When finance is stranger than science fiction

  • Who says child stars aren't good with money? Cary Guffey, who played the young boy abducted by aliens in Steven Spielberg's 1977 classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, now oversees $170 million in assets as a financial advisor.
  • He says the money mistakes he made early on often resonate with the clients he works with.
Actor Cary Guffey in a scene from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977.
Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images
Actor Cary Guffey in a scene from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977.

The stereotypical child star generally is not known for being good with money.

Yet Cary Guffey, who played Barry, the young boy abducted by aliens in director Steven Spielberg's 1977 classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind, now oversees $170 million in assets as a financial advisor with PNC Investments.

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Still, the road from Hollywood to financial services was paved with regret, he said. "I have made just about every money mistake you can do." (From Lindsay Lohan to Corey Haim, there have been more than a few child stars who fell into financial ruin when their careers stalled and they were unable to maintain a lavish level of spending.)

Starting from the age of 3, Guffey earned more than $100,000 through acting all together. "My parents did a great job of saving my earnings, but then promptly turned them over to a rather irresponsible 18-year-old me, who did exactly what most people do when they have a windfall."

After Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Guffey went on to get a degree in business and worked in human resources. A short time later he made the move into financial services.
Sunset Boulevard | Corbis | Getty Images
After Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Guffey went on to get a degree in business and worked in human resources. A short time later he made the move into financial services.

"The very first thing I did was replace my perfectly functioning car with a new Pontiac," he said. He later co-signed on a loan for a family member who then defaulted.

"I had to learn from my own experiences," Guffey said. "You need to cultivate money like a garden. If you burn through it, it will be gone."

Although Guffey continued to make movies and television series after Close Encounters, being a star was never his goal, he said. "My parents drove my agent crazy with the amount of work we turned down, because my English teacher mother was not going to let anything get in the way of my education."

"You need to cultivate money like a garden. If you burn through it, it will be gone." -Cary  Guffey, former child star, now financial advisor

He also credits his parents for ultimately keeping him on track. Guffey went on to get a degree in business and worked in human resources. He then made the move into financial services, first with Merrill Lynch and finally with PNC in Birmingham, Alabama, where he has worked since 2012.

As an advisor and certified financial planner, Guffey, now 45, manages around $170 million.

Cary Guffey, financial advisor at PNC Investments, with his parents
Source: Cary Guffey
Cary Guffey, financial advisor at PNC Investments, with his parents

"I draw upon my own mistakes to help my clients avoid them." Above all else, he says his own pitfalls often resonate with the families he works with.

"When I'm counseling my clients, I always give them that caution: 'What if things don't work out the way you expect?'"

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