Celebrity Retirement Scorecard: Ed McMahon

Who is making it? Who is not? We've concocted retirement scorecards for some showcase retirees in entertainment, politics and sports. See the full list here.

Ed McMahonLoser: Ed McMahon
Former occupation/notable position held: The Tonight Show, longtime Johnny Carson sidekick.
Activities during retirement: TV host; foreclosure victim
Retirement Report Card Grade: C-

Ed McMahon got off to a strong start on his post-Tonight Show career, making his recent difficulties all the more poignant. How did he end up in the headlines recently as the victim of foreclosure?

Transitioning to a new chapter is one of the hardest things to do, but McMahon got a running start, parlaying his fame into a hosting gig on American Idol-prototype Star Search, even while riding shotgun with Johnny nightly on NBC. He also co-hosted with Dick Clark the popular TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes on NBC, among numerous other gigs in the twilight of, and soon after, his Tonight Show career.

Now it seems like it might all be gone. While McMahon's financial details are not fully known, it is likely that while wealthy by most standards, McMahon needs steady and heavy cash flow to maintain a lifestyle built for a younger celebrity with greater earning power. McMahon (and/or those advising him) obviously lost touch with his marketability and sustained potential. Bit parts in flops like 2005's Bewitched and a weekend radio show simply don't rain down big network money.

Now McMahon finds himself appealing to Larry King's CNN audience as a potential victim of the mortgage foreclosure crisis. A broken neck reported earlier this year, coupled with a bad fall last year, hasn't help matters. McMahon perhaps best serves as a sobering example of retirement's dynamic nature, and for how a fast and fortuitous start doesn't necessarily make for retirement-long success.

The best retirement plans – particularly, non-financial plans – are built to be revisited and adapted over time. In some cases, we need to rewrite these plans the fly/. Boomers may on average live some 25 years in retirement – too long for a static plan.

McMahon appears to have a big fund of goodwill to draw from, and we can hope his story will turn out OK. Somewhere, Johnny may well be air-swinging a putter for him.

Michael Burnham is CEO of My Next Phase, a consulting firm offering non-financial retirement planning products and services (www.mynextphase.com).


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