Why does a woman who was once British royalty need to stoop so low as to sell access to her ex-husband to a trashy tabloid reporter in exchange for money? That mystery is slowly unraveling this week as one of the most talked about stories is how Sarah Ferguson (better know as Fergie) the Former Duchess of York has been caught on tape by the News of the World, offering to "open doors" for a "businessman" to her ex husband Prince Andrew, in exchange for nearly $750,000.
It's unfortunate, but Fergie did need the money.
Her New York company Hartmoor, which she created to deal with her various ventures—folded with debts of $936,000 last October. She faces legal proceedings in London for unpaid bills amounting to almost $288,000. Her recent investment in the critically acclaimed film "The Young Victoria" has shown few returns. While, the Emily Blunt headlined period piece was praised by reviewers, it brought in only $27 million at the international box office after costing $35 million to make.
Yet the question remains, how did the former Duchess let things get so dire? Has she not socked away any of her earnings over the past decade.
It is true that her divorce settlement with Prince Andrew has given her only around $20,000 in living expenses a year, but it also put a roof over her head...a very nice roof in the form of the Royal Lodge, Andrew's 30-room house in Windsor Great Park that used to belong to the Queen Mother. And she has had her own streams of income, namely her nearly $3 million a year contract as an ambassador for Weight Watchers which she held for 11 years until 2007. She received nearly $3 million for her memoir, "My Story" and she is still able to command speaking fees in the range of $65,000.
Her financial problems are mainly due to spending habits more befitting a princess than the ex-wife of a prince, spending habits that Fergie has never tried to keep a secret. Earlier this month, as she sat with a local reporter in a Dallas, Texas Neiman Marcus, Fergie opened a department store charge account mid-interview so that she could buy the chair she was sitting in on credit, for more than $1,800.
She reportedly owns five cell phones, has spent $70,000 on dresses in one fell swoop and will only fly first class. Her entourage reportedly numbers 12 people, including a personal stylist and a butler. A friend told the London Daily Mail that Fergie lives "like an Arab princess. She still travels with an entourage, still spends money like water."
"She used to overindulge with food but after becoming a spokesperson for Weight Watchers she needed a way to indulge herself when she felt badly or insecure that was not going to a) put weight on her b) violate her WW contract so she may have moved her eating high to a shopping high," explains psychology expert Cooper Lawrence. "Most people overspend because of their attitudes about money. For many people, money equals care and the best way to care for yourself is to spend spend spend. For divorced women, if money meant power and the man had it, then they may spend as a backlash to finally having some autonomy over their own lives."
Fergie was consistently looking for that autonomy. When she founded Hartmoor in 2006 it was intended to handle all incoming funds from a variety of Fergie-branded lifestyle products including candles, perfumes, jewelry and self-help books. But Brand Fergie never really took off in the United States when it didn't have to do with her weight fluctuations.
It is clear that Fergie now finds herself in dire straights for similar reasons as millions of women around the world. She didn't take the time to properly plan her personal finances, reign in her personal spending and create adequate forms of revenue, capitalizing on the opportunities given to her. This woman is a cautionary tale to all ladies out there to do the hard work now and save yourself the embarrassment and struggle of having to fix your mess later.
"Sarah hasn't made the best financial decisions and now is paying the price. It costs a lot of money to be the Duchess, money Sarah doesn't have," explains gossip columnist and royal watcher Rob Shuter of AOL's Naughty But Nice column. "She has tried hard to make a living but there are less good paying jobs for a Duchess than you imagine"