How Do Retired Actors Make Money?

If you’ve ever wondered how some of our favorite Hollywood stars continue to make a living after their film days are over, they usually have several options.

Key Takeaways

  • Most people who are working as an actor are not making a living doing it, and have to find ways to supplement their incomes.
  • Many Hollywood elites make large salaries, but they also often have assistants and staff members who they need to support as well.
  • Retired actors will often continue to make money through a variety of different endeavors, such as taking on various endorsement deals, teaching others how to act, and writing their own memoirs.

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If you’ve ever wondered how some of our favorite Hollywood stars continue to make a living after their film days are over, they usually have several options.

Retired actors will continue to make money through a variety of endeavors, such as taking on various endorsement deals, teaching others how to act, and writing their own memoirs after they have retired.

I am a huge film buff and have been since I was a kid. Keeping tabs on some of my Hollywood favorites has always been a big pastime of mine. Even in their retirement years, I like to know what they are up to, and have always wondered why some of them seem to flounder while others continue to flourish. What I’ve found is that there is still plenty of financial options for a retired actor, especially those who are willing to think a bit more outside the box.

Table of Contents

How Do Retired Actors Make Money?

It’s estimated that less than 5 percent of all working actors are actually making a living doing it.

That may be a hard number to comprehend since every year there seems to be more blockbuster movies, television shows, and network series that hit the screen and come into our homes.

How can all those actors not be making enough to support themselves?

The truth is, what we see on the screen is a small snapshot of the number of individuals that are actually trying to make a living by acting.

Most actors - whether they are in Hollywood or somewhere else - are having to do something other than acting to help pay their rent and grocery bill.

In fact, it is estimated that in 2020, the average actor across the United States made around $40,000 for the year, though that doesn’t take into consideration how many hours they worked for that salary.

Many acting jobs are few and far between, and when an actor gets one they may have to work long hours to make up for the time lost.

All that said, many of our well-known actors are going just fine.

People like Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and George Clooney and big-time actors whose names everyone is familiar with.

And their salaries are too.

It’s not hard to find out what an actor made for their last movie project. Most of the time, tabloids will openly share it with the public.

For example, Tom Cruise made over $75 million for Mission: Impossible. Angelina Jolie made $40 million for Salt.

And it’s estimated that James Cameron made a record-setting $350 million for the film Avatar.

Not bad, right?

The interesting thing is, many of even the highest-paid actors will continue to look for various types of work, even after their start has begun to not shine as brightly.

Like with any job, acting has its window of opportunity, and - though some actors will continue to work well into their golden years - many will struggle to get high-paying roles. And some don’t want to, or can’t, play the types of grueling roles they have for years.

Yes, the biggest stars get some pretty big paychecks. But many of them are doing some incredibly challenging things for it as well.

These stars also tend to have plenty of others who may also be benefitting from their paycheck. Whether it’s nannies and drivers for their kids, or security staff and household help, oftentimes they have a number of others who are also counting on their paycheck to put food on their own tables.

So, what happens to these big stars when the big paychecks start to slow down? What do they do to continue to live the life they (and their entourages) have grown accustomed to?

1. Many Retired Actors Make Money by Taking on Various Endorsement Deals

One of the most popular ways that many retired actors are able to make extra income after their careers on the big screen is coming to a close is by taking on various endorsement deals.

Some critics will claim that when an actor does this, they are “selling out.” Others will say that it’s not fair they are using their fame to influence others.

Though some of that may be true, there are also plenty of actors who are very careful about what they decide to lend their face and name to in retirement.

Many will only sign on to an endorsement deal if it’s something they truly believe in. Others try to stick with causes more than products.

Whatever the endorsement, and however the general population feels about it, being the face and/or voice for a company, product or movement is oftentimes a very lucrative way for a celebrity to be able to find extra income in retirement.

2. Many Retired Actors Make Money by Teaching Others How to Act

Though this is often not as lucrative as an endorsement deal, it can still pay off financially, and may pay off personally as well.

There is always a demand for good teachers, and this is just much the case in the world of acting as anywhere else.

Whether they are doing it in Hollywood or at a University, plenty of well-known actors have been known to spend time teaching their craft to others…especially once they have some free time of their own.

Various universities will usually hire an actor as an adjunct professor, meaning they are on campus for a set period of time to teach a certain class or two.

Again…this may not be the most financially beneficial way of making money in retirement for an actor, but many of them will do it because it makes them feel as though they are “paying it forward” to the next generation of thespians.

3.  Many Retired Actors Make Money by Writing Their Own Memoirs

When you are a truly big star, not only can you make money off writing your life story, but there will also be a huge demand for it!

Some of the world’s most famous actors have written a memoir that not only became a bestseller, but those who have read it said it has changed their lives for the better.

Reading about a famous person’s struggles, hardships, adversity, and perseverance is something all of us can find inspiring. And, memoirs help us realize that these superstars are still just people…maybe not just like us, but still people.

Memoirs are a great source of revenue for many past actors. And - writing a book is a huge accomplishment in itself, and many actors have said that writing a memoir isn’t just about the money…it’s also about being able to leave a piece of work that will memorialize them as much as their time on the screen did.

Writing a memoir can be lucrative and personally fulfilling as well.

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