She's been without panties. Without hair. Without seat belts for her kids.
But would you believe ... without savings?
Recent court papers show that blonde quasi-bombshell Britney Spears allocates none of her $737,000 monthly income to savings and investment.
OK, she's rich enough that it doesn't matter. But it's not (just) pantyless peek-a-boos or feeding frenzies at McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) that cry out to us for help. It's millions of children who lack role models in finance. If I may be blunt, we've got a nation of financial numbskulls in the making.
Fortunately, we can stop it.
Britney isn't the only one. Scores of less-flush celebs (witness the reportedly broke Lindsay Lohan, or net-worth-around-their-neck hip-hop artists) set a financial mis-example for kids. Our kids. Your kids. And our poorest, least-educated children suffer the most. High-interest credit cards, poor credit, abusive loan rates: They're headed toward our kids like Lindsay in an SUV, and nothing short of our national competitiveness is at stake.
Would you pop the question to Brit?
Wealth research firm Prince & Associates found that half of men and two-thirds of women were "very" or "extremely" willing to marry for money. How much? Men sold out at an embarrassingly small $1.2 million (women peddled themselves for just slightly more).
So, given that Britney is worth $100 million, at least half the males in this country should be "very" or "extremely" willing to marry her.
Et tu? You probably know what Britney -- Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO ) No. 1 celebrity by Internet searches in 2007 -- looks like without her hair. But try picturing her without wealth. The former Mouseketeer, recently filmed filching a $1.39 lighter from a Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) mini-mart, would still be talented and able to excite your, um, Y chromosome -- and, to be fair, might actually shape up if the need arose -- but could she set your kids off right financially if she weren't rich?
Measure the treasure
Finance is a strange and strangely powerful force. More powerful, even, than Britney. Just to prove a point, if you have a child born this year -- and you're lucky enough to be upper-middle-class, though not rich -- he or she could wind up with more money than Britney in his or her lifetime, through assiduous financial management:
Britney: $100 million (Forbes estimate)
Your kid: $10,000 (from an index fund you set up right after birth)
Your kid: $1,000 (you cover it until your kid goes to work)
Advantage: Your kid
But to cut to the chase, by sticking with this plan over the years and earning a 10% annual return, your kid would end up with around $100 million by age 67. Make no mistake: Britney still has a $100 million egg she's sitting on. And saving $1,000 a month is out of range for many, if not most, readers. But to cut to the chase, by sticking with this plan over the years, your kid would end up with around $100 million by age 67. As you can see, going from upper-middle-class to megarich is possible within a lifetime for ordinary folks playing their financial cards "very" or "extremely" well.
What if you're just regular? Or poor? Finance has you -- and your kid -- covered: Investing a very feasible $100 a month on top of a $1,000 starting gift gets junior to over $10 million in the same time frame.
But it takes financial literacy.
And to fix this desperation felt by many in our world -- young and old -- The Motley Fool is rolling out Foolanthropy, our annual charity push, with a new focus: financial literacy.
We've done our homework and we're aiming donations at five effective organizations we've researched:
Junior Achievement, a charity that partners with schools and employers to design financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness programs for grades K-12.
Mercy Corps' Silent Disasters Program, an international charity that provides financial education, mentoring, job-skill training, and microloans in developing countries.
Corporation for Enterprise Development, which offers financial education with a special focus on personal savings.
Operation HOPE's Banking on our Futures Program, which develops economic and empowerment programs in inner cities to foster savings, home ownership, and entrepreneurship.
Share Our Strength's Operation Frontline Program, designed to eliminate hunger in the U.S. through hands-on courses to increase financial literacy and teach food budgeting.
Unfortunately, you and I can't do much about Britney (email the Fool, Brit, if you want to talk investments -- really). But we can do something about financial literacy. Whether you're a regular big giver or your gifts in the past have been, um, embarrassingly small, now's the time to act. The need for your help is real. And, hey, "embarrassingly small" works for us.
I invite you to join Foolanthropy by providing help to one -- or maybe even all -- of our charities. Foolanthropy may be the most rewarding investment you make all year, and you can make it right here.
And Britney, if you're reading this, while we've gotta say it like it is, we really do care. You've earned your money, and we respect that. If you want some good investments -- or, better yet, if you'd like to make a difference in the financial lives of children -- drop us a line. We're here to help.