CNBC Make it
Chrissy Metz went from being broke with 81 cents in her bank account one minute, to starring in NBC mega-hit “This Is Us” practically the next. Today, the 38-year-old Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actress is also known for FX’s “American Horror Story” and a best-selling book, “This Is Me.” And, she stars in the upcoming movie “Breakthrough.” Metz’s journey to financial independence hasn’t always been easy, but it’s taught her priceless lessons about money and the importance of being real and responsible about your financial situation. Metz sat down with me for CNBC Make It’s new series Money Talks to chat about everything from why she still refuses to splurge to how much money her character Kate Pearson makes.
Watch the full interview here: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/20/chrissy-metz-of-this-is-us-on-credit-card-fails-costco-and-success.html
Jenna Goudreau: So I’m a huge “This Is Us” fan, and I’ve been dying to know what you think your character Kate Pearson’s salary is in a given year. And Kate’s brother Randall’s — he lives in that big house.
Chrissy Metz: Yeah, I know Randall makes at least six figures, although now he’s a politician [on the show]. I know, it was at least six figures previously. Kate — sister does not have a steady income. You know she’s an aspiring singer and moves in with her husband Toby. So Chris Sullivan [who plays Toby] and I always joke about it. I’m like, I’m glad that you’re supporting her singing career. I would say she makes less than $30,000. And I think that’s from Kevin, Kate’s brother [who she used to work for]. He’s like, “Here’s a little severance pay.”
Jenna Goudreau: In all seriousness, I want to talk to you about who taught you about money. Because I know you grew up in Gainesville, Florida, actually only an hour away from where I grew up in Jacksonville, and you’ve been really open about how your family struggled with money. You said your mom didn’t even always eat to make sure you and your siblings had enough food. How did that affect you, and how did that shape your money philosophy?
Chrissy Metz: Goodness, I guess I didn’t really have one. And if it was a philosophy, it was, we don’t have any. But now as an adult, and of course in a career – and hopefully a long career – and hopefully some more stability than I have ever had in my life that I could understand how it all works. But, it is still sort of brand new to me. It always has been brand new in that, oh, there’s money? I mean I had a credit card at 18 years old and I bought perfume with it. I think I spent, like, $200 on a couple of bottles of perfume and I think I ended up spending, like, $2,300 after interest and all is said and done. I was like, “Oh, I’m never doing this again.” I’m never getting credit cards again. But that isn’t the answer either. So it’s been sort of trial and error and figuring out what’s right for me. But just knowing and just sort of educating myself about it and talking about it and being honest about it, which is not always easy.
Jenna Goudreau: You have been really open about your finances, and now you’re working with Turbo campaign called #RealMoneyTalk, which encourages people to talk about money.
Chrissy Metz: Absolutely. It’s all about just being honest and talking about money and being open about, how do you do this? Let’s get real, and let’s be honest with each other because there’s such a stigma around our finances and what does that mean, and who am I as a person if I don’t have money or I don’t have the financial freedom that I would like to have. So it’s just about talking and being honest and real about it, which I think when we do more often, it will become easier.
Jenna Goudreau: In the spirit of being open about money, I would love to know how much cash you carry on you. And if you could show me what else is in your wallet.
Chrissy Metz: I hardly ever carry cash. Although, when I come to New York I try to have cash. I did tip the doormen, so I don’t have cash. My wallet is really not that exciting. I’ve had this wallet for quite some time.
Jenna Goudreau: Ok, how many years?
Chrissy Metz: Probably three – almost four years. She’s done me well. But here’s the thing. t’s really good inside, because there’s multiple places, also a zipper and also secret, like if you want to put some bills that you don’t want anyone to know about. I got a very expensive wallet and it’s not functional and I’m kind of bitter about it.
Jenna Goudreau: How much did this wallet cost?
Chrissy Metz: I think I got it at Nordstrom Rack, and I think it was like $44. She’s already paid for herself. I have my California driver’s license. My credit card –
Jenna Goudreau: What is your credit card of choice?
Chrissy Metz: Well I have City National Bank, that is the one I bank with. And then I have an American Express, which I never thought I’d ever have. And it’s the hard, thick one. It’s the business account. Crazy life. Then I just have a debit card. I have my SAG AFTRA card – actor/performer since 2005! Oh, I got my Costco card.
Jenna Goudreau: Ok that is important. Do you shop at Costco?
Chrissy Metz: My best friend had been begging me to join Costco. I’m like, we don’t need that much toilet paper! Well, we need that much toilet paper. So now I am an executive member at Costco because we buy a lot of toilet paper. And when I say we, I mean he. Because it takes a long time when I go to Costco. And then I have a Ticketmaster gift card.
Jenna Goudreau: So no cash.
Chrissy Metz: No cash.
Jenna Goudreau: What about change? Do you keep spare change?
Chrissy Metz: Yeah, girl. You have to have change. I try to keep a little change just because of parking meters in LA. If I’m running
in somewhere I don’t want to take my card out and put it in the meter so I’ll just drop a quarter or something. But I hardly ever have actual cash on me.
Jenna Goudreau: I read that when you booked “This Is Us” you had 81 cents in your bank account. And now you’re a millionaire.
Chrissy Metz: I don’t know. Something like that.
Jenna Goudreau: Close?
Chrissy Metz: I don’t know. I don’t even know what that means. But yeah, 81 cents is quite accurate. Scary.
Jenna Goudreau: How is your life changed now that you have money?
Chrissy Metz: Diddy once said “mo’ money, mo’ problems,” and sometimes that’s accurate. Because sometimes there are things that you have to deal with and pay for that you never had before. And you really have to make sure you know. I mean, you have a bigger life, a lot of responsibilities, and I’m basically a business. It can be overwhelming. It really can be. I often ask, you know my castmates or other actors, like, how did you do this? And do you have this? Because it’s uncharted territory for me. So it’s exciting and it’s wonderful, but it’s also still overwhelming. It’s only been three years in, so it’s all very new to me. But you know, I don’t have to lie and say, “Oh I can’t go to dinner tonight because I’m not feeling well,” because now I can pay for dinner or I can take friends out. And that’s really important to me. Not that lying is ever condoned, folks. Just saying we want to save face sometimes. And being able to do nice things, buying presents, ones that I would love to give to people that I haven’t been able to do before.
Jenna Goudreau: What do you splurge on and what do you refuse to spend money on?
Chrissy Metz: I don’t know what splurge means, because I don’t think I’ve ever done that.
Jenna Goudreau: No?
Chrissy Metz: No. Like what does splurge mean to you?
Jenna Goudreau: Like a big purchase that felt like “should I spend this money?”
Chrissy Metz: Like frivolous?
Jenna Goudreau: Not frivolous, but almost uncomfortable but you go ahead and do it because you really want it and it’s meaningful to you.
Chrissy Metz: That’s about everything. I mean –
Jenna Goudreau: So you struggle to spend money on everything?
Chrissy Metz: Oh yeah. For sure. Even if I were at the grocery store and I’m like, “Do we really need that much toilet paper?” I just try to be cognizant of that. Because here’s the thing. Yes, I’m on a hit show, but I don’t know how long it’s going to last and what that means financially. I want to be smart about the future. So I try not to spend or splurge unless it’s – I don’t know. I feel like I really haven’t.
Jenna Goudreau: Is there something that you refuse to spend money on? Like I’m not going to buy coffee out, I can make it at home.
Chrissy Metz: Gosh, I guess I really don’t spend money. Like I went to buy a purse, probably a year and half ago, and the credit card was declined because the bank was like, “fraudulent charge! Never been spent! This much money! Something’s wrong.” It was quite embarrassing. I don’t know – we often cook at home, we have like a delivery service that makes sense, it is affordable. Just because I have the money or might have a bit of a cushion doesn’t mean I’m like, “make it rain!” I’m not interested in that. I’ve been broke once, you know what I mean?
So how do you manage your money now? Are you a big saver?
I do save. And I have a business manager, but I’m very hands on. We talk all the time about it. I’m like, “ok so what is the credit card amount? how much do I owe on the credit card? and do we have any room for some new furniture?” Because I still haven’t had new furniture. They are the ones griping, saying, “buy the couch!” So I’m in the process of that. But I’m literally like I don’t want to make any rash decisions. I go through everything that is being spent, everything paid for whether it is tailoring for events, or when we travel, I just try to make sure I know everything that is coming and going.
Jenna Goudreau: What are some of the big money mistakes that you’ve made in the past and what did you learn from them?
Chrissy Metz: I think being frivolous and not realizing what it was that I had in my bank account. Or, “ok I make X amount of dollars a month, well that means you can’t go do X, Y and Z three times. Maybe you can do it once, but you can’t do it every single week.” And just being responsible. I was like, “I don’t have any money so who cares? Let’s go spend it!” The money that I did have. But that is not smart.
Jenna Goudreau: You mentioned credit cards — did you rack up credit card debt?
Chrissy Metz: Only that one. I did have health insurance while I was an aspiring actress, so ran up a lot of medical debt from dentists. And you know, it weighs on you. And I’m like, “I don’t want to – I owe people money and I want to pay them back!” So I was late a couple of times on my car payments because I was like “oh, food or car payment?” I hate to have to make that decision but I was able to get it all sorted. After that credit card/perfume debacle, I was like “I don’t want a credit card ever again!” And then I realized how they work. And if you spend the money, you got to pay it back folks! In a timely manner! With interest. And be smart. Just educate yourself and have a plan. That’s something I never really did. I had a plan for a lot of other things — finding a man, my career. But not my finances.
Jenna Goudreau: Do you have heroes that you look up to, like Warren Buffett or someone else?
Chrissy Metz: You know, I heard recently that he drives the same car, lives in the same house [he bought in 1958]. He eats this one particular breakfast that’s like $1.99. I’m like, am I doing it wrong? Did I spend too much on that latte? I mean he is a hero. I don’t know if I want to be that diligent. Frugal. I want to enjoy – and I’m sure he does. But he also has the room. He has the room to enjoy. I want to talk to him about that. Like what is it? Why does he do that? And maybe it’s out of comfort. But also, Justin [Hartley who plays Kevin Pearson on “This Is Us”] is like, get this kind of car. I’m like, “I have a lease. I don’t need a new car.” He just bought this gorgeous Porsche. I’m like, don’t put that on me because you got a really nice Porsche. I don’t need a new car. My car works fine.
Jenna Goudreau: So you’ve got a little bit of the Buffett mentality in you.
Chrissy Metz: I guess I do, now that I’m thinking about it. But not – I like breakfast. And maybe his $1.99 breakfast or whatever it is, is delicious but I’ll spend money on some breakfast.
Jenna Goudreau: Who among the “This Is Us” cast members is best and worst with money do you think?
Chrissy Metz: Oh goodness. You know it’s interesting. I think everyone is really responsible. I always felt like the last sort of grown up as far as the cast goes. I think everyone pretty much owns a home. I don’t know. I mean, Milo and Mandy have been in this for so long. But Sterling is a father and a husband so – I don’t know. I think they are all doing just fine. But I haven’t really delved into that with them.
Jenna Goudreau: Maybe you’re going to have some real talks soon.
Chrissy Metz: Maybe we’re going to have some real talks with the cast.
Jenna Goudreau: And have you ever asked for a raise?
Chrissy Metz: Oh, yes I have. And it was very uncomfortable.
Jenna Goudreau: Why?
Chrissy Metz: Because I sort of think it is what the mentality that we are put in as women, particularly, I think also the time in my career I think, “am I deserving of that?” But that’s something I’ve always sort of been contending with. And I see other people do it and they are courageous and strong about it. And I’m like, “oh I can do that too.” And then I’m like, “wait I work really hard. Yeah I can ask for a raise. And I deserve it.” I’m not necessarily entitled because I think that is when the ego gets involved but I am deserving of it. So it was challenging but it was also exciting. And once you do it, it’s like “oh ok I can do this again.”
Jenna Goudreau: How did you build up the courage and phrase it? Did you have some sort of strategy?
Chrissy Metz: Yeah I think it was just, “here are the facts and here’s what I’ve done. I believe I’m deserving of an increase. I’d love to hear your thoughts.” Not demanding. Just let’s have a conversation about it. And I had help. I have some very strong amazing women in my life who are like “No, Chrissy.” So they were my little cheerleaders on the side.
Jenna Goudreau: For people watching this who want to make it and want to achieve their potential, what is your best piece of advice for them? And if you could credit your success to one thing, what would it be?
Chrissy Metz: I think in life we just can’t take things personally. The way someone thinks about us, speaks about us is not the truth, right? It is there perception. And so, if you believe in yourself and you want something and it comes from the soul, the spirit, the heart of you, you have to pursue it. I think it is obviously very important to be honest. And like I said before, having a real money talk about where you’re at financially and just where you are at mentally, emotionally, financially. All of those things sort of come together. I credit it to just working really hard and not giving up and standing in line long enough.