This is the third or so in a continuing series of WTH/WTF posts where we look at famous wealthy folks’ investing errors, and wonder just WTF is going in their personal finances. Our goal: Learn from other people’s mistakes. Today’s WTF?! celeb is 42 year old golfer Phil Mickelson.

Phil is “mad as hell about rising tax rates, and he’s not going to take it anymore.” As Forbes (with tongue firmly in cheek) reports:

“To be honest, it’s hard to blame Mickelson – who has compiled a net worth approaching $180 million by repeatedly striking a tiny white ball until it falls into a hole — for putting all options on the table, which according to some, include the possibility of prematurely shutting down his career to avoid his rising tax burden. Let’s take a look at what Mickelson is up against in 2013:

For starters, courtesy of President Obama’s re-election and the subsequent fiscal cliff negotiations, Mickelson will experience an increase in his top tax rate on ordinary income from 35% to 39.6%, and an increase in his top rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends from 15% to 20%. Clearly, when faced with tax hikes of that magnitude, it stops making economic sense for Mickelson to continue to swing a metal stick up to 70 times a day in exchange for the $48 million he earns on an annual basis.”

Yes, our exploited golfer is seemingly going Galt. And while the above paragraphs are truly hilarious — Max Abelson has shown it is terribly amusing to mock the oppressed top 0.1% — I have to wonder who is advising the world’s second ranked all-time money winning golfer.

But if we can be serious for just a moment — and ignore the oblviousness of Mickelson’s utter lack of gratitude for his soft lot in life — this raises actual financial issues worth exploring. What are the legal — and I mean black-&-white-legal, no shades-of-grey here — options that people (whether they are means or not) should consider to minimize their taxes and maximize their investing returns?

A short list would have to include:

• Muni bond portfolios that throw off tax-free income;

• Estate planning (including 2nd to die insurance) which functionally eliminates estate taxes;

• Contributions to your favorite charity(s) to reduce gross total taxable income;

• Establishing a Family Foundation to further reduce tax base;

• Maximizing tax deferred accounts — 401k, profit sharing, KEOGH, defined benefit plan and cash balance plans — to generate largest legal deductions;

There is nothing especially fancy here.

Of the list above, Family Foundations and Estate Planning primarily matter only to those with a wealth north of $5 million — but everyone can take advantage of tax-free muni income, tax deductions for charitable donations, and maximizing your retirement accounts.

Again, I want to emphasize that these are all standard, run of the mill planning steps — legal, accounting and tax planning methods the IRS recognizes and approves of. In other words, they are not the stuff of Wesley Snipe’s accounting firm.

If I were a gambling man, I would bet that Phil sucks it up, and keeps playing golf. His sponsors (including accounting giant KPMG!) pay him $44 million per year. A more cynical type might assume the entire episode was an appeal to the golf playing demographics, who also do not care for increased taxes.

It appears that ordinary tax planning moves are either unknown by our ungrateful golfer, or maybe are being ignored by his advisers. Perhaps this explains Phil’s ire — he is misdirecting his anger broadly instead of focusing on his crappy advisers — who seem to be costing him millions.

Which brings us to our my original headline: Who the Hell are Phil Mickelson’s financial advisers . . . ?


Why so angry, Phil?



WhoTF Is Giving Howard Stern Financial Advice? (June 2012)

Advice for Rich Uncles and Others . . . (August 2007)


Golfer Phil Mickelson May Call It Quits Due To Climbing Tax Rates
Tony Nitti
Forbes, 1/21/2013

Category: Investing, Taxes and Policy, UnGuru

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

95 Responses to “Who the Hell Are Phil Mickelson’s Financial Advisers?”

  1. Seaton says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, BR. Who the hell is advising him so poorly—or is this just another of similar specious stunts by very wealthy people trying to influence lots of people to follow their angry lead, be angry at politicians you don’t like, and conflate multiple issues. I hope they find the happiness they’re searching for by this approach—press-announcements’-denouncements, instead of being ill-advised by their closest advisers.

  2. wcvarones says:

    Forbes forgot the 3.8% Obamacare tax, bringing dividend taxes to 23.8%, not 20%.

    And California additionally taxes all types of income at 13.3%, which was much of Mickelson’s beef.

    Any competent tax adviser should advise Mickelson to set up residency elsewhere. He only needs to spend 183 days per year out of state, which he probably does anyway.


    BR: No they didnt. Forbes:

    “When you consider that from now on, Mickelson will be liable for an additional 0.9% tax on his self-employment income and 3.8% tax on his net investment income after each exceeds $250,000, what’s left over from the multi-million dollar endorsement deal requiring him to sport a Rolex watch while playing private courses in exotic locales hardly seems worth it.”

  3. mpappa says:

    You can only do so much planning before you realize that same planning will be more effective when you move to a new state. Second to die insurance isn’t exactly cheap for a $180,000,000 net worth family but still has an amazing rate of return. However, even at 3% growth with no new earnings, his estate doubles in 18 years and he’ll only be 62. Your suggestions are in line with estate planning but moving to a lower tax state maximizes the results. Shouldn’t we all seek to maximize utility? And do you agree Government uses every dollar to it’s maximum efficiency? Most people wouldn’t mind so much if they knew their money was always being put to good use. Not the case with Government. If that were true, tax rates could easily be halved.


    BR: No doubt, Nevade or Florida should be his official residence

  4. ByteMe says:

    what’s left over from the multi-million dollar endorsement deal requiring him to sport a Rolex watch while playing private courses in exotic locales hardly seems worth it.

    When I read stuff like that from media like Forbes I wonder if their readers will “get it”. And then I figure that their subscription readers probably do and the pronouncements are for the secondary readers/ignoramia who just will not get the joke and will repeat it ad-nauseum on the intertubes to back their mostly specious rants about taxation rates for income levels they’ll never attain in their lifetime.

    There. I said it. :)

  5. ByteMe says:

    And I was under the impression that Mickelson lived in Orlando near Tiger.

  6. right, re: Domicile..

    one (would/might) think that PhillyMick, if this were *Serious, long of Cali-landia, would have been heard from, on the Tax Front, long-ago..

    wouldn’t be, too, quick to Short this..”…His sponsors (including accounting giant KPMG!) pay him $44 million per year. A more cynical type might assume the entire episode was an appeal to the golf playing demographics, who also do not care for increased taxes…”-angle (of the ‘Story’..)

    btw, Mickelson has, already, ‘apologized’..

  7. AHodge says:

    Aside from bad advice where i agree, what a lowlife scumbag
    you think with 180 big ones he could play for love of the game?
    he could use a spiritual lifestyle advisor too

  8. ilsm says:

    In terms of motivation, he has not achieved “self actualization” from golf or endorsements. Maybe not at a state a couple rungs below that.

    To assuage his lack of motivational development he could go Galt, and live in Honduras like an 1830′s South Carolina plantation owner.

    He could be what caused Smedley Butler to become a pacificist.

  9. A says:

    This makes about as much sense as the hilarious comment: “I don’t want to sell my Nortel stock, because I will be subjected to humungous capital gains.”

    Perhaps Philly F-up could help his tax situation by becoming a tad more philanthropic.

  10. rwboomtown says:

    I have read in this post and comments two terms that are bit surprising to me, Scumbag and ungrateful. So Phil spends his life becoming one of the best in the world at something and wants to keep more of what he earns and is a “scumbag” and “ungrateful”. Interesting point of view. I wonder if those that made those comments have any idea the amount of hours it takes to become that good at anything. I also find it interesting that people’s knee jerk response is to call people names that they have a disagreement on (we are talking about a disagreement on tax rates… Not something far more morally clear like throwing people in ovens).


    BR: I cannot speak to the scumbag epithet, but my experience in working with uber-wealthy people is that those with a sense of gratitude for the good fortune enjoy greater happiness and satisfaction in life. That is where my use of the word “ungrateful” comes from.

  11. EMichael says:

    After watching Mickelson sit next to the Barkley’s CEO at Barkley’s tournament a couple of years ago and reciting “The Big Lie” as the cause of the Great Recession( I am sure the wording was provided by Barkley’s), I started rooting against him whenever possible.

    He is what he is and always has been, a tremendously talented golfer who is a spoiled little rich kid.

  12. DeDude says:

    Hey that is great, let him get really mad and throw a temper tantrum and quit. If he gives up working then maybe I will get a chance to take over his job. If they pay me an 8 figure compensation per year then I would be more than happy to give back 40% to the society that created the conditions for such riches to be accumulated and safe for an individual. Heck I would be willing to pay double taxes (80%) if I could have such an income. Whenever these spoiled brads start whining about having to give something back, I always say “let them quit” – that will make room for someone with a better character to take over and enjoy the riches.

  13. You would think that this person would play for the love of the game, not for the money. He can easily move to Florida. However, for highly-paid athletes, they have to pay state income taxes at the place they earn them. As a result, even if he lives in Florida, but earns money for playing in California, the Golden State will withhold its fair share.

  14. number2son says:

    Most people wouldn’t mind so much if they knew their money was always being put to good use. Not the case with Government. If that were true, tax rates could easily be halved.

    Specious nonsense. Since when has any government existed that spent the people’s money in a way that satisfied everyone? Never.

    Indeed, you or I could easily take the budget, cutting here and there, and have a balanced result that only required 50 percent fewer taxes. Problem is, each of us would cut different things.

    That’s why we have a political process.

    And that’s why absolutist zealots are poisonous to working government.

  15. Lyle says:

    The problem is that Phil can be replaced as Tiger Woods was. If he does not play as much other golfers will get the sponsorships that he is getting, thus his problem will be reduced. If he does not play others will win the tournaments he does not enter and get the press and then the endorsements. Now if he believes he has enough then retirement is ok.

  16. EMichael says:

    “I’d like to add one more thing to that jobs thing or to the economy. You know, our jobs here in the United States, 47% of our jobs are government jobs, they cost us money. Whereas only 53% are producing money to help us grow out of this economic downturn. Whereas other countries, you take a look at China, 90% of their jobs are contributing to the government, only 10% are government jobs. Until we get private business job opportunities where we are raising money for the government, and really helping unemployment in that area, it really isn’t going to make much of a difference.”

    Phil Mickelson

  17. Moss says:

    I thought the % of Government jobs in US was closer to 10%. Sounds like he is terrible at math. I wonder when Fox will have his mis-information regurgitated.

  18. 1280pat says:

    The best part is, taxing him and everyone in that bracket doesn’t raise jack for the government. Not even confiscating ALL of his wealth would make ANY difference. The money and the numbers are between 70K and 120K.

  19. BennyProfane says:

    He doesn’t impress me as a man who is that dumb, but, you never know. Even if he is, as you say, he is surrounded by a ton of smart and experienced money people. KPMG indeed.

    Maybe, now that he’s approaching the end of his career, he is thinking of running for office? His first campaign speech? I mean, I hope so, because, otherwise, what a greedy, out of touch scumbag.

  20. manwhodoesthings says:

    When someone writes an opinion and leaves out key facts that would weaken their argument, their credibility is equal to the Nobel Peace Prize committee. This writer left out the 3.8% Obamacare tax and the new 13.3 % California state tax in an attempt to minimize the issue. Phil, Jack, Arnold, Ben, Sam, etc. worked their ass off to get to where they landed. It is their money and they pay much more than their “fair share”. This demonizing of people who take risks, work hard and give $millions to charity needs to stop.


    BR: As noted above, Forbes absolutely discusses the additional costs of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), it was subtle, but the reference was to the 3.8%:


    “When you consider that from now on, Mickelson will be liable for an additional 0.9% tax on his self-employment income and 3.8% tax on his net investment income after each exceeds $250,000, what’s left over from the multi-million dollar endorsement deal requiring him to sport a Rolex watch while playing private courses in exotic locales hardly seems worth it.”

    As to California, do we know for sure where he is officially domiciled ?

  21. wally says:

    “You know, our jobs here in the United States, 47% of our jobs are government jobs, they cost us money. Whereas only 53% are producing money to help us grow out of this economic downturn. ”
    This notion is pervasive. It is also misinformed. Government spending money into the economy is just as good as private companies doing so. The notion that government is less ‘efficient’ is simply incorrect… and all you have to do is look at direct comparisons such as Medicare vs private insurance companies, where Medicare wins hands-down.
    If you don’t believe that management and redistribution are valuable functions, then the same argument applies to all levels of management at private firms as well, including CEOs, CFOs and god knows what other fancy titles… and look what they get paid vis a vis their government counterparts.

  22. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Pardon my typical language, but Mickelson sounds like a spoiled, whiney little bitch. I fully agree with DeDude.

    Maybe Mickelson should move to very low taxation Afghanistan. I hear they have some killer sand traps.


    Q: How many hours does it take to get really good at golf? A: Who gives a shit. If he had struggled and starved for years to find a cure for cancer or some similar universally beneficial goal, I’d be impressed.

    It’s GOLF. Mickelson was probably (obviously) not born to a situation which required him to work as a child — doing such things as mow lawns or collect empty bottles for the deposit money so that he could help his parents keep a roof over their heads. Leisure is probably all he has known.

    I’m going to lobby my Congressman for an inescapable 40% Whiney Punk Bitch Tax.

    Forgot to say: Good morning, y’all.

  23. ben22 says:

    an extra 2,500 a year while performing brisk walking in long pants….I really feel for phil….I think assuming 48 million a year and a 60 hour workweek every week of the year phil pulls in over $15k per hour gross…so he loses out on 10 minutes in this case? Did I do that right? He likely wasted more time answering the stupid questions for that article.

    but that said, BR, I’m not sure how many of these suggestions help much right here right now, I’m not a CPa but know a little bit about taxes

    put money in muni funds…thats fine, but it still isn’t going to change his higher overall tax burden in a state like CA if he has “earned income” of 48 million a year, also, this suggestion assumes he doesn’t already have a lot of money in munis….maybe he does? Alternative suggestion: don’t win any big tournaments Phil, keep the “new money” checks smaller.

    2nd to die insurance…well, that creates a fat cost up front, if he wanted to really put one to work he’s looking at a huge policy given the size of his estate (for it to be worth it), even if he and his wife got super preferred rates (which I doubt Phil meets the weight requirements for) and they mec the policy its still going to be a large cost up front to fund it, to pay the advisors that I”m sure will draw it up for him, and the tax benefit of a 2nd to die isn’t really for the owners of the policy nor will it do anything for his earned income tax burden this year.

    charitable contributions and family foundations: perhaps this was already suggested to him or he’s already done/doing it?…the article seems to me to be about him wanting to keep more of his earned income in any given year…these suggestions are for him to give more of it away, so maybe the bad advisors already told him to do this and phil is greedy, or he already feels “maxed out” on charitable contributions? good suggestion, maybe its just that he’s the problem.

    tax deferred accounts: tricky here as well…I don’t know who employs Phil, I’m guessing maybe he doesn’t have a 401k, and even if he did, thats of little help at his income level….he can’t even do the catch up yet as he’s under age 50, so we’re looking at $17.5k there…the keogh would help…but what can you put in there total in 2013? ~$50-60k? A nice benefit, but on 48 million its still kinda small overall. I suppose if he does a keogh he can also do a traditional IRA….again…why would we think his advisors didn’t already suggest that? I’d truly be shocked if he wasn’t taking full advantage of tax deferred plans already.

    so, I’m with you BR, this article is pretty dumb, and nobody should feel all that bad for Phil. Personally though I don’t really blame the guy for considering moving to another state to lower his tax burden…quitting golf entirely

    well, give me a break…..

  24. ben22 says:

    see what I mean on the charity front:

    I’d guess this is not a case of bad advisors…but more likely a pain in the ass client

  25. [...] If Mickelson is indeed paying 62 to 63 percent of his income in taxes, he probably needs new financial advisers. When state, local, and federal taxes are combined, California does have the nation’s highest marginal tax rate, but it’s likely Mickelson’s marginal tax rate (the rate he pays on his last dollar) doesn’t top 52 percent once deductions for state and local taxes are included. And if he is investing, contributing to charity, or planning for retirement, there are an assortment of ways for him to legally lower his tax rate. [...]

  26. DeDude says:


    None of the jobs in private or public sectors are producing “money”. All jobs are producing “products/services” (which are exchanged for money either directly as in when you purchase something or indirectly as when you pay taxes as part of purchasing a “government services” package). Some of the production being exchanged for money is very useful, if not essential, other products/services are a total waste of the resources they require to be produced. The jobs where people are selling stupid little Chinese trinkets in dollar stores could disappear with no big loss for society, and then those people could do something useful like repairing our roads or keeping our food supply safe instead. But that would mean that we would spend more money in the public sector and less on silly self-indulgent private sector personal spending.

  27. tippet523 says:


    The only thing here is the the state tax in California that most likely has him peeved. If you look at the PGA pension in is crazy how much money these folks have in. unlike us who are capped at 51,000 a year they put millions in per year. (FEDEX CUP initially had 9/10 million in prize money deposited into the pension. they have to take a 5 year distribution starting at age 60 i think. He wants to move to a Zero tax state at which point is wife will F you i am not moving the kids out of the schools and it will be all over.

    That said an extra four million a year to live in Dallas or Florida is nothing to sneeze at.

  28. EMichael says:


    The quote in my post is from Mickelson.

  29. Bridget says:

    Can you sing Fl-or-ida here I come?

    California and New York are both notorious for trying to squeeze taxes out of anybody who sets foot in the state. Mickelson would be well advised to sell all of his California holdings and avoid Pebble Beach like the plague.

  30. nofoulsontheplayground says:

    I don’t see how he gets 62% or more in taxes unless he mistakenly thinks he’s paying Social Security and Medicare taxes on his entire income instead of only the first $110,000 in income.

  31. dow says:

    Shorter Phil Mickelson: taxes are for little people.

  32. techy says:

    I wish I made enough money so that I can move to California. Do I really want to move to Texas because of low income tax? what about the high property tax or high sales tax in these income tax free states?

  33. DeDude says:


    Sorry. Well no surprise that a person this ignorant would also say something that ignorant. Pretty amazing when you realize that the thing he is “producing” is putting little balls into holes in the ground so that someone else can take them out again. He must have read a little Keynes and not quite gotten the irony. I guess you can be a genius in golf and an idiot when it comes to economy and civics.

  34. tippet523 says: this goes over the basics of the plan.


  35. Slash says:

    I really hate gaining weight. I’m gonna stop eating so I don’t have to deal with it.

    And Christ, I am so sick of people who say government jobs don’t create any worth (FYI, I do not work for any government, nor do any of my immediate family). What’s it worth to have police and fire protection? What’s it worth to have public schools? What’s it worth to have trash collection and code enforcement? What’s it worth to have a court system where you at least have a chance at having a serious grievance addressed? What’s it worth to have a “safety net” for people in economic distress so you don’t have to wade through an army of beggars at every public place? We can have a debate about the efficacy of these various institutions, but I think even the dumbest among us can agree that having them is better than not having them, like in a tax-free paradise such as Somalia.

    As some people have put it, social programs are revolution insurance. And taxes are the price we pay to live in a reasonably decent society. I’d say rich people in America have it pretty goddam good when their biggest complaint is a tax hike of 5%. My rent is going up this year, an increase of about 6%. And then of course there’s the payroll tax “increase” of 2%. So my expenses just from those two things have gone up by nearly as much as Phil’s did. But I’m not gonna be making over $40 million. And my net worth sure as hell isn’t $180 million. So yeah, I feel Phil’s pain.

  36. GeorgeBurnsWasRight says:

    I suspect that Phil doesn’t understand his personal tax situation, and isn’t paying 62%.

    Almost no one can be the best in the world at something unless almost all their attention is focused on what they do best. Excellence generally requires single-minded focus.

    He probably understands money about as well as I understand how to repair my car. No one is good at everything.

  37. woodahy says:

    I’d also recommend contributing appreciated stock in a taxable account to charity rather than giving a cash contribution. This allows the donor to deduct the FMV of the stock without paying any taxes on the gain.

  38. jaymaster says:

    There’s another tax reduction tidbit that applies to probably 90% of us (though not Phil).

    The tax rate on qualified dividends and long term cap gains is still ZERO for married joint filers making less than $72.5 k (half that for single filers).

    I’m planning to retire in 3-5 years, and I plan to have a few years of low income. So I’m sitting on some decent cap gains that I will take during those lean years.

    But it’s important to keep our income below $72,500 during those years. There is a major tax incentive for “going Galt” in certain situations.

    The way I understand it, if our income were to go to $72,501, we would suddenly owe 15% tax on the divs and cap gains that were previously tax free. So planning and thinking ahead are very important.

  39. Bridget says:

    Note to Taxifornia: Figure out how to clip the wings on the golden geese before plucking them.

  40. Bridget says:

    I should have said, before taking their eggs. :)

  41. TacomaHighlands says:

    Ahhh…the distress of the privileged. Once you grasp the concept of privileged distress, you’ll see it everywhere: the rich feel “punished” by taxes; whites believe they are the real victims of racism; employers’ religious freedom is threatened when they can’t deny contraception to their employees; English-speakers resent bilingualism — it goes on and on. Confronting this distress is tricky, because neither acceptance nor rejection is quite right. The distress is usually very real, so rejecting it outright just marks you as closed-minded and unsympathetic. It never works to ask others for empathy without offering it back to them. So here’s my sad for ol’ Phil. “Bless your heart….you poor baby. I hope you get better financial guidance soon. I’m sure Barry can help you honey.”

  42. EMichael says:

    Anytime I see a charitable trust(like Mickelson’s) the antennae go up. See Pickens;, McCain’s, etc., for examples.

    I agree that Mickelson is not paying anywhere near what he says he is paying, and doesn’t even know it. Conversely, I thought athletes paid state income taxes in the states they earn the income in, not their residence?

  43. [...] is Phil Mickelson thinking?  (Big Picture updated [...]

  44. BennyProfane says:

    “Anytime I see a charitable trust(like Mickelson’s) the antennae go up. See Pickens;, McCain’s, etc., for examples.”

    Or Livestrong.

    I swore off big charities a long time ago. What a scam most are.

  45. jspeart says:

    I applaud Phil for his candor. He might just be fed up with politicians telling him he isn’t paying his fair share. All the while, they lard up spending bills for their donors and voting blocks. They let bankers, who break the law, off with a slap on the wrist.

    Phil and others may just want to keep their production and not have it confiscated from them from Federal, state, and local politicians. Of course, he could pay advisers money in order to keep more of his own production and I’m sure he does. But now he needs to uproot his family and move to another state so that he can save a few bucks. The guy is tired of having a bullseye on his back. I don’t blame him. Please don’t call Phil selfish. Paying taxes is not an act of charity. Charity can only come when it is voluntary.

  46. Lugnut says:

    Sounds like he wants to keep wha he has while he’s alive, not figured out how to doante it and keep his heirs hooked up when he dies. Just change your zipcode to some gated community in Florida, and viola, you have an extra $5+MM in your pocket per year. Maximizing tax deferred accounts is going to get him that much coin is it?

    He dosesnt need a new advisor, he just needs a moving van and some change of address labels.

    “Proposition 30 added three percentage points to the marginal state income tax rate for California’s highest-income taxpayers, bringing it to 13.3 percent. That action raised California over other high-tax jurisdictions to a marginal rate of 51.9 percent, slightly higher than New York City’s level. Hawaii was the only other place with a calculated rate above 50 percent”

    The point of your article should be that the uber rich might be starting to rebel a little against confiscatory tax policies. Money abhors a vacuum almost as much as it abhors a legislator with a deficit.

  47. Bokolis says:

    Tubby’s Whingeing About Taxes? Cry me a river, dude. Use taxes makes up a bunch of the stagger.

    What if we vaulted into the 21st Century and, for top earners, dumped a static tax system for a dynamic one? For example, every year you earned 7-figures, your marginal rate would bump upwards accordingly. To boot, after a certain point of making millions upon millions, you’d be disqualified from receiving gov’t retirement benefits (and you’d still have to pay in).

    It’s no wonder why these cowboys don’t want to fund the parts of government that would grow smart enough to tax the balls off of them.

  48. VRWC says:

    You all are focusing on the national tax picture, and while Mickelson was clearly ticked off about his total tax bill, the only thing he’s actually considering DOING about it is moving out of California.

    This is a totally sensible reaction and one that most golfers took in favor of Florida and Arizona long ago.

    California is completely dysfunctional. We have 12% of the population and 33% of the nation’s welfare cases. Estimates of unfunded pension liabilities run as high as $500 billion and the only reason the state can sell any bonds is because the muni markets assume (probably correctly) that the Feds will bail the state out.

    California has lifeguards who make over $200K per year…. And mid level school administrators who retire on $400K per year. Ours is the ONLY state in the country that allows pensions to be based upon the final year’s salary alone…. And also allows overtime, unused vacation and sick days to be added to the base salary. Our prison guards make three times what prison guards in Texas make…. The UC university system boasts more than one administrator for EVERY professor….

    Over the last 20 years the population has risen by 10 million, while the number of tax payers has risen by only 150,000 and at the same the Medicaid rolls have grown by 7 million.

    In addition to the highest tax rates, California has by far the most progressive tax schedule…. Which means state tax revenue is highly dependent upon the most volatile types of income…. Capital gains and bonuses. In 1999, 10% of state tax revenue came from capital gains taxes on the sale of a single stock…. Cisco Systems…. The government pocketed the cash and then increased the budget under the assumption that the one time windfall would repeat every year.

    They were genuinely surprised when it did not, and the loss of tech boom related revenue blew a $25 billion hole in the budget. Forget the happy talk coming out of Sacramento now…. the one thing you can be sure of is that by the end of the year Jerry Brown will be scratching his head at yet another “surprise” budget deficit.

    Parts of the state (including where Mickelson…. And I…. live) are still wonderful places, but large parts of the state have literally become Third World in nature, where the rule of law no longer truly exists…. If you doubt me, just read this missive by a 4th generation Californian ;

    I’m sorry, but the only real question is why Mickelson stuck around this long.


    BR: You are pulling outliers to make your arguments — thats a disingenuous way to prove a point.

    Don’t tell us what the highest paid life guard or teacher makes — what is the median salary for a teacher?

  49. BennyProfane says:

    Maybe Putin will make him a citizen. Do they play golf over there?

  50. VennData says:


    You say, “You all are focusing on the national tax picture, and while Mickelson was clearly ticked off about his total tax bill, the only thing he’s actually considering DOING about it is moving out of California.”

    However money earned in a tournament is liable to the state where the money is earned.

    And to paraphrase Yogi Berra, nobody wants to live in California any more, all those people there make it unbearable.

  51. VRWC says:

    You are correct about the state taxes, but only $3.7 million of Mickelson’s $60 million in income last year was tournament winnings…. the rest was endorsement income, so something close to 95% of Phil’s income is taxed by the state of california.

    I acknowledged that the population has increased in California, but you have to ask yourself who it is that is leaving and who is staying…. look at the numbers;

    Over the last 20 years the population of California has increased by10 million…. but the number of taxpayers has risen by only 150,000 (on a net basis)…. and the number of Medicaid recipients has risen by 7 million.

  52. VRWC says:


    You are correct about the state taxes, but only $3.7 million of Mickelson’s $60 million in income last year was tournament winnings…. the rest was endorsement income, so something close to 95% of Phil’s income is taxed by the state of california.

    I acknowledged that the population has increased in California, but you have to ask yourself who it is that is leaving and who is staying…. look at the numbers;

    Over the last 20 years the population of California has increased by10 million…. but the number of taxpayers has risen by only 150,000 (on a net basis)…. and the number of Medicaid recipients has risen by 7 million.

  53. Lugnut says:

    Stuck in the time out box with Petey, apparently

    “Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be moderated
    Nothin’ approved and no where to po-o-st I wanna be moderated”
    Just get me to the inbox and and please don’t abstain
    Hurry hurry hurry before I go insane
    I can’t control my keyboard I can’t control my brain
    Oh no no no no no


  54. DeDude says:

    “Paying taxes is not an act of charity”

    No it’s an act of mature contribution to societal responsibility – and paying back for the opportunities and protection you were given. If you think you are paying back too much, then try go living in one of those tax free havens called Somalia, Ethiopia or Afghanistan.

  55. Lugnut says:

    ^You wouldnt by any chance happen to be a member of the French Parliment, would you?

  56. ancientone says:

    I guess this means that Phil would never have played golf at all back in the 1950s, when the top tax rate was 90%.

  57. hue says:

    do higher taxes damp or dampen Lefty’s enthusiasm?
    Phil’s mea culpa, I’m sorry for having said out loud what I said, not what I said.

    I remember when Phil came along in the early 90s, he was suppose to be the next big thing in golf. Then came Tiger. Phil didn’t win his first major until 2004, finally overcoming his risky aggressive playing style. Hugely popular with the gallery “You da Man,” the same aw shucks cowboy qualities Bubbas liked with Dubya.

  58. DeDude says:

    @Petey W, 11:41,

    YOUR pain is something I feel and empathize with. You write something that somehow trigger the filter and gets locked up for hours, then finally published way up there in the tread where people don’t know that something new has been inserted.

  59. Lugnut says:

    @Petey and all the rest who have a problem with a pro golfer complaining. The PGA makes a ton of money off of their golfers, through TV contracts. The TV networks make a ton of money off of the golfers through advertising they self, because millions like to watch what they do, as do the tournament sponsors. Why the resentment that they make money to perform at the highest level of their sport? Hate on Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfien, dont’ hate on a golfer, he’s not screwing anyone over or make the taxpayers underwrite a risky shot that ends up shanked in a bunker. People interview them and ask their opinion, why is it so shocking to hear when someone complains about their taxes going up. Only difference between him and me (besides our W-2), is I don’t have a microphone in my face when I say it,

  60. beaufou says:

    Mickelson has apologized for revealing his true douche-self. It was all a big misunderstanding, he actually thought he would have to pay taxes but found out he could evade it in many ways. What a relief.

  61. donna says:

    Our taxes will go up, too. We’re probably going to be paying about a 35-37 percent rate. I’m quite happy about it, since it means kids like mine maybe won’t have to pay quite so much for their education and maybe will have health insurance and maybe will have a little better shot at getting a job again. I’m really, really tired of the rich whining about their taxes while these poor kids can’t even pay for college and can’t get good jobs because companies think making more and more profit and paying execs more and more is more important than paying their employees well. I have one who graduated this December from UCSD in biochemistry, and the pay for entry level lab rat jobs is outrageously low. But he isn’t quite ready for grad school yet, so he’ll take a crappy low paying job for a while because that’s what’s available, even with a great education from one of the best biotech schools in the country. I’m really, really sick of the whining from someone who plays golf for a living and others who are so well off.

    And yes, we are quite fortunate to have been able to afford to send him — even if paying for our kids’ educations has left us in debt for now. We know WE are the lucky ones. Even if we don’t make 43 million a year. What’s a little more in taxes for a better country and a better world and a better start for the next generation?

  62. DeDude says:

    @Lugnut, I don’t see anybody complaining about the amount of money he makes, its the fact that he doesn’t seem to understand why he is asked to pay more to the common pot – and actually thinks he is paying 62-63% (doesn’t even bother finding out the facts before he complain). He had all the advantages of living in California and now when he is asked to put a little more back into that community he starts whining.

    The best thing you can say about him is that in contrast to the majority of these rich Golf tour whiners, he at least stayed and paid back to his state for a while – most of them move to some tax heaven as soon as they start making money.

  63. Slash says:

    Like some of us said (in response to Lugnut, though this may be an exercise in futility), Mickelson is free to move somewhere that works better for him tax-wise. The relatively small increases he seems to be complaining about do not seem all that ruinous, for someone whose net worth is quite high.

    I too doubt that his tax burden is now in the 60%+ range. Nobody who isn’t an idiot is paying that much. Not in the U.S.

  64. AHodge says:

    RWboomtown you completely misread my “scumbag”
    good for him for working hard at golf, even dedicated
    and making nine figures–while apparently being taxed
    hes a scumbag or insane if he would actually throw his dedication away and stop playing out of tax righteousness
    how dedicated would that be, Huh?
    particularly as there are all kinds of other tax reduction available
    i think it could be all BS for his rightwing buddies
    but saying that he is either about nothing but money, or complete tax ranting BS
    scumbag in either case

  65. MidlifeNocrisis says:

    I sure don’t remember Arnold Palmer complaining about the 70% top tax bracket in the 1960′s. I’m guessing that Phil sits in his hotel room at night and watches Fox News……… and therefore doesn’t know much about the real world.

  66. Slash says:

    RE “tax heaven” – For example, Texas. Texans love to brag about the no income tax thing, and it’s great (if only because it’s one less tax return to worry about), but the fact is, Texas finances are not all sunshine and baskets of kittens and puppies. Texas has some jacked-up two-year budget (whereby they budget for two years instead of every year), I don’t know why except that Texas state government has never been particularly smart.


    “Last session, lawmakers used just about every trick of the trade to make the books balance without having to make even deeper reductions to basic state services in the 2012-13 two-year budget. They left a giant Medicaid IOU; borrowed some tax dollars from 2014-15 while kicking some costs into that budget; and relied heavily on billions in fines and fees that have been accumulating for years in so-called dedicated accounts. Those accounting maneuvers have been derided by some Republican activists as smoke and mirrors that created the illusion of a balanced, conservative budget. Without them, budget writers would have had to dock another $12 billion from the $81 billion general fund. They were banking on the economy getting better — and it did. But Senate Finance Committee Chairman Tommy Williams said legislators will first have to begin cleaning up the untidiness left over from 2011 before they can restore some of the downsized services.”

    Texas is doing better than a lot of places, but we have stuff that needs to be paid for and that money has to come from somewhere. Just because it isn’t funded from a state income tax doesn’t mean taxpayers won’t have to shell out for it.

    17.9 percent of Texans live below the poverty line. Medicaid represents a third of the Texas budget and that percentage is not going down. 25.7 percent of Texas children live in poverty. Maybe Texas is paradise if you’re rich, but then again, being rich almost anywhere is pretty damn good.

  67. Slash says:

    Also, though I’m not a homeowner myself, I hear homeowners here gripe about property taxes and insurance rates. People seem to think both of them are too high.

  68. jdjed says:

    Barry, you’re pimping the interview to pump your PVs, populist cred and $ management business. Who says he is ungrateful? Michelson has a right to complain about his bankrupt state’s high taxes and pay lower taxes in Florida or Nevada. Would you manage FA like California manages its finances? In the past you have claimed to lean towards libertarianism; I doubt it when you blog like this.


    BR: I doubt Phil or Howard will be calling me anytime soon. And anytime some cocksucker worth $180 million dollars goes boohoo about his taxes, I say fuck him — and fuck you too!

    PS: WHats a PV ?

  69. Takeyourfinger says:

    To add to the above discussions, California’s Proposition 30, which passed in November 2012, was a retroactive income tax increase (retroactive to all of 2012). For Phil N, it increased the state income tax from 10.3 to 13.3%. I think that a lot of people were pretty offended by the retroactive nature of it.

  70. Angryman1 says:

    Mickelson, not Mickelson………pathetic.

    libertarianism is the modern day marxism. Pure fraud. Mickelson has leeched off society and grabbed undeserved wealth for decades yet, we have people like jdjed who complain.

    Here is the real truth. Wealthy who live decadently pay a awful price. Whether through revolution or deevolution(nazism). When the poor are so large, they look for the “gods” to save them and their avatar. This avatar will break the rule of law and destroy the owners of capital. Seizing the property, redirecting the wealth and “restoring the traditional order”.

    Mickelson frankly, is not the worst and sad this slipped out, but it exposes many people on here for what they are. jdjed just exposed himself as globalist who wants the capital owners to own the world.

  71. Glen says:

    Wow, just wow. The man makes a lot of money for knocking a little white ball into a hole. He must be very good.

    But it sure sounds like his financial advisers are not doing their best. Well, fraud and corruption are rather a way of life for the financial world right now, and wasn’t KPMG right in their on all the Enron accounting? Maybe he’s just getting ripped off rather than taxed at an impossible rate.

  72. slowkarma says:

    The thing about a lot of rich people who’ve made their money in things like the arts, and sports, is that they’re also human. They spend almost all their time doing something that is very difficult, and which involves a lot of work and a lot of stress, and then somebody throws a number at them — 60% or whatever — and they’re appalled. The government is taking more than half of what I earn? This becomes particularly intolerable if you are (as I suspect Mickelson is) basically conservative, and you don’t like a lot of things that the government is spending the money on.

    I notice that quite a few rich people are coming out like this lately — like the Whole Foods guy. You don’t have to agree with what they say, but I don’t think that they can out-of-hand be condemned as scum bags, or ungrateful. A lot of very smart people think the government has some fundamental problems that are not being tended to, and they are not so much worried about what is being taken from them, as they are about the direction the country is going.

    I would also object to a lot of the analysis of Mickelson as only a spoiled rich kid, though I suspect he is also that. But the Phil Mickelsons of the world are not being given oceans of money for hitting a little white ball into a hole, any more than Kobe Bryant is being paid millions of dollars a year for shooting baskets. They’re being paid that money for holding up an entire industry…unless you think entertainment is fundamentally wrong, and that we should all be going out to the bandstand in the park, or our Little Theater productions in the neighbor’s garage. I live in LA, where quite literally hundreds of thousands of people are supported in some way by the entertainment industry, and are well paid to do it — everything from food trucks to hair stylists to security guards and animal trainers. That’s what the Phil Mickelsons get the big bucks for, because the entertainment industry doesn’t work very well without stars.

  73. jdjed says:

    Angryman1, LOL, looks like you too suffer from fat finger syndrome. I’ll pass on commenting on your diatribe.

  74. BennyProfane says:

    “That’s what the Phil Mickelsons get the big bucks for, because the entertainment industry doesn’t work very well without stars.”

    I thought it was because he was the Great White Hope about ten years ago, and then finally started winning a little, after the other guy screwed up in public.

  75. cthwaites says:

    Add in fixed and variable annuities for even more tax deferral

  76. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Lugnut, if you’re still reading this thread, I’m not hating on him because he’s a wealthy golfer. I do have some disdain for someone who makes a living, at all (much multi-millions), playing a game, and having the audacity to complain about ANYTHING.

    Look around, man, there’s some real hurt going on in this world for people who have worked very hard at what they do, but for one reason or another, have been cast aside AND suffered the indignity of being called deadbeats or dead weight. Then, there are people like disabled vets.

    Context is everything.

    Mickelson is acting like a whiney bitch. He should be thankful he’s not a Chinese factory worker.

  77. Jack says:

    BR: For a while I thought you might have been easing off. After your response to jdjed, I’m convinced I’m wrong. Attaboy!

    Cynical me firmly believes Phil is getting paid to come out with these remarks. Capitalism at work dontchhaknow?

    Mickelson doesn’t need a financial advisor as much as he needs a brand manager. Oh wait, is that the Koch boys calling?

  78. Slash says:

    Oh jeez, yeah, bring up the Whole Foods douchebag. The guy who does not know the meaning of the word “fascism.”

    You know, one thing the past couple years (if not the past decade) has demonstrated to me is how many rich people are such goddam drama queens. As a person of almost exactly median means, I don’t expect rich people to be happy about taxes that go up.

    I do expect them to be grownups about it, instead of whiny little bitches. I expect them to not compare Obama to Mussolini or Hitler, to not imply that a really quite small percentage increase in their tax burden is a life-changing event and to not tell their much-lower-paid employees that if they vote for Obama, they’re going to lose their jobs, like that douchebag David Siegel did. For a rather lengthy profile of this piece of work, check out “Queen of Versailles.” You start out (and the title implies that you should) sympathize with him because his gold digger wife is spending his money as fast as he makes it, and by the end of the movie, you feel sorry for her and see him for the suppurating pustule of a human being he really is. And if you have any doubt as to that, note that he made his money selling timeshares.

    How do people so dumb become so rich? Are they just less dumb than the rest of us, or do they just have fewer scruples?

  79. victor says:

    I know several very, very rich individuals who think mostly “at the margin” every time they are confronted with making even the least significant economic decision. One of them recently scoffed at paying a not exorbitant mark up on a pound of kosher lox at a nice, quaint delicatessen “when I can get it two blocks away for 2/3 of the price”. May be Phil operates like my friend. Generally one’s economic decisions should not be based on taxation considerations rather on the overall soundness of them, everybody knows this. The tax hikes Phil is facing are not onerous by a long shot, and I read that the man still has several years to fight it out on the course, not to mention current and subsequent streams of revenues, assuming he toughs it out and stays the course. However:

    Has anyone considered that the man is simply burned out and he wants out and the taxation thing is just an excuse remember Bjorn Borg? Further BR: the straight forward, short list of tax reduction options that Phil, could use may soon become shorter yet if the hunt to close loopholes gathers steam (BO promised he’d go after them).

  80. “…whiny little bitches…”

    “…They’re being paid that money for holding up an entire industry…”

    “… — everything from food trucks to hair stylists to security guards and animal trainers. That’s what the Phil Mickelsons get the big bucks for, because the entertainment industry doesn’t work very well without stars…”

    a Quote, or Two.., from ‘one Who knows’..


    A Quote from ‘those’ that Pretend (to *understand..), at Best..

    or, differently, “F*** those No Talent ‘I Think I know(s)–Who have No F***ing Clue (How to, actually, Do It..)”

    (if It were That EZ, let Them Compete..)

    til’ then..?..”whingeing” (??) “Bl** M*”.

  81. [...] at 2:00 on January 23, 2013 by CathiefromCanada I used to like Phil Mickelson until he started whining about how awful it is that he is going to have to pay more taxes on an income of merely $40 million a year. As Tbogg [...]

  82. NOTE: I am sometimes surprised when a post unexpectedly garners lots of views, comments and links — this was one of them.

    When I post something like this, it is not to spark a political argument (That’s what the gun and global warming posts are for!)

    Rather, it is to identify the “Teachable Moment.”

  83. PeterR says:

    Loose lips get views it would seem!

    Personally I found the various adjectives appropriate and refreshing.

    Too much Sacred Cow bullshite out there to avoid the plain truth at times.

    Well done.

  84. jeff fisher says:

    If you are very rich you should live wherever you want to live, and ignore trivialities like taxes.

    California’s a great choice, particularly for a golfer. Can’t buy that weather in Florida.

  85. Free Willy says:

    Hold on…it wasn’t Phil who said he might quit playing, that was speculated by the media when he said he was going to have to make some drastic changes. It is more likely that he would relocate to FL or TX before he would stop playing….worked for Tiger. And while we’re at it, why not bitch a little about your ungrateful partner. Government has the audacity to take a bigger share of his income than he gets and then criticize him for ‘not paying his fair share’. Seems like a fair share needs to be imposed on everyone before that argument is attempted.

  86. 873450 says:

    Let’s not cry for Phil, who will somehow find a way to survive U.S. tyranny. Instead, we should worry about his poor caddy – no more trickle down when your job creator quits and switches their residency to tax havens like Texas and Russia.

  87. mwbugg says:

    By the way, the PGA is a non profit organization who’s head had a salary over $5 million. Six administrators had salaries over a million.

    From Golf Digest “With a pay package of $5.1 million in 2009, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem leads our list of the highest-paid golf-association executives. The PGA Tour, a tax-exempt organization, reported revenue of $954.5 million in 2009, according to its latest tax return. Its three tours (PGA, Champions and Nationwide) played 115 tournaments in 2009 and distributed $337.9 million in prize money and raised $109 million for charity.”

  88. I’m kind of a vested interest because I run a tiny 501(c)(3) but … you really can’t take it with you, even you invest in an immortality drug and want to be first testee. Just ask Ted Williams’ frozen head. If Phil Mickelson can’t find even a handful of the 1 billion 501(c)(3)s in the world which are doing something he’d like to see happen, then he needs an ‘imagination’ advisor.

    Thanks Barry.

  89. Andy T says:

    “NOTE: I am sometimes surprised when a post unexpectedly garners lots of views, comments and links — this was one of them.

    When I post something like this, it is not to spark a political argument (That’s what the gun and global warming posts are for!)

    Rather, it is to identify the “Teachable Moment.””

    — Now, that’s funny….. “I’m shocked that making fun of rich guy complaining about his taxes (some of which were retroactive) would garner lots of comments.” You’re a funny guy….glad I still swing by occasionally…

    Keep on keepin’ on…

  90. halfspin says:

    These wealthy idiots need to stop complaining about paying 63% or 50% or whatever tax rates on some theoretical nominal tax-free income they’d be making in Galt’s Golfing Gulch and start considering that they’re making millions a year knocking balls into holes while most people are paying for the privilege of doing that. Or do you think the water rights keeping those putting greens green come free of charge?

  91. CentralIowaFarmer says:

    Yesterday, when I first came across this post on Phil Mickelson, I thought it pretty funny and was thinking “yeah, he’s always been a bit of a whiny little bitch…..” But I know that from my cousin who was a KPMG consultant and spent a day with him, that Phil is a professional and a hard worker. What my take away from is this: the more successful that you are at a[n] XXX, whether it be a golfer, BB player, soccer stare, musician, singer, plumber, etc. is that once you get to a certain level of success, your time is better rewarded by managing your money than by doing whatever it is that made you your money. And that is because of the idiotic tax laws in our country. Earned income is taxed at a much higher rate than capital gains – and capital gains can be shifted to all sorts of LEGAL entities, true, but we are giving people jobs to navigate the legal system, and that is not really productive, capitalistically. Giving jobs to people because they can move things around into different piles? Hell, my daughter is not yet one year old and she thinks she is sorting clothes…..There is a lot of incentive to me to be a manager of our farm, and/or just rent it for cash, and not do the actual work. And I came back to the farm to do the actual work, but financially it makes sense for me to be a manager, or to pay someone cheap wages and no health care to work for me. I’d say Warren Buffet is arguing for the same thing – I’d be curious what he would say about a flat tax, or a consumption tax, or something similar. Time to do away with income tax, and/or stop differentiating between non-profits, capital gains and earned income, etc.

    Yeah, I could pay someone a percent to manage my wealth, but they’d be making more than me. So it is better if I figure out how to do it. Which basically takes me out of the work force/labor force. I can see why Phil is pissed – everyone is making a small percent off of his skill and entertainment value, when he put in a large part of the work. If he is like me, he gets pissed when Mitt pays 13% because it is capital gains or “tax-deferred” and he pays a lot more since his money is earned income. Basically, you really have to love doing something to keep doing it once you get as successful as Phil is. Because I’m sure he is smart enough to manage his own money (or could be, if he dedicated his time and energy into learning about these things), and with his net worth, he’d probably at least break even if he gave up his day job, especially if he could keep his endorsements.

    Tax laws in this country are skewed in such a way that it makes financial sense not to work, especially once you become very successful at something. IF you have some sort of net worth, or most of your wealth comes from earned income. I’ve always been suspicious of the phrase “unearned income.”


    BR: Back when tax rates were 70% or eve n 90%, it never stopped people from working. If anyone thinks maximizing their take home pay is the purpose of their life, they will never be happy or satisfied — a fully realized, productive human being.

  92. jbharb0 says:

    Can someone explain the logic behind:

    • Contributions to your favorite charity(s) to reduce gross total taxable income;

    I can see how Microsoft does it, drop a few million win8 CDs off at the local charity and those $.05 disks that were collecting dust are now a $125/ea write off against last years profits…

    But what tax difference would it make for me to give to a charity? If I donate $1000 doesn’t that just mean I won’t be taxed on that money? So I get $300 back on taxes? Sounds like I’m down $700 on the deal.

    Same goes for donating a car, I can sell my protege for $2000 and pay taxes on that, or I can donate it and get a $2000 write-off. My algebra is a bit rusty, but it’s going to take a really unbalanced equation to get the latter to be a better deal.

    Am I missing something or am I just not in the proper caste for this to apply to me?

  93. [...] had perhaps the most memorable reaction: If he’s really paying “62, 63%” in taxes, then “Who the Hell are Phil Mickelson’s financial advisers?” (Emphasis Ritholtz’s.)  Whoever they are, they and Lefty could learn a thing or two from [...]

  94. [...] last week’s Phil Mickelson discussion, I received lots of emails and comments from financial advisers, accountants and [...]

  95. [...] but I’m guessing reposted from The Big Picture).  The one from The Big Picture, Who the Hell are Phil Michelson’s Financial Advisors? takes down the whiny millionaire golfer’s tax complaints. Ritholtz’s point is that any [...]