaping for a home in Bridgehampton, N.Y.
• $430,000 to renovate a home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Read The Post’s Robin Givhan’s take on Manafort and his ostrich-jacket lifestyle.
“The pathetic pretentiousness of it all,” Robin Givhan writes in The Post. “His is the story of a man’s inexorable slide into a nauseating spectacle of insatiable consumption — a parable, or perhaps, a farce that included salivating merchants flying across the country to cater to his appetites. There are so many enticing, beguiling entry points in this story of unbridled decadence: the use of wire transfers from foreign bank accounts to pay his clothing bills, the capacity to spend more than $929,000 on suits in a five-year period, a perplexing fixation on plaid sport jackets. But ultimately, the one thing that most folks will remember from the first week of Manafort’s trial on bank and tax fraud charges is his $15,000 ostrich-leather bomber jacket.”
As for Gates, who helped manage Manafort’s businesses, he lived too large, as well. He admitted to stealing and hiding income to inflate his lifestyle, including money spent to maintain at least one extramarital affair.
We’ve seen this behavior before. There are plenty of high-profile politicians, lobbyists, athletes and entertainers who show us the downside of overspending — even when they’ve earned more than some of us will ever make in our lifetimes.
Manafort’s connection to President Trump puts his criminal case and spending center stage, but he represents a type many of us know all too well. He’s the friend or family member who looks rich from the outside. But if you take a look inside their financial books, you’ll find a heavily leveraged lifestyle propped up with debt. When you’re tempted to envy the rich think about what they may be doing to live high and mighty.
If you don’t get anything else about the trial of Manafort, get this: The zeros don’t matter. You can still go broke on $60 million.
Color of Money Question of the Week
What’s your take on Manafort’s spending habits? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Manafort.”
Let’s talk about your money. I’m live at noon (ET) today to take your personal finance questions.
This week I have a guest. Joining me will be Lynn Loughlin Skerpon, an estate-planning lawyer with the Maryland-based law firm O’Malley, Miles, Nylen & Gilmore.
So, what’s keeping you from doing your will? Or maybe you’re struggling with the aftermath of estate planning gone wrong. Let’s talk about it.
Here’s some reading on the topic:
If you don’t have a will, please read this column about how someone I loved got her affairs in order: A promise to a friend.
“There wasn’t a single junk drawer in her apartment. There were no stacks of papers on her desk threatening to unleash an avalanche of craziness on the floor. Nor did she have bags of papers stuffed in corners or in her closets. Just think about this: If you were to die, how long would it take for people to go through your stuff? How many hours would they have to take off from their jobs to find and organize your personal property? Could they find your will? Where would they look for any instructions on your estate?”
The uber rich aren’t like you and me.
In trying to make the case for voter identification cards during a Florida campaign rally, Trump recently said: “You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need ID. You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID, and you need your picture.”
Trump’s comments sparked a lot of discussion in his defense and against him. So, for last week’s newsletter I asked: What do you think of Trump’s comments about needing an ID to buy groceries?
Lela Soulier of Monroe, La., wrote, “I love being carded at the grocery store; it makes me feel young again.”
David Williams of Elkmont, Ala., wrote: “I occasionally have to show picture ID when buying groceries, usually on large purchases on my credit card. It may be that some of the food aid programs require photo ID to reduce fraud, but I haven’t noticed it where I shop.”
“I find it disturbing that the president of the United States has no idea what it is like to go into a grocery stores with little to no money on you to buy the bare minimum so that you can survive,” wrote Mittie Jean Twitty of Detroit. “I find it disturbing that he’s so rich that he doesn’t have to go to the meat refrigeration section and pick out the cheapest cuts just so you can have meat on your plate at a meal. I find it disturbing that this man actually thinks that I have to use an ID to buy groceries. This man was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has no idea about the reality of how real people live.”
“Give the guy a break,” wrote Tony Leisner of Tarpon Springs, Fla. “He probably meant at membership stores like Costco and Sam’s Club where he likely has in-depth experience showing his membership card complete with photo."
Merrill Lowden of Alaska wrote: “Willfully ignorant, clueless. He obviously has not done any chores for himself or will not listen to any advisor with actual knowledge of the lives of everyday citizens. In Haines, Alaska, 80 miles north of Juneau, a loaf of bread costs $5.39 and a half-gallon of organic milk costs $7.39. Gas is $3.94 per gallon. A cord of firewood, dry-split-delivered, is $300! Bet he doesn’t know some people heat with wood.”
John Heenehan of Madison, N.J., wrote: “Trump’s gaffs aren’t gaffs because he cares only about the spotlight, his chief benefit of being president. The gaffs serve another purpose. See how we aren’t talking about how Republicans cynically push voter ID laws to address a problem that doesn’t exist? They know these laws depress mostly low-income urban voter turnout, a.k.a., Democrats.”
“I’m sure that Trump, like Bush, does not know what a gallon of milk costs (although, arguably, with bar codes it is harder for all of us,” said Sara Fitzgerald of Falls Church, Va. “I think Trump’s comment is scarier in that it reveals an essential confusion that seems to meld purchasing alcohol, using food stamps and purchasing groceries. Who knows what goes on in that brain?”
Teresa from Baltimore wrote: “I don’t even know what to say about the guy in the White House who has absolutely no clue about the life of us common folks. I seriously doubt that he knows the definition of the word “grocery” nor has he ever stepped foot in [a] grocery store! The thing that upsets me the most is that there are actually people in this country who hang on his every word and it is quite possible that they will erroneously believe that they will need some sort of identification just to purchase food! So sad.”
Mary Shepard of Rochester, N.Y, wrote: “I doubt Trump has ever had to depend on a fistful of coupons and a grocery ad showing what’s on sale to buy enough food to feed the kids for the week. How can a man so disconnected from the lives of most Americans make the claim that he is working for their interests? This man who spends $3 million of our money every weekend to go golfing, gives big tax cuts to the wealthiest people while threatening to cut off funding for programs that help millions of poor Americans.”
Color of Money Columns This Week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.
Stay informed about your money.
In addition to this newsletter, please read and share my weekly personal finance columns.
Newsletter Comments Policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments. (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)
Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to email@example.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 more Color of Money columns, go here.
If you’re viewing this post online sign up to automatically receive Michelle Singletary’s newsletters right into your email box: “Your Retirement” on Mondays and “Personal Finance” on Thursdays