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Fame & Fortune: Actress Meg Tilly
Tragic childhood teaches her: Live within your means

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Bankrate: Were those happy years for you?

Tilly: My happiest years are now. In a way, raising my kids saved me, because in parenting my children, I re-parented myself. They were an enormous gift, a blessing in my life. Just because you're out of an abusive childhood doesn't mean that it doesn't take you a long time to learn that you have the right to your own emotional and physical boundaries. Even though people are telling you you're wonderful, you're fabulous, your self-esteem can be very, very low, to where you feel like you're living a lie. I had challenging relationships, which I would not now because now I am stronger.

Bankrate: Did you have thoughts of suicide?

Tilly: After I learned that I could not be a dancer anymore, I did consider not being here anymore. I remember one time, I went to the top of the building where I was living and just thought how easy it would be (to jump). I didn't get so far as to get up on the ledge or anything. It wasn't a matter of being angry at the world; it was just being so tired of the struggle. But what saved me was that my family wouldn't understand that it wasn't something else.

Bankrate: Did you take an interest in your financial security during those years?

Tilly: No, not until the last little while. It's ironic, but in my first marriage, everybody thought I'd married him to advance myself or for his money, but he had enormous debt. During those on-screen years, I couldn't use credit cards. It was very, very challenging. He was in big, big debt, and for me, that was terrifying. He did have an enormous debt that I, in marrying him, was helping pay off, and it took a long time to pay it off. In order to get groceries, I had to go to the fourth floor of this bank and have them sign off on a check so I could cash it to buy groceries to feed the kids. Limos would drop us off, he liked to have a fancy address, but there was no furniture in the house, just a few rented pieces, that's it. We didn't have any money. It was a facade again.

You can get out of it. I did get him out of it, and then I left (laughs). And I saved and I'm comfortable and able to send my kids to college and I have my retirement in order, but it was very scary. I'd never had debt in my life. We were poor, but I never had debt. Those were scary years, very scary years, and I had my children to take care of.

Bankrate: As someone who has known both rich and poor, what advice would you give about money?

Tilly: I think that, in our society, everybody is always pretending they have a happier life -- that they don't have debt -- and everybody's always looking at the Joneses and wondering how they do it. You know how they do it? Debt. And I think it's time for people to say, you know what? Just be truthful! Because otherwise, everybody is always like, why is my life not blessed? Why am I such a screw-up? Instead, live within your means. Just tell the truth. Then everybody else isn't trying to match you.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: Nov. 28, 2006
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