Christy Carlson Romano is sharing the financial wisdom she could have used as a young star.
In a YouTube video titled "How I Lost All My Money," the Disney alum pulled back the curtain on how she ended up spending much of her fortune after her teenage success. "I will take you on a journey to my path of financial fluency," she said, "and how I made and lost millions of dollars."
Although she was among Disney's most prominent actresses in the early aughts, starring in the Even Stevens franchise and voicing the titular character of Kim Possible before she was old enough to order a cocktail, Romano, now 37, ended up in debt. "I really regret not investing my money wisely," she admitted. "I didn't get a house."
"I didn't take any money and store it away other than the Coogan money," she said, referencing the trust account that holds a percentage of a child actor's wages by law. "That money I used towards going to college at 18." However, after leaving school less than two years in, she had money at her disposal and admittedly "didn't care" about it.
"I was never told how much money I was making," she said. "Money didn't have a purpose for me."
Then, at 21, Romano parted ways with her family because she didn't like how they were managing her finances. Aware of how much money she had, she ended up buying expensive items in an effort to feel "good enough" and worth of the people around her.
"I was using buying things and money as a weapon," she said. "I felt like if I could just buy certain things, I would feel better or if I just lived a certain lifestyle, I would be closer to that joy of feeling accepted and a lot less alone because I felt really dumb for not knowing about my money and I never really made peace with that. Even to this day, there's nothing I can really do about the fact that money came and went."
Among her splurges were a new Mercedes G-Wagon and a 1972 Corvette that she spent money fixing up but never drove. At 21, she said she made about $1 million after getting record and book deals, but spent it all in that same year. She even had a psychic in her life, whom Romano said managed to "get a bunch of money" from her.
Eventually the spending caught up with her. "You think you have this extravagant life, she said, "and then real life hits you in the face."
As her money decreased, performing became about profiting and Romano ended up taking jobs she didn't want, including one that entailed a nude scene. "I had never thought in a million years," she said, "that I would ever do something like this."
The star said she's since made peace with that experience and, now married with children, wants her daughters to have better knowledge about money. The actress did end up going back to school and got her degree, but accrued student loan debt.
Now, she has a far different outlook on finances. "Build small and make sure that you're doing things that are smart," she advised, "that can make you money, not break you and enjoy the things that are not expensive."
Like, say, taking a stroll. "Go out. Enjoy the day," she encouraged as she walked outside. "It's free."