Heinz Hoenig, Rolf Schimpf and Ingrid Steeger entertained an audience of millions with television series and films when they were young. And earned a lot of money with it. But as I got older there was nothing left of it. Why are acting heroes often penniless when they reach retirement age?

The actor and television star Heinz Hoenig appeared in numerous popular television productions. His big breakthrough came in 1981 with the celebrated war drama “Das Boot”, in which he played radio mate Hinrich. The film was a global success, received six Oscar nominations and brought millions into the coffers of the production companies.

Over the years, Hoenig appeared in more and more German television series and films and was considered one of the highest paid actors in the television industry. But as he got older, the celebrated star struggled with personal bankruptcy, and there was talk of debts running into several hundred thousand euros. Most recently he was in a coma in the hospital – without health insurance.

Another TV star, Rolf Schimpf, known as “Der Alte” on ZDF, recently had to move out of his retirement home because he apparently didn’t have the money to do so. At his best, Schimpf earned the equivalent of over 20,000 euros per episode. The late Ingrid Steeger also had to struggle with financial difficulties. She left behind a great career, including as a celebrated “Klimbim” star, but not enough money for her funeral, as media reports consistently say.

These are just three examples of many. Many prominent actors face financial problems as they age and struggle to make ends meet. But why is it like that? There are five possible reasons.

The income of many TV stars is inconsistent. During their playing careers, some years they earn millions and other years they earn little to nothing. Without solid financial planning, fluctuating income can mean that reserves are used up in old age.

Added to this is an extravagant lifestyle with high expenses. Luxury goods, expensive real estate and wasteful use of money can quickly shrink your account. Studies show that actors and TV personalities quickly buy an expensive property in a posh area after a career success. Ideally with a large garden, pool and sports facility. However, employees are also hired to take care of maintenance. But if there is no income, these expenses can become a heavy burden.

This is comparable to winning the lottery. Many people also ask themselves the question “Do I want to start consuming now – with expensive cars, great watches and so on?” Because the point is: even if you win millions, you will of course use up the money at some point,” says Munich psychotherapist Stephan Lermer.

At some point the audience has seen enough. As soon as ratings drop, actors have to react quickly. You need new roles and projects, otherwise your television career will be over. The more successful a role is, the harder it is to get back into the industry. Like Horst Tappert, who became world famous as “Derrick”. For over 24 years he played the role of Chief Inspector in the ZDF crime series of the same name. After the series ended, there were no major roles on television. If there are no inquiries, many actors are faced with the challenge of finding a new job.

Job opportunities in the media industry are often limited. Actors therefore often find it difficult to find a new, stable income.

Instead of getting financial advice, they invest their money based on their gut instinct. Lack of financial knowledge can lead to missing important savings and investment opportunities. For example, a prominent and successful person who earns millions of euros during his career may invest it in risky projects such as a restaurant without having the necessary expertise. It is more than questionable that such projects are successful and bring in money.

Health problems can result in high costs. Many actors are self-employed or not directly employed by the production company or television station. You must pay for your health insurance entirely out of your own pocket. Because this is often expensive, many actors do not have adequate insurance coverage. Medical expenses can exacerbate financial problems.

It is better to ensure you have a comfortable emergency fund. “For example, for extraordinary health expenses,” advises Sylvie Ernoult from the Federal Association of German Banks. The money should be quickly available in the checking account or the current account. “Plan for at least four to six months of income for this,” says Ernoult.

In addition, in many cases there is a lack of solid retirement provision. If actors do not take sufficient care of long-term financial security during their active career, they risk poverty in old age. While many are busy living extravagant lifestyles, they are not building adequate savings for retirement. This is essential.

If you want to improve your pension, you can use the money to take out pension insurance that starts immediately. This ensures you have a pension that is paid for life. “Ultimately, you’re betting on a long life,” says Ralf Scherfling from the NRW Consumer Center in Düsseldorf. If things go unfavorably, you pay a large amount and die a short time later. If no death benefit has been agreed, the remaining capital remains with the insured community and does not go to the heirs.