Money

Olympian Adam Rippon started his career with just $90—here's how he spent his first big paycheck

US figure skater Adam Rippon 
Maddie Meyer | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
US figure skater Adam Rippon 

U.S. Olympian Adam Rippon, 29, decided to pursue figure skating as a career when he was already an adult, so he also decided to own the expenses involved.

"When I was in my early twenties, I moved to California. I told my mom and my coach that I didn't want any help and I wanted to pay for my own skating," the Pennsylvania-native tells the online investing service Wealthsimple. "I wanted to just be my own man and to be responsible for what I was doing."

In California, he headed to a bank and opened a checking account, in which he deposited the only money he had to his name at the time: 80 euros, or about $90, he'd collected from a competition in Europe. "With that, I needed to budget for ice time and to pay to go to the gym — because at the time, going to the gym was what was going to help me get more money," he says.

Rippon was as thrifty as possible: He lived in his coach's basement and swiped apples from his gym to save money on groceries. Still, for a while, his bank account balance remained well below four-figures.

It wasn't until a big performance at an event right before the 2014 Olympics when Rippon's net worth shot up, he tells Wealthsimple: "I went from having maybe $500 at most — usually I had around $100 in my checking account and I didn't have anything in savings — to all of a sudden getting this big check for $20,000."

He couldn't just celebrate, though. "I needed to pay my coaches right away and I needed to pay for the costumes that I said I would pay for. And I had a leased 2003 Volkswagen Jetta that I was like, 'OK, time to make that monthly payment.'"

After covering those expenses, Rippon did allow himself one splurge: He went to Bloomingdale's for the first time and bought a Canada Goose jacket, which cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to over a grand.

Today, the Olympian tells CNBC Make It that he's still frugal about "a little bit of everything," but he believes in rewarding himself every once in a while.

"I think that it's important to spend money on yourself," says Rippon, who dropped $6,300 on a gold Cartier Love Bracelet as motivation to do well at the 2018 winter games. It worked: He brought home his first Olympic medal, a bronze in the team event.

"If you have the money saved up, and you're not doing something crazy, then you should go out and you should do that. That's what making money is for."

For him, finances are about balancing responsibility with reward: "You should be saving money, you should be doing everything you can to plan for the future, but I think that it's important to celebrate what you have now."

Don't miss: 5 years ago, US Olympian Adam Rippon was broke and would 'steal all the apples' at his gym

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