A word about Kanye West’s finances.
A couple of days ago, Yeezy took to Twitter, claimed he had $53 million in personal debt, and asked Mark Zuckerberg—sadly, a non-Twitter user—to “invest $1 billion into Kanye West ideas.” This caused something of a stir. Then on Monday, he clarified a bit. “Yes I am personally rich and I can buy furs and houses for my family … but I need access to more money in order to bring more beautiful ideas to the world.” Kanye also added that he was “this generation’s Disney,” again implored Zuckerberg, as well as Google’s Larry Page, for an investment round, and then criticized Silicon Valley types for being more interested in building schools in Africa than helping the rap artists they listen to. So, you know, he Kanyed. Is that a verb yet? It should be a verb.
Let’s stay focused on the money, though. According to sources who spoke with TMZ, the $53 million Kanye’s referring to may not actually be debt. Instead, they say, it’s personal cash the rapper/designer/monologist invested in his various music and fashion ventures. In which case, that would pretty much be the opposite of debt. The guy is just bootstrapping a self-funded startup.
But if it is debt? Then $53 million is probably not an unmanageable amount, assuming that’s where Kanye’s liabilities end.
First, given his subsequent tweets regarding furs and real estate, I doubt that Kanye is talking about his net worth. The man could easily owe $53 million to his bank and still have $100 million in assets, in which case, all is well in the House of West.
And even if he’s technically insolvent—which is is to say, his debts outstrip his assets—chances are he can still pay his obligations. Forget that he’s married to Kim Kardashian—they apparently keep their money separate, anyway. According to Forbes, the man himself has been making somewhere around $22 million to $30 million a year. Using the low end to be conservative, that would leave him with debt equal to 240 percent of his income. Contra Money, that doesn’t actually make him a “typical American”—the median U.S. household with debt owes about 107 percent of its income.* But considering the low interest rate environment of the past few years, I find it hard to imagine he would be paying more than 10 percent on those loans (the figure is probably less), in which case he could whittle down that whole balance in five years and still have somewhere around half of his multimillion-dollar income left, on top of his wife’s. (Credit Karma says he’d owe $1.1 million a month.)
Another way to put all this: For Kanye, $53 million in debt is basically equivalent to the median American household, which earns $53,000 a year, carrying $127,000 in debt—or, you know, a mortgage.
But anyway, none of this should be interpreted as discouraging Mark Zuckerberg from investing $1 billion in Kanye West ideas. It’d be no worse than some of Zuck’s past projects, certainly.
*Correction Feb. 17, 2016: This post originally miscredited a Money article to CNN, which used to be affiliated with Money but is no longer.