Comedian Jay Leno is infamous in certain circles for his shrewd backroom negotiating tactics. So it doesn't really come as a surprise that he's something of a financial Jedi as well, recently telling CNBC that he to this day has "never touched a dime" of any of the money he earned during his lengthy stint as host of NBC's The Tonight Show.
Leno has been very lucky in his professional life as a comedy star, but according to him he's always had at least two incomes, going back to when he first became a working comedian. At that time, he developed a system for only spending the money he made from one of his two jobs, then putting the rest in the bank, and one integral component to this strategy has been always to bank the larger amount:
"When I was younger, I would always save the money I made working at the car dealership and I would spend the money I made as a comedian. When I started to get a bit famous, the money I was making as a comedian was way more than the money I was making at the car dealership, so I would bank that and spend the car dealership money."
Leno continued this financial strategy even when he arguably no longer had to, when at the height of his stardom he was reportedly taking in as much as $30 million a year as The Tonight Show's host. Leno's famous work ethic and compulsive need to perform served him well during this time, and as a result he continued to have a thriving career as a touring standup comedian as well, which in turn means he still has never had to spend any money he made on The Tonight Show:
"When I got 'The Tonight Show,' I always made sure I did 150 [comedy show] gigs a year so I never had to touch the principal. I've never touched a dime of my 'Tonight Show' money. Ever."
By our estimation, between 1992 and 2013, Jay was paid $320 million by NBC. Now that's before taxes and other fees, but now you're starting to understand how Jay could have a net worth of $350 million today (which takes into account the value of his real estate, car collection and various other assets).
So if you've ever wondered how Jay Leno is able to afford his famous collection of classic cars without you seeing him doing shoddy late night TV commercials or cheap product endorsements, now you know.