Will Smith is one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars and he has more money in the bank than he can count, but was there ever a time when he struggled financially?
Will Smith was poor after getting in trouble with the IRS. He admitted being “quietly broke” during his first three years of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, because he used the majority of his paychecks to cover the taxes that he failed to pay in time.
Will Smith can proudly call himself self-made, because he wasn’t born into a rich family. His mother Caroline was a school board administrator, while his father worked as refrigeration engineer after serving in the US Air Forces. They didn’t have an abundance of money, but still sent Will and his siblings to private catholic school Our Lady of Lourdes, because good education came first.
He later attended public Overbrook High School, but didn’t go to college afterwards – not because he couldn’t afford it, but because he “wanted to rap” instead. Smith claimed that he was recruited by MIT, but decided not to apply for college, and told Wired that he “would have made a billion dollars and been broke by now” if he made a different choice.
Will Smith never made a billion bucks, but he still managed to end up broke. He found huge success during the late ‘80s as a member of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and made approximately $10 million by the time 1990 rolled around.
He was spending money like there’s no tomorrow, and showered his friends and family with gifts – until the IRS came knocking on his door. It turned out that Smith failed to pay $2.8 million in taxes, and he no longer had enough money to cover his debt. He wasn’t making enough money from music, so he had to find another source of income ASAP.
Despite the fact he had zero acting experience, Smith accepted the lead role on the NBC sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. His troubles were far from over, because the IRS was taking 70% of his paychecks for three years before his debt was finally paid.
“Being famous and broke is a sh—y combination, because you’re still famous and people recognize you, but they recognize you while you’re sitting next to them on the bus,” explained Smith in one of his YouTube videos.
Current Net Worth
There was a time when Will Smith struggled financially, but he’ll probably never have to do it again. His net worth was estimated at $350 million in 2019, and he owes most of his fortune to his enormous movie paychecks.
It’s been reported that he received a performance-based salary of $100 million for the role in Men in Black 3 alone, making him one of the highest-paid actors in the movie history. He’s still one of the rare actors who have enough star power to sell pretty much any project, and the fact that he’s great at hyping up his movies on social media doesn’t hurt his case.
Some people would argue that Smith is past his prime, but his paychecks aren’t getting any smaller. Forbes reported that he received $20 million to appear in Netflix film Bright, opening the doors for other A-list stars to ask the streaming giant for hefty paychecks.
Appearing in Aladdin was also a great decision from the financial standpoint, and he ended up receiving $12.5 million and “a strong backend cut” according to Hollywood Reporter. The future is also looking bright for Smith, since he’s expected to earn $20 million for starring in King Richard, and another $35 million for reprising his role in the Bright sequel.
The two-time Oscar nominee can also count on the money that he’s earning through other business endeavors – including production company Overbrook Entertainment, clothing brand Bel-Air Athletics, eco-friendly startup Just Water, and multimedia platform Westbrook Inc.