Child Stars Who Lost All Their Money

The life of a child star is a minefield. You see people make it through intact, but one wrong move and you lose a chunk of yourself.

The dangers are sadly predictable — parental mismanagement, addiction, mental illness, and a refusal to believe you are no longer everyone's darling. You are surrounded by people fawning over you just long enough to steal a sliver of your fame and wealth. You have a thousand friends when you are a star, but no one wants to know you when you go to rehab. Worse, the public who worshiped you revels in schadenfreude to see you end up disgraced on "Where are they now?" shows and in snarky articles.

In the words of Gary Coleman's character in "Avenue Q" (via The New York Times) – if anyone deserved to be represented in a puppet musical, it was Coleman — the world needs people like these stars, "Who've been knocked around by fate/'Cause when people see us, they don't want to be us and that makes them feel great."

The following article includes allegations of addiction, child abuse, and mental health issues. 

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Joey Lawrence

Best known as Joey Russo on "Blossom," Joey Lawrence earned acclaim and a lifetime of people saying "whoa!" at him. He managed recurring roles on several programs, often playing a Joey, Joe, or J.J., per IMDB (why mess with perfection).

Starring as an adult in "Melissa and Joey," a show about a man trying to find a job after bankruptcy, he had a salary of $534,000, per Celebrity Net Worth. Two years after the sitcom was canceled, so was most of his money. He and his wife, Chandie Yawn-Nelson, overspent so egregiously that they owed over $18,000 at the end of every month. According to The Blast, the couple filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2017. Lawrence listed $43,907.32 in assets and a staggering $355,517.27 in liabilities. After the dust settled, Us Weekly, after obtaining court records, reported that they were left with only a little over $52,000 to pay all their creditors.

In 2018, Lawrence's production company was auctioned off, netting a high bid of $56,000, according to Yahoo. The buyer has all rights to Lawrence's songs, residuals, and royalties of all work before Lawrence's bankruptcy. Lawrence, however, was upbeat when filming "Melissa and Joey," saying in an interview with Steve Eramo on TMR, "It's been a long haul, and the fact that I'm still able to [act] 31 years later feels pretty great to me."

Jodie Sweetin

Jodie Sweetin was the second cutest child on "Full House", co-starring as Stephanie Tanner in 193 episodes. Though her TV life was idyllic, her actual parents were in prison, and she was adopted by her aunt and uncle.

As detailed in her 2009 memoir "UnSweetined," by 14, she was battling her addiction to alcohol. By age 25, she had escalated to crack and meth, spending upwards of $10,000 a week of her "Full House" residuals, according to The Complex. The Rocket reports that she used her experience at rock bottom to earn a degree in drug and alcohol counseling, according to The Inquisitr. She also starred in some Hallmark movies, perhaps a lesser accomplishment.

"Full House" had been her childhood. Just as she had become a teenager, the show ended, and she said that she "wanted nothing more than to continue doing it." Fittingly, her star rose again with "Fuller House" in 2016. According to an interview with Rachel Syme at The Complex, Sweetin just wanted to return to the Tanner home. The $26,000 per week that The Blast reports she made to reprise her role may have contributed.

Gary Coleman

According to TIME, Gary Coleman was once the highest-paid television star for his role as Arnold Drummond on "Diff'rent Strokes," where he earned around $70,000 per episode, according to the Business Library. How could it be that a highly recognizable actor would declare bankruptcy in 1999? In his words, he could spread the blame "from me to accountants to my adoptive parents, to agents to lawyers and back to me again." Coleman had to take a job as a mall security guard to make ends meet. When this wasn't enough, he tried for fame again by running for California governor in 2003, according to Reuters.

He died in 2010, having spent much on medical bills and a lengthy battle against his parents, as reported by the Associated Press. When he came of age, CBS News reports that Coleman discovered his parents had "skimmed" his fortune.

Owing to handwritten revisions to Coleman's will shortly before his death, Anna Gray, his former girlfriend and manager, laid claim to his estate, along with Coleman's ex-wife, Shannon Price. According to Gray's lawyer speaking to ABC News, Coleman's "present assets pale significantly in comparison to what may be garnered."

Dustin Diamond

Dustin Diamond was haunted by his character on "Saved by the Bell," Screech Powers, playing him in ten different spin-offs, reboots, and parodies from "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" in 1988 to the short "Breaking Belding" in 2013 (via IMDB). This does not take into account his fake sex tape, "Screeched — Saved by the Smell" (likely not canon) to try to save his house from foreclosure, as reported by the International Business Times. When this didn't work, he tried to sell t-shirts with his face on them, as reported by Chron, the next logical step after adult film. 

Before he was of age, he was in debt. CBS News reports that he credited his 2001 bankruptcy to his parents' spending and a substantial tax miscalculation. He listed his income at about $5,300 a month, much going to propping up his real estate obligations. This was not helped when, after his girlfriend's failed pregnancy in 2005, Diamond was left with high medical bills, according to the Gainesville Sun.

Diamond died of Stage 4 cancer early in 2021. After his release from prison for stabbing someone in 2014, CNN reports that Diamond told his former costar Mario Lopez, "I want to put the tomfoolery and malarkey behind me... for that clean slate. Time for a change." All evidence was that he was making good on that change. Before his death, his net worth was estimated around $300,000, according to International Business Times.

Corey Haim

Corey Haim rocketed to stardom with "Lucas and The Lost Boys" in the 1980s, becoming one half of the "scribbled on a Trapper Keeper surrounded by hearts" duo dubbed The Coreys with Corey Feldman. How, in ten years, did Haim go from trying to survive vampires to trying to survive bankruptcy?

The answer was addiction. Haim didn't only need drugs to keep partying but also to cope. According to former child star Alison Arngrim, speaking to The Guardian, "The word was they were given drugs and being used for sex." This is echoed in Feldman's 2020 documentary, "My Truth: The Rape of the Two Coreys" (via IMDB). Haim's addiction became a liability, and the drugs inhibited his talent, according to actor Seth Green to Entertainment Weekly.

In a 1997 bankruptcy filing, Haim listed debts of nearly $104,000 to the IRS and $100,000 for state taxes and medical expenses. His assets were an old car, $750 in clothing, and $7,500 in residuals and royalties, as reported by the Chicago Tribune. After 15 rehab stints, the New Zealand Herald reports that he cut his hair and pulled out his own teeth to sell online. When he died in 2010, he was so poor — with a net worth that Celebrity Net Worth puts at $5,000 – that his family asked his fans to help cover funeral expenses, then said that the city of Toronto had stepped in — though Toronto Life reports that they hadn't.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Willie Aames

In the 1970s, Willie Aames was one of the most prominent child stars owing to his role of Tommy Bradford on "Eight is Enough." When his career began, he claimed to earn over $1 million a year. Predictably, he began to turn to drugs. AmoMama states that his addictions escalated from heavy drinking to marijuana and then to cocaine.

While some child stars run their careers into the ground, Aames took it a little further. According to TheWrap, after following his accountant's advice to invest in a coal mine, Aames ended up owing $400,000 to the IRS, forcing his house into foreclosure. HuffPost reports that he turned to sleeping under parking garages and bushes. He said, "When I was at my lowest, I had no phone, no computer, no car, and $5 in my pocket."

HuffPost states that he worked construction and as a cruise director for Oceania before, ironically, becoming a financial planner and motivational speaker, according to Accounting Today. Who can better understand recovering from financial ruin than an ex-child star who did? He also moonlit as the Christian superhero Bibleman from 1995 to 2004, until an injury forced him out of the role and toward a painkiller addiction, as per his memoir, "Grace Is Enough." According to Celebrity Net Worth, his net worth hovers around $100,000.

Aaron Carter

Riding his Backstreet brother Nick Carter's coattails, Aaron Carter put out a self-titled album when he was 9 years old. That album went gold. The next? Certified platinum by RIAA. According to TheThings, Carter earned $3.5 million from his early albums and, by the time he was 18, he reports that he made over $200 million. HuffPost states that Carter told Oprah, "We had this massive compound, with, like, 12 houses on it. It was worth over $10 million, and I had paid a lot of that money."

The fall came swiftly. On the Spike series "Life or Debt," Carter said, "When I turned 18 years old, I got hit with million dollars of taxes. I had to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to protect my parents from going to prison ..." Us Weekly reported that his assets in 2013 were $8,232.16 and his liabilities $2,204,854. Much of his debt was due to his parents' mismanaging his career (see also: $10 million compound). According to CNN, Carter owned the publishing rights to the songs he wrote but received no royalties. Far from being pessimistic, Carter's rep said, "It's actually very positive. It's him doing what he needs to do to move forward."

In 2020, Carter began an OnlyFans page where a single nude photo of him cost $50-$125 (and, for an additional $50, he would rate a picture of you). Queerty states that they recycled leaked nudes. Wealthy Gorilla claims his net worth was $400 thousand.

Leif Garrett

Leif Garrett was born for — and in — Hollywood. He broke into the public eye in "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," then bounced over screens big and small. He even took over the role of Leonard Unger on "The Odd Couple," a part originated by Willie Aames (not the role that got him Tiger Beat's cover). In 1976, Garrett became a double threat when it came to burning out — he signed a recording contract. According to an interview with Current Publishing, his musical career was over when he stopped being a teen.

As described in his autobiography, "Idol Truth," Garrett, 17, crashed a car while inebriated, causing his friend Roland Winkler's partial paralysis. UPI reports that a judge awarded Winkler $3.9 million in damages, though the jury only made Garrett pay $15,000 in punitive damages.

He went playing in front of 35,000 fans and acting in "The Outsiders" to filing for bankruptcy in 2001. He listed his only income as a monthly $1,000 gift from his mother and his only possessions as household goods. In the red according to the Los Angeles Times, with $76,198 in unpaid credit card bills. Even once he began to get his life back on track, he stated in an interview with Liberty n' Justice, his recording contracts meant that he did not see royalties. Celebrity Net Worth says his fortune is $10,000.

Lindsay Lohan

Given that Lindsay Lohan played precocious twins in "The Parent Trap," it's fitting that she had twice the trouble. In 2004, when "Mean Girls" was released, it seemed a sure thing that she would make the leap to a successful adult career. According to CheatSheet, she earned a combined $22.5 million for her subsequent three movies. As her star rose, so did her drug addiction (according to a 2010 Business Insider article, ending up $30,000 in debt for drugs alone) and her lavish spending on cars and clothes. Her frequent trips to rehab dulled her star power.

In 2012, Lohan had her bank accounts seized for owing almost $234,000, according to HuffPost, though Charlie Sheen lent her $100,000. That year, Lohan made a million posing for a Playboy spread. Hugh Hefner tweeted, "The Lindsay Lohan January-February Double Issue is breaking sales records."

In 2013, Oprah stepped in to give Lohan a fresh start with a reality series. Oprah struggled with Lohan both on and off the set and with ratings less than hoped, Oprah canceled the show, cutting off Lohan's only source of income, as reported by Bustle. As of 2021, Wealthy Gorilla estimated Lohan's net worth to be $800,000 — pocket change to the major star she should be. But in 2022, Lohan began another comeback, this time with Netflix, with the Christmas-themed rom-com "Falling for Christmas."

Jaimee Foxworth

Jaimee Foxworth's greatest Hollywood accomplishment was as Judy Winslow on "Family Matters," where as a sitcom regular, she made between $3,000 and $7,000 per episode, a quarter of that going into a trust per California law, according to The Washington Post. The producers eliminated her character in season four, partly to accommodate other actors' increasing salaries, like Jaleel White's (who, according to IMDb, made $180,000 an episode at his peak), Foxworth explained to The Root. In subsequent episodes, Judy is never mentioned or acknowledged. Being erased from existence is a heavy blow for any child star.

On, she credits her family's money issues with her turning to alcohol to cope, though, according to, internet rumor claims that her trust was taken to pay off her parents' debt. She tried to recover some morsel of fame by forming a band with her sisters, S.H.E., but this did not last. When next she tried for fame (or financial solvency), it was in adult films under the name Crave. Working in that industry did not help with her drug addiction, according to HuffPost.

Foxworth credits the birth of her son with helping her get clean, saying in an interview with Oprah, "When your son is 2 months old, how are you going to be able to smoke weed and occasionally drink and still be able to function day-to-day?" According to Celebrity Net Worth, she has about $50,000.

Amanda Bynes

It's hard on the ego to have an eponymous show just as you hit puberty. Amanda Bynes seemed poised to transition from Nickelodeon to network TV to movies, earning, according to Celebrity Net Worth, between $2-3 million a year. 

After a series of hit movies and a show on the WB network, she has not appeared on screen since "Easy A" in 2010, saying she was retiring from acting to focus on fashion. CNN reports that she had been arrested for two hit-and-runs in 2012, for which, according to CBS News, she had to enter into financial settlements. In 2014, she accused her father of abuse, then recanted, blaming the "microchip in [her] brain," according to Fox8

Shortly after, New York Daily News reported that she was photographed sleeping in a mall because she could not afford a hotel. Owing to her mental health issues, her parents had been granted a mental health conservatorship because, you know, the brain chip thing. According to the Los Angeles Times, she had spent $1.2 million in a few months and had twice withdrawn $100,000 in cash. Her parents listed her net worth at nearly $4 million then. This may be the rare case where having parents take over their child's finances saves them from poverty.  

People reported that, as of 2019, Bynes graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising after checking into a facility to treat her mental health issues. Despite the tumult, she has $6 million, according to Wealthy Genius.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

David Cassidy

David Cassidy rose to fame at Keith Partridge on "The Partridge Family" in the 1970s. He grew up around show business, both parents being actors. Even his stepmother was an actress, who went on to play his mother on the show. He scored major hits in addition to acting, including the earworm, "I Think I Love You." He had two number-one singles, sold 30 million records worldwide, and, according to the BBC, had more members of his fan club than The Beatles or Elvis. At his peak, TV Guide reports that, by age 21, he was the highest-paid solo performer in the world.

Like Leif Garrett, his teen fans grew up, but Cassidy struggled to do the same. He had a series of DUI arrests and court-mandated rehab that never succeeded for very long, and he had a more challenging time finding work but spent money as though he were still a star. In 2015, Cassidy filed for bankruptcy, auctioning off his mansion for a million-dollar loss, according to the Chicago Tribune. People reports that he had debts of at least $10 million, portioned out between bank loans, credit cards, and $102,000 to a lawyer.

At the time of his death in 2017, Celebrity Net Worth claims he had $500,000, though he had debts totaling $186,840. He left his estate to his son Beau, along with $1 million in life insurance and a $450,000 retirement account, according to Wealth Advisor. The Miami Herald states that Cassidy cut his daughter Katie out completely.

Christy Carlson Romano

Christy Carlson Romano was an integral part of the Disney Channel in the first decade of the 2000s. She played teenager Ren Stevens on the sitcom "Even Stevens," and voiced the title character on the animated "Kim Possible." But then both franchises ended production — "Even Stevens" in 2003 and "Kim Possible" in 2007. "My biggest thing about child actors, you aren't told that the work is gonna slow down. In fact, I was told the opposite. Specifically, by my mom, some of my team, even my money manager at the time," Romano said in a YouTube video called "How I Lost All My Money." 

So, Carlson took the portion of her earnings that had been set aside under California law and used that to attend college, only to drop out after a year and a half and assume that she was still pulling in substantial royalties on her Disney shows and would continue to do so. She spent a lot of money on designer clothes and cars, and dropped a lot of money on psychic readings. Carlson estimates that the year she was 21, she made $1 million. "And in that same year, I spent it," she said. "I really regret not investing my money wisely. I didn't get a house. I didn't take any money and store it away.

Erin Moran

"Happy Days" was a cultural phenomenon in the 1970s and 1980s, nostalgically presenting a look at life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the 1950s through the eyes of the Cunningham family. Holding her own with Ron Howard as brother Richie Cunningham and Henry Winkler as family friend — and preeminent cool guy Fonzie – Erin Moran played scrappy, bratty Joanie "Shortcake" Cunningham. Deep into "Happy Days" run in 1982, Moran briefly left the show to star in the short-lived rom-com spinoff "Joanie Loves Chachi" opposite Scott Baio.

After "Happy Days" ended its eleven-season run in 1984, Moran didn't land many acting gigs. She did little more than guest star on "The Love Boat," "Murder, She Wrote," and "Diagnosis Murder" and cameoed as herself in a few movies before disappearing from screens entirely by 2010. According to a source who spoke to RadarOnline, in 2012 Moran and her husband were rendered homeless, after they were kicked out of their trailer in Indiana because they partied too much. The couple subsequently lived in a succession of hotel rooms and exhausted the modest amount of money they'd saved. Per IndyStar, Moran died in April 2017 at age 56 after receiving a cancer diagnosis.

Jackie Coogan

Charlie Chaplin discovered Jackie Coogan when the latter was performing on the vaudeville circuit, according to The New York Times. Then he made the 1921 movie "The Kid" with Coogan, launching the five-year-old to mega-stardom. According to the Associated Press, Coogan earned $4 million in acting paychecks by the time he turned 21, and another $5 million or so from the sales of merchandise bearing his image. But since Coogan had been a minor when he earned that fortune, his mother and stepfather controlled the money and allocated $6.25 a week to Coogan. When he reached legal adulthood, Coogan was denied access to this money but then discovered that only $600,000 was left. His parents had squandered the rest.

Coogan successfully sued his parents, according to the Library of Congress, but after the subtraction of legal fees, the actor wound up with $126,000. That would tide him over for years, or it would have to, because the former child star was seen as washed up and couldn't get much work in Hollywood. Furthermore, MGM head Louis B. Mayer, a fervent and public celebrator of mothers, according to Boyhood Studies, boycotted Coogan for daring to sue his own mom. Coogan appeared in only a few movies between 1927 and 1935 and wound up taking small roles in B-movies, before enjoying a moderate comeback in the 1960s as Uncle Fester on "The Addams Family" TV series.

David Faustino

At age 13, prolific young actor David Faustino — star of "I Ought to Be in Pictures" and TV shows like "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island," "St. Elsewhere," and "Family Ties" — scored the biggest role of his career. Faustino would portray Bud, the youngest, smartest, and most acerbic member of the Bundy family on the dark sitcom "Married...with Children." One of the first shows to air on the loosely structured Fox network upon its launch in early 1987, the sitcom would air for more than a decade.

By then in his twenties, Faustino struggled to book lasting paying gigs. That contributed to a financially strapped situation, as did his lack of secondary money from "Married...with Children," even as its returns aired in syndication. "We all made really good money while we were doing it. We made great weekly paychecks, but residuals — we all got screwed over because Fox at the time was not a network, it was a cable network, and so it was under a cable contract," Faustino told Access Hollywood in 2009. "So the show 'Married...with Children' has made over a billion dollars, and we didn't really get a piece of that." That unique situation inspired Faustino to create, produce, and star in a web series called "Star-ving," in which he played a struggling, near-broke, former child star.

Jerry Suprian

After a variety of single-episode appearances on early 1980s TV shows like "Little House on the Prairie," "CHiPS," "Newhart," and "Trapper John, M.D.," kid actor Jerry Suprian's career peaked with a starring role on "Small Wonder." The 1985 to 1989 syndicated family sitcom centered on the Lawson family, which included a roboticist dad, a robot everyone pretended was a human girl, and Jamie, the scheming biological child who got himself and his android into scrapes each week. After "Small Wonder" was canceled in 1989, the then-16-year-old Suprian never acted on screen again.

Two years later, according to the National Enquirer, Suprian entered into a relationship with an exotic dancer, which he believes marked the beginning of the end of his financial ruin. "When I was 18, I dated a stripper and she took what was left of my trust fund," Suprian said of his "Small Wonder" earnings. "Then one of my advisers stole a half million dollars from me." With his childhood fortune decimated, Suprian worked in steakhouses for the better part of 15 years, up until 2010 when a bad economic situation led to his layoff from a restaurant in suburban Las Vegas. As of 2012, Suprian was living under a bridge in a town in California near the home of his brother. "And while he helps me with hot meals and a shower, he doesn't have the room for me to stay there," Suprian said.

Jena Malone

Jena Malone started booking roles in the mid-1990s at age 11 — in Michael Jackson's "Childhood," on the TV drama "Chicago Hope," and in "Contact" (playing the younger version of Jodie Foster's character), for example. Before long, Malone was starring in big millennium-era movies like "Stepmom," "Donnie Darko," and "Life as a House."

All the while, according to People, Malone alleged in a Los Angeles court, her mother had mishandled and misspent her substantial acting earnings, somewhere in the area of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Deborah Malone reportedly made large withdrawals from her daughter's fortune with the implicit understanding that they were supposed to be loans. When the actor was 15, a judge granted Malone's request for legal emancipation from her mother, giving her control of her own finances. By the time she was 17, Malone was living on her own in an apartment in Hollywood, and emerged from her setbacks to segue into acting roles as an adult, including "Saved," "Sucker Punch," and sequels to "The Hunger Games."

Danny Bonaduce

After playing winsome and plucky kids on numerous TV shows in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Danny Bonaduce landed his biggest and most famous role in 1970. For nearly 100 episodes, he'd play precocious jokester drummer Danny Partridge on the family band musical sitcom "The Partridge Family." He'd eventually book episodic TV gigs and work extensively in radio, but in the immediate aftermath of the end of "The Partridge Family," the actor found himself economically destitute, dependent on drugs, and virtually homeless.

At age 15 in 1974, Bonaduce moved out of his home and was on his own on the streets of Los Angeles. "I lived right behind this dumpster, but I lived in my car," Bonaduce said on "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" (via HuffPost). "I was still famous and people had no idea I lived behind the dumpster. I'd be taking pictures with people and signing autographs." When fans were out of sight, Bonaduce would surreptitiously head back to his parked car near Grauman's Chinese Theater.