Money

'Black Swan' author Nassim Taleb has 'never, ever borrowed a penny' in his life

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of "The Black Swan"
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Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of "The Black Swan"

Nassim Nicholas Taleb doesn't like to carry any debt. In fact, the scholar and author of "The Black Swan" has "never, ever borrowed a penny," he tells Esquire. "So I have zero credit record. No loans, no mortgage, nothing. Ever. When I had no money, I rented. I have an allergy to borrowing. ... I follow the Romans' attitude that debtors are not free people."

Rather than using credit cards, Taleb, who resides in the U.S., U.K. and Lebanon, carries "euros, dollars and British pounds," he says.

The best-selling author is not the only successful person who prefers cash. Comedian and self-made millionaire Jay Leno barely uses credit cards, he tells CNBC Make It: "I don't carry any debt. I don't write checks at the end of the month for anything. … I own everything. I own my buildings. I own my cars. That way, if it ends tomorrow, I know what I've got."

Like Taleb, he's never had a mortgage. "I didn't buy my house until I had cash," says Leno. "When you own something and you don't have to write checks every month, you're just better off."

While a cash-only lifestyle can help you avoid credit card debt and hefty interest charges, it's also important to establish good credit early on, and one way to do so is by opening a card. The good news is, if you stick to a few basic guidelines, it's much easier to use a credit card without going into debt.

But if you find yourself not making payments in full, or if you have already racked up credit card debt, Taleb and Leno's cash-only solution may be the answer for you.

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