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Why Jay Leno has never touched a dime of his 'Tonight Show' money

Comedian and former host of NBC's "The Tonight Show" Jay Leno plays it safe when it comes to money.

From the moment he entered the working world, "I always had two incomes," he explains to CNBC. "I'd bank one and I'd spend one."

And he made sure to spend the smaller amount.

"When I was younger, I would always save the money I made working at the car dealership and I would spend the money I made as a comedian," he says. "When I started to get a bit famous, the money I was making as a comedian was way more than the money I was making at the car dealership, so I would bank that and spend the car dealership money."

Jay Leno, former host of NBC's  "The Tonight Show"
SGranitz | Getty Images
Jay Leno, former host of NBC's "The Tonight Show"

Leno continued relying on this strategy even after he started hosting "The Tonight Show" in 1992, even though he reportedly earned as much as $30 million a year at the height of his career.

"When I got 'The Tonight Show,' I always made sure I did 150 [comedy show] gigs a year so I never had to touch the principal," Leno says. "I've never touched a dime of my 'Tonight Show' money. Ever."

Leno, who now hosts CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage," says his conservative philosophy gives him financial peace of mind.

"So many people get to be the age I'm at now and they've got nothing because they just blew it all," he says. "I put my money in a hammock and say, 'You relax. I'm going to go work.' And when I come back, I put some more money in the pile.

"It sounds ridiculous, but if everything ends tomorrow, I know I'll be fine."

CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET.