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Could you be living paycheck-to-paycheck after a $20 million payday?

Johnny Depp is involved in a $25 million lawsuit against his business managers. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

It might be easy to shake our heads in judgment when the rich and famous struggle with money.

After all, they live a life of luxury when so many are just scraping by. They fly first class while we suffer in cramped coach seats worrying about how to pay the credit card bill when we get back home from vacation.

Playing out in the courts right now is a $25 million lawsuit filed by “Pirates of the Caribbean” star Johnny Depp against his former business managers. Depp says they mismanaged his money. The firm, The Management Group, has countered Depp spent lavishly and didn’t heed advice to curtail his ways.

“The company filed a countersuit in which it stated the actor’s lavish spending habits averaged to around $2 million a month,” reported Jason Guerrasio for Business Insider.

E! News obtained emails, as part of legal documents filed by TMG, which show a series of warnings to Depp about his spending leading to $40 million in debt.

One email from Depp’s business manager, Joel Mandel, said his “bank accounts were nearly $4 million overdrawn,” reported McKenna Aiello.

In one instance, Aiello points out, there was concerned about Depp’s holiday spending to which the actor responded in an email, “I am doing my very best on holiday spending, but there is only so much I can do, as I need to give my kiddies and famille as good a Christmas as possible, obviously within reason.”

It’s not just about the presents. It’s about your presence.

Depp’s answer to his financial woes was much like what I’ve heard from people who think they just need to make more money

Depp referenced his movies as a monetary solution for his financial crisis, Aiello reported: “According to Johnny, he was set to earn $20 million for ‘The Tourist,’ $35 million for ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ and $20 million for ‘Dark Shadows.’ ”

So what can we learn from Depp?

Live within your means because you most definitely can you have money problems even with paydays of $20 million – or more.

As Captain Jack Sparrow said: “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?”

And as further reminders to watch your expenses, read more about how Depp dug a deep debt hole:
The No. 1 lesson from Johnny Depp’s financial meltdown

“Whether Depp’s own spending or poor management were to blame, everyday consumers (ones who don’t own entire villages in France) can learn an important lesson from the financial breakdown, experts said: Achieving a balance in how often you check your accounts is necessary to having healthy relationship with money,” wrote Maria LaMagna from MarketWatch.

Johnny Depp made $650 million but couldn’t pay for his lavish lifestyle, ex-manager says

The Case of Alyssa Milano & More Stars’ Lost Millions: Who’s Really to Blame for Falling Behind on the Bills?

Color of Money question of the week
Are you struggling even though you make good money? If so, what lessons have you learned about your spending habits? Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Rich but struggling.”

Live chat canceled today
I’m away this week so there won’t be a chat. Next week, my Washington Post colleague Jonnelle Marte will guest host the online discussion. Show her some love by showing up. She’s got good insight.

If you missed some chats here’s a link to the archive. Last week was a great discussion about the fiduciary rule.

If you are saving for retirement this is one rule you need to know.

On June 9, a new fiduciary rule took effect. Under this rule, financial advisers have to put their clients’ interests first when giving advice about retirement accounts such as a 401(k).

Last week I asked: What are your thoughts on the fiduciary rule and has a financial adviser talked to you about its impact on your retirement saving?

“Basic math skills, common sense and a plethora of information about low-cost investing should tell anyone interested in investing for retirement that advisers are not really necessary,” wrote David Cain of New York. “It appears this fiduciary rule is being implemented to compensate for the ignorance of the populace. Follow one’s informed instincts and the advisors will eventually ask for the business. An informed consumer knows there would be room for negotiation without obligations.”

Terri Smith of Whitefish, Mont., wrote, “I’m not sure a law will make financial advisers any better–they are still human and in it for their own profit. Here’s why I say that. After retiring from a 38-year federal career in 2012, my husband and I decided to start working with an adviser. He claimed to be a fiduciary. However, all of his advice was bad: from advising us to roll over our Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) into an IRA to putting our funds into high-priced mutual funds. We share some of the blame because we didn’t ask the right questions. Our presumption was his 1 percent fee was all we paid. We had no idea some of our mutual fund investments had additional fees as high as 1.5 percent. We were losing money like crazy–this during the years the stock market was increasing by double digits. His advice was to stay steady. We finally asked specific questions about fees and realized why we were losing money. We immediately dissolved our financial relationship with him and started working directly with Charles Schwab. We now pay extremely low fees, and are earning 6 percent to 10 percent a year. If we had it to do over, we would still be in the TSP. Safe, low fees, and a cash fund (G Fund) that pays more than any other fund.

David Kaune of Phoenixville, Pa., wrote, “I’ve worked in the financial services world my entire career — primarily with the systems used to support the business of asset management. It gave me an up-close view to the wide variety of retirement investment options and their various fee structures. For me, I see the ‘fiduciary rule’ as long overdue. I’m not saying all financial advisers are guilty of the practice, but there are/were too many ways for them to first consider getting their piece of the pie by pushing high-fee products. All too often the same investment performance could have been achieved — and often exceeded — with a lower fee product. In my opinion, the rule is a ‘positive’ for the individual investor and their hard-earned retirement savings.”

Color of Money columns this week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.

Stay informed about your money. Read and share my column from this past week.

When your mom’s money problems become your own

Here are some recent personal finance newsletters in case you missed them:
A new conflict-of-interest rule for retirement savers is causing a lot of confusion

Have a pension and a spouse? Here’s what you need to know about your benefit options.

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 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.