Money

Billy Joel's first big splurge cost $50,000 but was completely 'worth it'

Musician Billy Joel poses at the piano after a press conference at Madison Square Garden July 18, 2018 to celebrate his achievement of 100 lifetime performances at Madison Square Garden in New York. - Joels 100th lifetime performance comes 40 years after his first Madison Square Garden  performance, on December 14, 1978. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)        (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
TIMOTHY A. CLARY | AFP | Getty Images
Musician Billy Joel poses at the piano after a press conference at Madison Square Garden July 18, 2018 to celebrate his achievement of 100 lifetime performances at Madison Square Garden in New York. - Joels 100th lifetime performance comes 40 years after his first Madison Square Garden performance, on December 14, 1978. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

In July, Billy Joel performed his 100th show at Madison Square Garden, the latest achievement in his long and illustrious career, which includes five Grammy awards and numerous platinum records.

Joel signed his first recording contract in 1972 and released a few early albums before hitting it big with "The Stranger" in September of 1977. By December, it had sold over 500,000 copies and gone gold, and, by January 1978, it had gone platinum.

Shortly after "The Stranger" took off, Joel treated himself to a brand new grand piano, a purchase he believes truly improved his life. "I only ever had an upright piano before I started making some money with 'The Stranger,'" he told Vulture's David Marchese in a recent profile. "Then I got a nine-foot grand Steinway."

Joel estimates that the piano cost between $40,000 and $50,000, which he says was "a lot of money but worth it." He adds that "there was a tax benefit because it was a work expense."

The purchase showed Joel how far he'd come since the early days, when it was hard for his mom to afford lessons for him. "If you took piano lessons, like I did, you must have been a rich kid," he tells Vulture, and his family wasn't well-off: "My mom struggled to make ends meet. She had to pay $10 a piano lesson, and back in the '50s that's a lot of money."

Today, Joel pays for a few other perks he thinks are worth the money, including a good accountant — "I learned that the hard way" — and the ability to commute back and forth from his shows at the Garden via a private helicopter.

Joel's not the only celebrity to splurge after earning his first big payday.

When basketball star Shaquille O'Neal signed his first professional contract in 1992, he blew through over $1 million within the hour. O'Neal's first purchase: a $150,000 Mercedes Benz for himself. He immediately followed that up with a matching one for his father and a smaller $100,000 one for his mother.

O'Neal also paid off his mother's house and began doing "what all the homeboys do — gotta buy rings and diamonds and earrings and this and that," he told Business Insider.

Wrestler-turned-actor John Cena bought a 1989 Jeep Wrangler after signing his first professional WWE contract in 2001. "I signed a contract for myself way, way back when for peanuts. But, I felt like I needed to showcase my accomplishment, and I did with this baby right here," Cena says in a November episode of "John Cena: Auto Geek," a YouTube video series where the wrestler puts his vast auto collection on display.

It was "the first car I ever paid cash for without some money from the parents. ... I bought it with 80,000 miles on it," Cena told Cars.com. He still drives the car today.

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