Hollywood Millennials' Message to Their Managers: "I Can Pay My Bills Myself"

Hollywood Millennials I Can Pay My Bills Myself  - Illustration by Benedetto Cristofani - H 2018
Illustration by Benedetto Cristofani

Younger stars making new cash are the hardest to control — thanks to do-it-yourself financial apps like Mint and Venmo — which is why traditional money handlers are refashioning their pitch.

Convincing a generation of talent that's never lived in a world without online banking to hire a Hollywood business manager can be a tough sell — but, while some young stars could skip the service, many need as much guidance as their entertainment elders.

"Millennials are more fee-sensitive," says Chris Bucci, who himself was made a name partner at one of the top L.A.-based firms last year at just 32. "I try to push people to not hire a business manager right away. The best advice I can give is, 'Don't spend the money [on a manager] if you don't need to.'"

With countless financial apps such as Mint and Venmo available, even tech-savvy A-listers who already have advisers are choosing to take more control. "A lot of millennials, when I start talking about what business management is, say: 'Well, I can pay my bills myself. I just do it all through my phone,'" says Eric Fulton, whose client roster includes such young superstars as Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan.

Even Bucci cops to doing everything on auto-pay, acknowledging: "I personally write, I think, two checks a year."

Despite a reputation for being entitled and wasting money on trifles like avocado toast, millennials are actually less concerned than previous generations about keeping up with the Joneses — or, rather, the Kardashians.

"Quite frankly, they just don't spend money, or care about it, as much as the older clients I have," says Fulton. "That creates a very different type of relationship between us."

Bucci says his younger clients are generally more frugal with daily spending but less restrained with big purchases like homes.

"They are more impatient, will take more risks and don't necessarily think through planning for the future and protecting their assets the way previous generations have," he says.

Where they need the most guidance, the managers say, is in investments. They're leery of traditional plans after watching their parents lose money in the recession, and they're passion-driven, which, when combined with a lack of risk-aversion, could be a recipe for financial disaster. "They grew up in a world where all it takes is one good app and you can be a billionaire," says Fulton. "There is this constant fixation on 'How can I get in on that?'"

Cannabis ventures, Bitcoin and app startups are among the most popular investments young clients think will make them quick money, according to Harvey Gettleson, whose Encino-based firm has an emerging talent program that offers services to rising stars at a discounted rate. He adds, "It's also hard to get young people to realize it's OK to live like their parents: buy a house, save for retirement, think for the future."

Liz Kenney, whose clients include Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish, says it's also easier than ever to rack up debt, especially for an age group that's plagued by student loans. "Previous generations were not bombarded with credit card offers like the millennials are today," she says. "I spend a lot of time talking them out of buying cars that are too expensive for their budgets."

Even with their independent streak, Fulton says about half of up-and-coming clients who ask him for only basic services (think bookkeeping and tax planning) wind up needing more help sooner than they think — within the first year. Of course, how much guidance someone needs isn't inherently age- or generation-specific, and there's some advice that's universal in a fickle business like Hollywood.

"Just because they are making x dollars today doesn't mean that they will next year," says Bucci. "Setting up for the future and protecting your assets is the foundation for success for any client."

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.