Nora Lum, better known as Awkwafina, had a breakthrough 2018. The rapper, comedian and actress appeared in two major motion pictures: the star-studded "Ocean's 8" and "Crazy Rich Asians," the first major motion picture in 25 years with all Asian leads.
Mostly thanks to those big roles, today she has an estimated net worth in the millions.
Still, Lum plays it safe when it comes to money. "I don't splurge on literally anything," she tells guest host Lisa Ling on an episode of "Death, Sex & Money." And she's thrifty when it comes to clothes: "I'm literally wearing Target pants."
The 29-year-old still lives in the first apartment she moved into after college, a railroad apartment in Brooklyn, New York, that she found through a friend. When she first moved in, she rented one room for just $500 a month.
Her money philosophy comes from her grandmother, who helped raise her in Queens after her mom died when she was four. After her grandmother's restaurant in Flushing went bankrupt, Lum says, she watched her work four jobs to make ends meet.
Lum tells Ling she remembers her grandmother constantly worrying about money: "She would lie awake sometimes, and we'd be next to each other, and I asked her, 'What is your only wish, Grandma?' And she was like, 'Just being able to pay my bills this month.' … It was something that ate at her and I remember as a kid thinking that we don't have money."
Even with her career well established, Lum lives like she could lose everything tomorrow. That's why she sends most of her earnings straight to the bank, she tells Wealthsimple: "If I get a big check, I try really hard to just put it in a savings account and not touch it."
And she's still "scared to leave and move into a bigger, more expensive place."
She's not the only celebrity who's careful to remain frugal. Comedian Jay Leno has never touched a dime of the millions he earned hosting "The Tonight Show." His paycheck went straight to the bank and he lived off the money he earned doing comedy gigs on the side.
Leno's conservative philosophy gives him financial peace of mind, he tells CNBC Make It: "So many people get to be the age I'm at now and they've got nothing because they just blew it all. 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."
Generally Lum does that too — but she does have one weakness: "Karaoke nights," she tells Ling. "If I'm treating like a whole group of friends, I'll drop like three Gs on a group on a night of karaoke. But, like, [spending] for myself? No!"
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