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Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

Taylor Armstrong Was Seduced by Her Luxurious Lifestyle, Should Have Asked Russell How Their Bills Were Being Paid — Exclusive

Business manager Brandy Davis certainly knows a thing or two about helping Hollywood clients navigate tricky financial waters. She was named one of Variety’s top entertainment financial advisors, and her clients include a producer of Hawaii Five-O.

Wetpaint Entertainment decided to ask her about how Taylor Armstrong could have prevented getting into such dire financial straits while married to Russell. Brandy provided insight into how the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star should have made better choices with status symbols, should have asked Russell about their finances, and can best make money going forward.

Wetpaint Entertainment: Taylor Armstrong has said on the show that she was left with $700,000 debt and a $1.5 million lawsuit. What would your advice be for her to get out of debt?

Brandy Davis: The first step needs to be to do an analysis of what she has coming in and what she has going out, ideally with the help of a professional business manager. She needs to map out a formal plan to get the debt paid, and it’s impossible to make real progress without first identifying all the challenges, taking inventory of all her assets, setting goals and creating a realistic timeline. Then, she has to adopt the discipline to stick to the plan.

It appears that Russell was keeping secrets from Taylor about their finances. How should Taylor have prevented this from happening?

In my 10 years experience as a business manager, I’ve seen a lot of women marry wealthy men and later be part of financial troubles. My advice is to be proactive and ask your man about how the bills are getting paid. Even if there is a prenuptial, it is smart to take initiative and ask to join meetings with the business managers and stay informed. Honesty and transparency are always key. If there is pushback, take it as a warning sign.

We know that the Armstrongs lived in a mansion and threw lavish parties for their friends; Taylor also reportedly owned knock-off designer bags. Is there often pressure to maintain this outward appearance of success?

She lived a seductive lifestyle, and its not hard to get in trouble when your spending levels are in the big leagues. The pressure to maintain outward appearances can be daunting, but I’ve counseled my clients to make smarter decisions about status symbols. For example, buying a hybrid instead of a pricey sports car elevates image without breaking the bank.

Does it seem that a couple's money habits can sometimes feed off each other?

Yes, a couple’s spending patterns can feed off each other. I’ve seen how there can be tension in relationships when money habits are at polar opposites but even more dangerous is when they are both out of control and driving themselves off a cliff.

Taylor had a company where she used to work, but she doesn't appear to work there anymore. Do reality stars tend to keep their regular jobs once they're no longer on a show, or are they often able to find new ways to make money based on their brush with fame?

For reality stars and Hollywood artists, it is tricky to start a new career path after their time in the spotlight. The key to survival is capitalizing on your brand when you have the opportunity since no one knows how long your fame will last. Just look at Jessica Simpson, who has achieved great success as a designer because of her notoriety as an artist and reality show star. That was smart of her to diversify early on and leverage her stardom to create multiple revenue streams.

Is there general advice you would give to Hollywood clients to make sure they don’t end up in Taylor’s situation?

There are so many kinds of money issues, and we of course don't ever know all the details. It's easy to sit back and say you could do it differently if you were in her shoes. But money can be addicting and fame is a powerful enabler for all sorts of trouble. My advice to rising stars is to get professional support from a business manager as soon as possible. Team up and build trust before you get addicted to an unsustainable lifestyle. With my clients, I’m CFO of their assets and their CEO of their brand. There has got to be a map or we don’t know what success is, and the best partnerships are when my clients listen, watch their spending, and take responsibility.

01.15.2013 / 02:05 AM EDT by Ryan Gajewski
Related: Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Taylor Armstrong

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