Money Talks, and so should we. Here, powerful women get real about their spending and saving habits.

By Samantha Simon
Oct 18, 2018 @ 5:00 pm
Monica Ahanonu

As any of Olivia Munn’s 2.2 million Instagram followers can tell you, the model-actress lives a glamorous life. From wearing top designers and hanging out with famous friends to traveling the globe for work and play, the X-Men: Apocalypse star seems to have it all. But long before she made a name for herself in Hollywood, Munn was just your average girl, who learned to value experiences over possessions at an early age.

“I grew up in a military family, so we didn’t have a lot,” she tells InStyle. “I’m one of five kids, so I started babysitting really young — when I was just eight years old. It was a different time back then, and because my step-sister and I were both eight, people thought two eight-year-olds made a 16-year-old. Of course, that’s not the case!”

While she may have been pocketing her own cash as a kid, Munn wasn’t raised to stress about finances. “My mom always told me not to worry about money,” she says. “She'd say, ‘We can always work hard and find the money somewhere, no matter what you want to do. If it's karate or a tae kwon do tournament, or if you want to try cheerleading or piano, whatever it is, don't worry about the money. Just try to have the experience.’”

As soon as Munn was old enough to work, she did. And she couldn’t have been more thrilled to be employed. “My first real job, when I actually went somewhere and had to clock in and clock out, was at a Burger King in Tokyo,” she says. “I worked the drive-thru, and I was so excited. My first paycheck was like $370 or something, and I just could not believe that I had that much money given to me. It was awesome.” As for how she spent her earnings? “I remember I saved it, but I did take $20 out and bought cute Japanese stationery.”

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These days, Munn’s paychecks are much more substantial — and she often chooses to spend them by treating those closest to her. “I have a big family, and we’re an Asian family, which means my mom is always expecting me to pay for everything,” she says, laughing. “That’s kind of what happens in Asian families, eventually your mom is like, ‘OK, now you pay!’ I remember being out to dinner with my whole family one time, and my uncle — who’s a wealthy doctor — went to go pay as he normally would, being the older one in the family. My mom stopped him and goes, ‘No, no, no, she pays now!’ And just pointed at me. I was like, ‘OK.’” 

Munn’s frequent splurging on family meals and getaways is one of the reasons she teamed up with American Express to launch its new card packed with travel benefits, the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Luxury Card. “You can earn so many points for different purchases and then use those to travel around the world,” says Munn, who’s already planning her next trip. “For her 60th birthday, my mom recently asked for a vacation with the whole family and I was like, ‘What does the whole family mean?’ I had to make sure, because we've got the immediate family and then we've got the whole family. She said, ‘Not that many people, maybe just 15 or 18, tops.’ I was like, '15 or 18 people — where are we going?!’ She said, ‘Maybe Hawaii. And then maybe Bali. And then Vietnam.’ I was like, ‘This is a trip around the world. This is like a Price Is Right prize. What is this?!’”

Keep reading for more of Munn’s financial revelations.

On saving… “I’ve always been a saver — I always liked to save money. I would say the biggest advice that I'd give anybody about money is, it's not how much you make. It's how much you save. Just remember that always. It's really hard to make a dollar and it's really easy to spend 10.”

On splurging… “I've been into health and wellness for a really long time and just really interested in the science of youth, so I spend a lot on [things like] acupuncture and skincare. I see the amazing facialist Shani Darden in L.A., and whenever I leave her, I swear it could be two weeks later and my makeup artist will say to me, ‘Your skin looks amazing.’ It lasts for a long time, so I never regret that. There have definitely been times in my life where I have regretted purchasing that purse or those shoes, but I have never regretted the money I've spent on my skin. And then I spend on travel, my dogs, and my family. Whatever my mom wants, she pretty much gets."

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On her biggest shopping regret… “I remember purchasing these hot-pink suede high-heeled booties that were [Christian] Louboutin. They had these three bows up the front, and I thought, ‘These are ones I'm gonna wear with everything.’ I wore them once and never again, but I won't give them away or go through consignment. They’re a reminder to me that you don't really need to spend like that; those aren't the ones you wear everyday, so just don't spend that much. They were like $2,500 or something like that. I did love them for the moment I wore them, though.” 

On investing… “I do spend a lot of money investing in products and technology that I believe in. I'm one of the original investors of Uber; there's like 40-something of us who were the first round of investors in that. And then invested in Wag, the Uber for dog walkers app. And then I'm in a lot products, as well. One of those is Vital Proteins, which is a collagen supplement that you put into your drink and you drink once a day — I drink it twice a day. Bulletproof Coffee is another one of the things I invested in.”

On being independent…“My mom would always tell me, ‘Never just marry a man and become his wife, always make a name for yourself.’ My mother was born and raised in Vietnam, came to America when the war ended, went to school, got a degree in business, and then married a man and became his wife. She was never truly able to use her business degree, but she really instilled the idea in me that in life, it’s not about making actual money. Money is not the end result. Having experiences and being your own person and in control of your own life, that's the currency in my family.”

On splitting the bill on a date…“I am old-school and I do like the chivalry of a guy picking up the check—I just like when a guy takes the initiative in that way. But that doesn’t mean they should always be the one paying. I remember when I was seeing this one guy years ago, I would always suggest to split it. I was completely ready to do it — and it wasn’t just the fake-reach-for-your-purse; I was 100 percent down to split it. One time when the bill came, I went to grab it and he goes, ‘Split it?’ I was like, ‘You know what, I'll just pay for the whole thing.’ When you split it, it just feels platonic at that point, and I'd rather just pay than split it. 

“Also, you don’t need to go somewhere fancy. The experience is more important. There are really amazing food trucks out there, and if you go on a date with a guy who asked you what kind of food you liked and then did the research to find whatever the best food truck was in a 30-mile radius, that's so much more sweet and thoughtful than a guy just picking up an expensive check.”