Gene Simmons is best known as the fire-breathing, blood spitting demonic bass player of the record breaking rock and roll band KISS. With multiple millions of fans the world over and across no less than three generations, Gene Simmons and KISS have experienced success that far surpasses that of the majority of eccentric musical acts that sprung up throughout the 1970s. Though many rock and rollers have come and gone in the years that KISS has rocked the earth, Gene Simmons is richer and more popular now than he ever was during his band’s classic era.
Rock stars are typically not the best examples of financial wisdom; in fact they are usually the worst. The unrelated natures of musical talent and financial wisdom detract from the music business as a viable path to wealth as it is. Couple that with the unlikelihood of success and the well known frivolous spending habits and legal antics of those in the field. This is why I get certain skeptical looks and responses when I cite Gene Simmons as inspiration for financial strategy.
There is a distinct line between Gene Simmons and most of the rockers that came before him or have shown up since. This line is what has kept him and his partner in KISS, Paul Stanley on top for more than three decades. While many millionaire rock stars squandered their wealth on extravagant lifestyles, Simmons conserved his money for future investments while slowly building the phenomenon that is KISS.
Until the success of his hit show Gene Simmons Family Jewels, few people have had the chance to see just how financially savvy and down to earth the legendary rocker truly is. Having taken the time to listen to Simmons’ message and philosophies, I have no doubt that even without KISS, rock and roll or a single musical note; Gene Simmons would have become a wealthy man one way or another.
Simmons was born in Israel in 1949 as Chaim Witz to Flora Klien, a poor holocaust survivor from Hungary. In his book Sex, Money, Kiss, Simmons recounts the experience that would set the tone for his financial future. At the young age of five, he decided to earn some money by selling cactus fruit. He would go into the desert and gather the fruit, wash it, chill it in ice water and remove the spines. He would then cart it to the bus stop in time to meet the afternoon bus and sell the fruit to the workers unloading after a hard day on the job.
The future superstar came to the United States at the age of nine. Even as an impoverished immigrant who couldn’t speak English, nothing stopped him from finding creative ways to earn an honest living. Whether playing in local rock bands, typing term papers in college, dealing in classic comic books, or running his own science fiction fanzines, Simmons always kept his best financial interests in focus. He avoided drugs and alcohol and all the other vices on which young people are prone to waste money. When it came time to form KISS, Simmons and his partner Paul Stanley were financially stable enough to walk away from a deal with their band Wicked Lester in order to pursue their dream of forming the world’s most legendary rock band.
After achieving international fame with KISS, Simmons didn’t just revel in the spotlight. He worked the business end of his craft to the best of his abilities. Even with millions of dollars coming in, he budgeted, cut his expenses and planned for future opportunities or possible misfortunes. He expanded his horizons. He managed Liza Minelli for a time. He acted as a talent scout, discovering Van Halen and eventually founding Simmons Records.
Gene Simmons has never stopped learning about business and building his financial future. He has continually found new avenues to keeping KISS relevant and advancing. He has acted in feature films such as 1984’s Runaway and in 2010 he played the voice of the Spirit Dragon in The Last Airbender. He created the animated series My Dad the Rockstar for Nickelodeon, Mr. Romance for Oxygen, and he starred in the UK series Rock School. The hit series Gene Simmons Family Jewels is beginning its 5th season. Now, in 2011 Gene Simmons is a co-founder of The Cool Springs Life Equity Strategy, an estate planning service.
So how exactly does Gene Simmons represent a lesson on success? Starting with the cactus fruit; even when he had nothing to invest, he found something he could acquire for free, and with some work others would pay him money for it. When he had some capital to invest he pursued avenues that he was truly interested in; comic books, science fiction, rock and roll, and eventually KISS.
Even with the success of KISS, he has always kept his eye out for other opportunities to expand his business and market his brand. Some might say that Gene Simmons’ wealth was acquired by luck. But Gene would probably say to them “the harder I worked the luckier I got.” As a result of his discipline and tenacity, today Gene Simmons is amongst America’s wealthiest people.
A person does not need to come from established financial means to achieve wealth. All one needs is an economic atmosphere that encourages entrepreneurs, and the internal wealth that provides the psychological resources required to act wisely, decisively, experimentally, and consistently. From a poor Israeli child to an American citizen in the highest tax bracket, Gene Simmons is an example of the entrepreneurial spirit.