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What Happened to Gary Coleman’s Money Anyway?

By Black Voices On Money on 05/27/2010 – 4:10 pm PDTOne Comment

Filed under: Celebrity News, Personal Finance, Dr. Boyce Money

As you might already know, Gary Coleman, the 42-year old actor best known for his role on “Different Strokes,” has been confirmed to be in critical condition in a Utah hospital, according to his publicist. No further information has been released, but Coleman has been believed to have had health problems since he suffered a seizure while doing an interview with a Los Angeles TV station.

Most recently, family members have confirmed that Coleman had to get emergency surgery after suffering a head injury during a fall. He suffers from Cogenital Kidney Disease and often needs dialysis. The kidney disease is the reason why Coleman never grew beyond the height of 4′8″ tall.

Coleman’s acting career started in 1977, doing television commercials. He was cast as Arnold Jackson on “Different Strokes” in 1978. The next 8 years during the show were the height of his career. Most of his life was not quite the fairytale of the TV show. Coleman was adopted as an infant and by the age of five, required three different surgeries for his kidney condition. As a young adult, he sued his parents for allegedly squandering the money he’d made as an actor.

Coleman earned roughly $18 million during his 8-year career on “Different Strokes.” At one point, he was earning $100,000 per episode on the show, where he was clearly the star. His parents created a trust fund for the money, but signed themselves up as paid employees. When Coleman was 18, the trust was dissolved, leaving $770,000 for his parents and only $220,000 for him. This was a shock to Coleman, since $18 million earned consistently over an 8-year period, invested in a diversified portfolio should have left him well over $10 million dollars in the bank . For him to have less than $1 million in the trust fund after all those years signals serious neglect on the part of those who’d been trusted with his money.

Coleman eventually settled in court for between $1.8 and $3.8 million, far less than what he would have earned had his parents managed his money responsibly. In fact, if they’d used good financial advisors, they could have saved Coleman from a lifetime of financial trouble. Coleman filed for bankruptcy in 1999 and has been struggling ever since. What’s saddest about the life of Coleman is that he has had the most success out of the three children cast for the show. Dana Plato, who played Coleman’s sister, committed suicide in 1999 after doing soft core pornography and having several run-ins with the law. Todd Bridges, who played Coleman’s older brother, has struggled with drug addiction for years and appears to be working on his recovery. Sometimes your greatest dreams can be the pathway to unimaginable nightmares. Work hard for success, but always stay humble - it can be taken away from you at any second.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the new book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


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