Real Housewives Who Can't Afford Their Lavish Lives

The key to a successful "Real Housewives" series is wealth. That's why the current series are set in the country's most expensive cities and suburbs. Viewers are drawn in by the escapism of watching someone drop $36,000 on a sushi party and then refuse to eat the food when she finds out a guest once sued her plastic surgeon husband after a botched boob job. We would be so lucky. When you get over the sensationalism and pull at the threads upon which the women have built their fame, the reality is just as fascinating as any fake storylines.

What is an exercise in escapism for the viewer is a test of keeping up appearances for the cast. Put simply, the higher you rise, the further you fall. In their quest for ratings and contract renewals, Housewives have a bad habit of overspending and "forgetting" to pay their taxes. But, of course, that's not the case with all Housewives. Some of them, like Lisa Vanderpump, really are that wealthy. But for every Vanderpump or Dubrow, there are a dozen women cast on Bravo living dangerously beyond their means.

Below, we dig into the real Housewives and their seemingly never-ending money problems. From millions in back taxes to stolen earrings to telemarketing schemes, these ladies prove that when it comes to Bravo, it's not enough to be rich; you also have to be hella messy.

Kim Zolciak-Biermann wants to set the record straight

A breakout star from the early days of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," Kim Zolciak-Biermann hit the Bravo jackpot by being one of the rare-few housewives to score a spinoff with the network. Fans have had an up-close look at her lavish lifestyle over the years and are more than familiar with her multi-million dollar Georgia mansion with a movie theater and spa, per In Touch.

Things may not have been as easy for Zolciak-Biermann as she would have you believe. The reality star found herself in major financial trouble in late 2022 when her mansion allegedly went into foreclosure. The problem comes from a reported $300,000 loan that Zolciak-Biermann and her husband "failed to pay back," per The U.S. Sun. The five-bedroom home, which has an estimated value of $2.5 million, was reportedly auctioned off for a mere $257,000, per Page Six. The outlet stated that the couple settled their debts and avoided foreclosure.

That's where things get interesting. After word of the foreclosure hit the internet, Zolciak-Biermann took it upon herself to personally refute the news. In a since-deleted Instagram story, Kim claimed the news was nothing more than a rumor. She and her family are still comfortably living in their Atlanta home, she said. "My house was not sold for $257,000. If you guys think I would let my home, that we've put millions and millions of dollars into, go for $257,000, you're an idiot," she told her followers (via Bravo Housewives).

Erika Jayne was in trouble

Erika Jayne, where do we even begin? While "money trouble" seems to be a prerequisite for casting on Bravo, Jayne may take the cake. When she first appeared on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" back in 2015, Jayne was ultra-wealthy, even by Bravo standards. She lived in a massive L.A. mansion with expansive gardens and a chapel and had a $40,000-a-month glam squad follow at her beck and call, per The Sun.

Jayne's life has been drastically different since she separated from her husband, disgraced attorney Tom Girardi, in 2020. A little over a month after announcing the split, Girardi was inundated with decades worth of legal problems, including the accusation that he embezzled millions of dollars from his clients, per the Los Angeles Times. Jayne was dragged into the mess, too, with many critics and attorneys claiming that she knew about the embezzlement and that her company, "EJ Global," was nothing more than a front.

Jayne has adamantly denied any involvement with Girardi's alleged crimes, and she even won her case, but she's taken a hit financially nonetheless. In addition to footing legal bills for the many suits she's now involved in, Jayne was forced to return a pair of $750,000 diamond earrings that Girardi had given her as a gift, per People. "It wasn't easy for [Erika] to part ways with something that was sentimental to her," an insider told the outlet, "but she knows she needed to do it, and she complied."

Dorit Kemsley has a lot of debt

Dorit Kemsley and Paul Kemsley (otherwise known as PK) have it all — including horrible spending habits. Like many housewives, Dorit has dipped her toe into several side businesses, including fashion design. The reality star began a swimwear line in 2017 and took a $205,000 loan from her then-business partner to get things rolling. Dorit and PK were in trouble the following year for allegedly failing to pay back the money, per Us Weekly. However, Dorit has claimed that things were eventually worked out privately between the parties.

The back payment is just the tip of the iceberg. Things went from bad to worse when yet another business partner came forward and alleged that he had loaned PK over a million dollars years ago and had been paid back only the $250,000 interest amount for the loan, per Us Weekly. According to The Blast, the partner dismissed his claims in 2019.

That same year, PK was also accused of owing Las Vegas casino the Bellagio more than $3.5 million. The suit had been ongoing since 2013, when PK allegedly paid some of his debt back before filing for bankruptcy in the United Kingdom, per The Blast. They were able to reach an agreement with PK of incremental payments, but he didn't complete them as planned. The couple finally paid back the money in 2022 but still have 1.3 million in tax liens against their names, per Radar.

Alexis Bellino is doing better

Alexis Bellino was the epitome of a Real Housewife of Orange County. She had a husband, Jim Bellino, who disagreed with her working outside of the home, twin daughters who had extravagant birthdays, and a devout love for the Lord that she celebrated with a Swarovski crystal Bible. In reality, things were much more complicated than they seemed on TV.

Just after Alexis joined the show, her family home went into foreclosure in 2010 when she and Jim defaulted on payments for a multimillion-dollar loan. Ironically, the couple don't seem to have spent much time in the house in question, as they'd taken years — and tons of money — renovating it, per Radar. Jim claimed the whole thing was blown out of proportion, that loss was just part of the commercial and residential real estate game that made him rich, per The Orange County Register. "This is commonly done," he said, clarifying that it was his company, not himself, that filed bankruptcy. While foreclosure was avoided, Alexis and Jim reportedly ended up with a "short sale," unloading the home at a loss.

Alexis' life has improved a lot in the intervening years. For starters, she seems financially secure, and she's ditched, Jim. "We were married 14 years and then [in] therapy the whole 14 years. So that tells you something," she told Us Weekly. The star gushed about her current fiance, "We haven't had but two fights. We're just meant to be together." We love it and hope he buys her a new house — she deserves it.

Kim Richards fights about money

Kim Richards has earned a reputation as one of the more troubling stars on Bravo. Andy Cohen told Bravo scholar Dave Quinn that the network became so concerned with Richards' drinking that they footed the bill for a rehab stay in 2011, according to Page Six. Richards is now sober but isn't exactly living her best life, thanks to her money problems.

Richards began accruing income as a child actor, but her adult life has been far less lucrative. In 2018, the reality star was accused of owing the IRS nearly $120,000, per The Blast. It is unclear if Richards ever paid the money back. She has been involved in other expensive suits and owed over $266,000 that year after her dog attacked a neighbor (the dog had also allegedly bitten her stylist and assistant previously), per The Sun.

Richards' money issues extend beyond her dog and her taxes and into her own family. Who could forget the season of "RHOBH" in which Kim and her sister Kyle Richards fought relentlessly over what to do with their dead mother's house (per Radar)? Kim accused Kyle on air of taking and selling their mother's home. "Kim absolutely wasn't cheated out of any money from the sale of the house! After their mother died, both Kathy and Kim asked Kyle to buy them out, which she did," a source told the outlet.

Sonja Morgan made some bad business decisions

Sonja Morgan's money troubles are some of the more bizarre on this list. When viewers were first introduced to Morgan, she was "house poor" — unemployed, divorced, and living in her ex-husband's multimillion-dollar townhouse, which she has never been able to sell, per the New York Post. She spent the next couple of seasons trying to start some businesses and finally seemed to have struck gold with her film production company Sonja Productions, per E! News. Flash forward a few years, and Morgan had major legal trouble when she filed for bankruptcy, citing herself as being nearly $20 million in debt.

She claimed that the massive debt wasn't the result of a spending spree or living beyond her means. Instead, Morgan maintained that the loss was due to a bad business venture in which John Travolta was tapped to star in a developing project between Sonja Productions and Hannibal Pictures. Morgan's company reportedly couldn't satisfy Travolta's requests, so the film was never produced. As a result, Hannibal sued Morgan for $7 million and won.

It took another five years, but Morgan finally settled the case. "It feels great. I did a great job," she told E! News. "I paid what I had to pay, and it wasn't easy, but at the same time, it was an experience." In addition to closing the case, Morgan seemed hopeful that the settlement would finally quiet the gossip about her money. "It's nice to be free of everyone looking at my money. I finally have my financial privacy back," she said.

Shannon Beador got screwed in court

Shannon Beador has a lot of problems, many of which have been the basis of her storyline for most of her time on "The Real Housewives of Orange County." From the very first episode, viewers could tell that Shannon and her husband, David Beador, were going to get divorced. In her second season, Shannon found out that David was having an affair, and the couple entered marriage counseling. It took a few more years for the viewers to be proven correct, but Shannon finally filed for divorce in 2017, per Us Weekly.

When the pair separated, Shannon endured a very long and financially draining legal battle with her ex. After what seemed like decades, the former couple settled on the terms of their divorce. Per the agreement, Shannon would receive a one-time payment of $1.4 million (to even out their community property division) and an additional $10,000 per month in combined spousal support and child support. Shannon also got a BMW, a Cadillac Escalade — her ex kept a lot more vehicles –  and access to several bank accounts. More than enough for most, but not nearly enough for the famous Orange County mom.

When the divorce was finally settled, Shannon quickly filed suit against her divorce attorney for failing to adequately represent her, per Radar. Among the charges she levied against him were failing to account for her children's future college education (and offering wrongful advisement), failing to get David to sign a "filming release" for their daughters, and lack of communication throughout the process.

Teresa Giudice is still recovering

What problems doesn't Teresa Giudice have? When she isn't flipping tables or getting flack for hosting a COVID-era birthday party, she's busy dealing with the financial and legal fallout from her complicated personal life. The reality star and her now-ex-husband Joe Giudice have been in and out of the headlines for years. In 2009, they declared bankruptcy while claiming to be almost $11 million in debt, per the New York Post. In 2013, they were charged with a few kinds of fraud — mail, wire, and bank, per E! News. Joe and Teresa pleaded guilty. Teresa spent nearly a year of her 15-month sentence in prison before completing her time at home, and Joe served 41 months. Upon his release, Joe was deported to Italy as he was not technically an American citizen, despite living in the country for almost his entire life.

After her prison stint, Teresa's wine brand, cookbook collection, and other side business were negatively affected. According to the star, any of the money she makes goes mostly to aiding Joe's deportation case or resolving her own debts, per People. In a 2019 episode of "RHONJ," Teresa claimed she was resentful toward Joe and how he affected her financial stability. "Like, I should be much further with all my businesses. Like, I built up a lot," she said. "And then everything came crashing down because of the legal stuff."

Jen Shah's future is uncertain

Jen Shah was an instant hit when she appeared on the premiere season of "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City." She had a massive Utah mansion, referred to her husband as "Coach Shah," and flew private. In other words, perfect Bravo material. Viewers were understandably confused about how she could afford her lavish lifestyle. After all, her husband was an assistant coach and she seemed to do something vaguely marketing-related. 

They soon found out where this mysterious money came from. Shah was charged with involvement in a telemarketing scheme that targeted older adults interested in business opportunities, per Today. Shah and an assistant offered various "services" that they claimed would help clients succeed. Once a victim made a purchase, Shah would turn around and sell their information to other scammy organizations. Shah was arrested mid-season after claiming to be innocent, made her $1 million bail, and stood trial in New York state, per Us Weekly. She subsequently pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and is set to be sentenced in January 2023, per Us Weekly.

Shah has received support from her castmates, but it's unlikely she'll return to the "Real Housewives" franchise. "Once we wrapped, she pled guilty, I think that was kind of, unfortunately, the end of, you know, the engagement there," Andy Cohen reportedly said during BravoCon 2022, per Deadline. Considering that Shah could be ordered to pay as much as $9.5 million in restitution, we're guessing she's hoping Bravo will find a way to renew her contract for another couple of seasons.

Taylor Armstrong got a happy ending

The "Real Housewives" franchise was catapulted into the national news cycle when Taylor Armstrong's husband, Russell Armstrong, whom she was divorcing, died by suicide shortly after Season 2 wrapped. Things were bad between them for a long time, and Russell was allegedly abusive. In addition to the years of trauma Taylor was left to unpack, she also had to contend with the financial mess Russell left behind involving a medical records firm.

Unbeknownst to her, Russell was in serious financial trouble when he died, to the tune of a $1.5 million debt. His attorney, Ronald Richards, told ABC News, "He was living month to month to support his lifestyle for Taylor." Richards explained, "These couples join these shows, and then they keep trying to outdo each other, and they end up spending all their money trying to sustain a lifestyle that's unrealistic and wasn't there prior to the show. ... Trying to pretend you have unlimited resources in Beverly Hills is tough."

According to the Daily Beast, Taylor could not pay back the money out of pocket and was forced to sell off other assets to satisfy the debt. As part of the settlement, she had to give up her 10-carat engagement ring. Want to hear the good news? She went on to marry her attorney, per Us Weekly. She got an equally flashy ring, and was even asked to join the cast of "RHOC" in a "Friend" role for Season 17. 

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Jacqueline Laurita does what she can

Like so many Housewives before her, Jacqueline Laurita has struggled to keep up the appearances of her flashy Bravo lifestyle. The trouble began in 2009 when the "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star's husband, Chris Laurita, filed for bankruptcy on behalf of his clothing company, Signature Apparel. Making matters worse, he was accused of filing under false pretenses, per Radar.

As for Jacqueline, she was massively in debt thanks to back taxes. By 2016, she owed more than $300,000 (via Radar). However, Jacqueline attributed that to the normal stressors of life rather than bad money management. In her Bravo blog, she claimed that unexpected medical expenses and other big costs had taken a toll on her finances. "After my husband lost his company during that rough economy, it took some time for the decrease in income to catch up to us," she wrote. "We were also not prepared for the cost of raising a child with special needs. No matter what financial challenges and obligations we've faced, Nicholas' needs have always been a top priority for us..."

Jacqueline left the series after Season 7 but has remained in the news thanks to her financial problems. In 2019, Chris made headlines for allegedly trying to sell his valuables on Facebook Marketplace to put a dent in the debt, per – although he told the outlet his online sales and the foreclosure issue were unrelated. Among the items he hoped to sell were film memorabilia, furniture, and a poker table, supposedly because they didn't fit his new home's style.

Karen Huger stands by her man

"Real Housewives of Potomac" star Karen Huger's finances have always been in question. She was in major trouble with the IRS in 2017. While residing in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country, Karen and her husband, Ray Huger, reportedly owed the IRS millions, per The Washington Post. Ray made his fortune in software technology but raised eyebrows when he and Karen sold their Potomac home for less than it was worth and moved to a less affluent suburb in Virginia.

In front of cameras and castmates, Karen was adamant that there was nothing going on with Ray's finances. However, during an interview with People, she was forced to admit that the truth was somewhere in the middle, though she refused to go into any details about reported liens or back payments. "The good news is we're great," she said, praising her husband's business skills. "Material things come and go, but if you have the love of your family — your children, your mom, your dad, your brother, your sister — we pulled through and we're better for it," she added.

Karen's castmates still weren't satisfied. They alleged that it wasn't good business that got Ray out of trouble; it was Karen bailing him out. The reality star didn't see a problem with that. "My husband took care of his business responsibilities and I added support to our family," she wrote in a 2020 Instagram post. "... I ride for my man."

Lynne Curtin struggled to get by

By now, it should be clear just how much the Housewives struggle with money, and while overspending may just come with the territory, many cast members can contain the fallout to the off-season at least. Not so for Lynne Curtin. The former "Real Housewives of Orange County" star and her family hit financial ruin while the cameras rolled. In 2010, the Curtins were unceremoniously evicted from their lavish Southern California home. Lynne's two daughters, who were home alone at the time, opened the front door and were given an eviction notice, per People. They promptly called their mother. She confronted her husband Frank, who couldn't pay the required $10,000 security deposit for their new home and acknowledged, "I screwed up." That's an understatement, considering just how damaging the eviction would be.

When she realized the extent of their financial woes, Lynne filed for divorce after 22 years of marriage. The mom spent a lot of time with lawyers that year as she also filed for bankruptcy, revealing that she only had $100 in her bank account, per TMZ. She claimed she was only making around $3,000 a year on her jewelry line and was spending around $500 a month on necessities. The outlet reported that Lynne and Frank were indebted to the IRS by about $30,000. This former Housewife has moved on from the drama of her reality star days, and, admirably, is still plucking away at her jewelry line, per Bravo.

Danielle Staub has money issues

Danielle Staub, an absolute force on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," has not always been the best with finances. Case in point, in 2021, after being let go from the show, Staub was sued by her landlord for over $6,000 in unpaid rent. Here's the problem: though she'd lost her job and seemingly couldn't pay rent, Staub was still happy to spend money in other areas. "When the landlord inquired about rent payments or setting up a payment plan, she suggested that 'if they have [a] hard time paying our bills for the property, they should apply for a government loan,'" a source told The Sun. "I can imagine it is less than pleasant to see her showing off while knowing she's not paying her bills."

Staub's financial trouble wasn't exactly surprising considering that in 2012, she filed for bankruptcy. The Star Ledger (via reported that her liabilities reached $1.9 million. Following the end of her fourth marriage — which only lasted a few months — Staub was without a home. Per the divorce agreement, Staub's ex listed their multimillion-dollar Bergen County house in 2019 in the months following the divorce, as she had not been able to come up with the funds to purchase it from him, per People. All About The Tea obtained documentation showing that Staub was court-ordered to vacate the home in June 2020. That is how Staub ended up in the aforementioned apartment, which has caused her just as much grief as the overpriced house.