I'm Nicole Lappin, the only financial expert you don't need a dictionary to understand. It's time for some money rehab. One of the most pivotal moments in my financial journey was when I realized I was not alone. That my peers around me had money questions too, that my bosses had money questions, that the big stars, the people who look like they have it all together had money questions too. That's why I love Kim Alexis's openness and talking about her financial journey and the mistakes she made along the way. Now Kim is a nutrition guru, but she started her career as one of the first legit supermodels, and managing the financial side of that did not come with an instruction manual. Today, we talk about what it felt like to hit it so big, so young to live in those infamous model apartments and the money challenges that came when people in her life took advantage. And lastly, we talk about the easiest way someone can take the reins of their financial life, even when imposter syndrome strikes. Here's Kim. Kim Alexis, welcome to Money Rehab.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Does the name make you giggle or just my face?
I'm here to learn. I'm here to learn from you because I have some definite rehab I need to get through.
What rehab is on your mind right now?
I'm more into food and health and nutrition and fitness, and so I don't spend a lot of time focusing on investments. I learned it's best to hand that over to an expert, so that's what I do.
Amazing. Well, I am excited to talk about present-day Kim, but I would love to start at the beginning and look at your career and money when you were first discovered at 17 years old. Amazing. Can you tell the story of how that happened?
Well, I was actually making a $1.98 in a drugstore. It wasn't even minimum wage. I'm not sure how he got away with that. But I thought I wanted to be a pharmacist. In my senior year in high school, I was working. I was swimming five and a half hours a day. I was in the band. Somehow I had free time to try and make extra money in my senior year. I thought maybe modeling has a lot of money in it. This was back in the '70s when a lot of that was still young. I went through a charm school, which was not really a model school. It was more almost like back in the '50s of how to walk correctly. Remember with the books on your head?
Was that real?
Yeah. How to properly sit down and open and close the door. I would always show up with wet hair because I'd come from swim practice, and so I didn't really belong there. I wasn't into hair and makeup and I didn't know anything about the modeling business. One night they called me into their office and I thought they were kicking me out, but they asked me if I wanted to go to New York to model. I'm like, No.
I'm going to be.
A pharmacist. I don't want to have anything to do with this business, eating carrot sticks for dinner and keeping my hair inrollers. That's what I thought of at the time. It took them a while. Finally, I let them take pictures, and long story short, I got discovered, finished my senior year in high school at 17, waited till I turned 18 in July. Then two days later, raced off to New York City. Two days after that was in Rome and Paris for the collections. Four days after that, I had my first cover for Italian Bazaar magazine.
Wow. And I assume you didn't eat just carrots for dinner.
I mean, swimming five and a half hours a day. I used to eat a piece of cheese cake before dinner.
Okay, that's my dinner. So what happened next? You were discovered and then what? I assume that means getting signed to an agency?
Yes. So I was signed with elite and guaranteed to work for a year. The owner was John Casablancus at the time, and he literally offered me and guaranteed me money per week for a year. I felt like I didn't have anything to lose. I put my college career on hold and went to New York and really started working right away. I had my first American cover. It takes three months for them to come out, so I must have shot it August, and it came out December of the first year I was working. My career steamrolled immediately, and I really never had to look back.
You then became a supermodel in really the heyday of supermodels?
Yeah, that term didn't exist until about five, six years into my career. I don't know if we can trace back, but they didn't speak about that until maybe '83, '84, '85, something like that.
That's really, I'm assuming, when you started making real money.
Oh, no, I started making real money right away at 18.
How much did he guarantee you a week?
Well, he guaranteed me 500 a week for a year. Back then, working as a $1.98 an hour, I thought a big paycheck when I worked a lot was like $38. By the time they took out taxes and things. For me, 500 was unheard of. My first day working with Italian Bazaar at the time was for $80 a day, and I thought, Wow, that's great. They're like, Oh, no, you're going to make a lot more money than that.
I want to pull up an inflation calculator to see what that would be. What did that feel like in today's dollars?
I don't know. Because again, I was used to making such a pittance that it just seemed like a ton of money to me.
Okay, so in 1978, $500 would be the same as $2,500. That's a lot. So 10 grand a month, essentially, at 17. Yeah. Not bad. Not bad at all. How did you think about money at the time? I mean, were you saving it? Were you spending it?
I tried to be a big saver. Number one, at 18, you have no idea. This was back in the '70s. I think there was less advertising, certainly less places to see advertisements. I was young and I was also working all the time in New York. And when you work all the time, you don't have time to spend money, so you end up saving. So it was easier for me when I was working because then I couldn't spend.
Yeah, I've heard from other public figures who got their start working really young that making money so early changed their relationship with their parents, maybe even their friends. I mean, in some senses, I suppose you feel more independent for better or worse. Did you feel that way?
I feel more that I lost some friends because if I would go shopping with them, I could afford big things. They were in college at this point, and so they didn't have money. Our idea of how much to spend was different. They would look at me like, What are you doing? What do you mean? I got plenty. I was just in a different place than they were, so it caused some jealousy and some problems, not my parents. My parents literally always said, You can never be jealous of your children because you're just proud. They're your kids.
Did they teach you the value of a dollar?
I don't think so. Not that they didn't to, but it wasn't something that was taught in school. I still don't think budgeting and balancing checkbooks, all that stuff should be. I mean, my oldest son, who's now 37, yelled at me. He's like, Mom, thanks a lot. You didn't teach me how to budget. I'm like, I didn't realize that was part of my job.
Well, it sounds like they were responsible, and you saw that through osmosis just being around them.
It sounds like you've imparted that to your son as well, even though you didn't sit down and do a budgeting class.
Yeah, I have three sons and they're not big spenders.
We hear a lot about these, quote, model apartments in New York City, basically like community housing for models. Did you ever live in one of those?
Yeah. My first three months when I went to New York City in the summer of 1978, I was in the model housing. It's been since torn down, but it was on 58th between Park and Lex. It's turned into, I think, a beautiful office building now, but it was the Blackstone Hotel. We had to all live together in these little rooms. I remember we had fights all the time with the phone bill because anytime you'd pick up the phone for a local call, they were charging you. We'd be like, I never called 20 people. I'm not paying that much money.
The agents who didn't pay for that?
No, all of us. They would give us that bill, and that was something we had to quibble over.
But the housing was paid for?
Don't even remember. I think they took it out of our paychecks when we were working.
Oh, wow. Let's talk about relationships. I know you're a big advocate for people having full transparency into finances, you and me both sister, and not just deferring to their partners to make money decisions. You've been married and amicably divorced. I'd love to hear about how money was handled in your past relationships.
I handed over all my power and investing was not something that even though I was a numbers kid and very into math when I was in school, I was not into investing. I would listen to what other people would say and, Oh, that sounds like a good idea. I was one of those real dumbies, but to me, it's a full-time job. That's why I now have an expert who only focuses on that, and I just take her opinion and let her do what she wants. But I've gotten major trouble. My very first time of getting in trouble was working so hard in New York City that I had an accountant that was doing my taxes. I must have gotten him through a recommendation either from someone at work or the agency, and literally handed over my signature to him to write and pay all my bills. It took me months to realize he was stealing money, so I had to report him. Never got the money back. I was traveling all over the world and money was flying in, but it can just as easily fly out.
How did you figure it out? Or where did you start realizing something was fishy?
I started questioning him and I'm looking like, What's this expense for? And looking at what he did and realized that he had taken quite a bit of money before I could figure it out.
Like 50 grand.
Let's look at the calculator.
That's like $250,000 now. Hopefully, he's not working anymore.
I teed it up that way because it sounds like you've been burned, but now you're an advocate for people having the full transparency that you didn't have into your finances.
Yes, but it's from 40 years of really learning that, hey, stop handing your power away.
Hold onto your wallets. Money rehab will be right back. And now for some more money rehab. So it sounds like you've been burned, and I'm sorry to hear that, but it sounds like you've learned from these mistakes. Did that mean that money leaves a bad taste in your mouth? Or do you feel like you and money have to make up, so to speak?
I try not to covet it or look at what others have or compare myself. Money on its own is not bad, but the love of money can cause a lot of problems. For me, it's a necessity. We need it. But I definitely don't either belabor what has happened in the past. I can't focus on that. I allowed it to happen. All I can do, as you said, is really learn from it and just grow and move on.
Well, it's nice to also tell others those lessons that you've learned, so hopefully they don't make the same mistakes you did.
Yes. I try to do that without dishonoring my exes, even though it would be nice to point the finger at them, but in a way, I guess I allowed it.
That's a very mature, emotionally intelligent thing to say. I'm never a fan of bad-mouthing exes. We chose them. I think we take control of our side of the street and responsibility. But it was an interesting exercise for me to actually have a conversation with success or money. It helped me cut through a lot of my own financial trauma. And yes, I believe it's a tool like anything else, like a hammer. You can use it to build a house or to tear it down. But do you feel like you might need to have a conversation with money? I actually went to a therapist where she put success or money in one chair and me and the other, and I would talk to it as if I was just having a conversation. I was like, You've meant so much to me. And then sneak attack, she had me switch and I was success or money and talking to Nicole. I was like, Yeah, you need more friends. We can't be the only one. What would you say to money in your life right now?
I would say that I need to really start embracing that it's okay. In some ways, and I have money, but it's like if I have the abundance that I did when I was younger, my fear is that I might do something to lose it again. But just as in certain things with pain, you try and avoid it. If you've bumped your leg and you've got a bruise and you hit yourself on the same spot on the table, you're like, It hurts worse. So you try not to bump the spot that's already been injured.
Yeah, it becomes cumulative for sure. And so what do you think money would say back to you?
Come on, baby, here I am.
What would you tell your former self who it sounds like you had abundance, but then for whatever reason, whether relationships with professionals like an accountant or in romantic relationships, it wasn't as abundant years later?
Right. I think that it would be it's okay to go against your husband's wishes and take matters into my own hands. For any young people out there from this girl filled with wisdom after 45 years of working, it's just that you want something and you're your best advocate, you're your best coach. It's important to not discount it in a way. I think that because I had so much so quickly, it was like, it'll just keep coming. It did keep coming, but then it started going out sometimes faster than it would come in. You can't go back. All you can do is learn from it. But for other people, be in charge of your own self and all different aspects of it. For me, I'm very big, as I said, into health and fitness. I see other people that don't spend any time doing that. They might spend all day in front of the ticker tape or looking at stocks all day long. They may have more in their bank account than I do, but I might have more health in my bank account. I don't know.
Yeah, I believe in living a rich, full life in all aspects of the world. You can always get more money, you can get more time, for instance. You can't buy health, you can't buy love, you can't buy a lot of those things. But money does enable it a little bit easier. But I love that you say all of that. I do think ultimately it's not what you make, but what you keep that matters, and it's a hard lesson for all of us. But thank you again for being so open and honest about this.
What's interesting at my age, being in my 60s, is now you start to get these little postcards saying, Come to these free steak dinners and we'll teach you all about investing for your retirement. I'm like, Oh, never thought about retirement. But what's nice at a young age is I poured so much money into my pension funds and my social security, and to be able to, as I'm older, reap that benefit and then be able to sit back is a nice thing, too. So don't be resentful as you're young and working and a lot of your paycheck is going towards pension monies or, as I said, the social security because it does come back when you want it.
Yeah, your future self will thank you. But it is so annoying when it comes out.
I mean, it was annoying for me. I was looking, I'm like, What? They took that much? But now as I'm older, I'm like, Oh, look how much I'm going to every month just for being 65 years old.
I think this conversation is so important, so thank you. Like I said, I was in debt. It's not fun or sexy to talk about, but I think being honest about where we've been and where we're going really does make a difference for others who might be struggling. So thanks, Kim.
And also, since I started reporting on money a million and a half years ago, I love that you called me young, thank you. I will be replaying it over and over again. It's gotten so much easier to learn about money, too. I mean, there are so many resources. Now you have three boys. I'm sure that they're learning a lot about money through Instagram or TikTok or podcasts or Finfluencers or whatever previous generations didn't have access to those things.
Right. But as I said, isn't it confusing or is it fine? It's almost like you want to start a diet. One person says keto and the other person says vegan and you're like, Ah! There's so many extremes and so many different ways you can go. Now, I'm a big believer in putting little bits in a lot of baskets just in case, but probably because I've gotten burned. But I would think if you're listening and one person says one thing totally and another person totally goes another way, how do you learn from that?
Well, I think there can be information overload for sure. That's actually why I really like AI. I think that it's the innovation that I'm most optimistic about in the financial world because it takes the emotion out of it. One of the biggest roadblocks that I see preventing women in particular from financial independence is all of this shame around not knowing about money. So AI provides this judgment-free zone. And my listeners will laugh because they know that I'm very bullish on this company, Magnify, who's like ChatGPT, but specifically geared to answer your financial questions all in the privacy of your phone. So I think it takes a lot of that shame out of it and it takes the emotion out of it. To make the right financial decisions.
What are your thoughts on the new... Where are dollars going? Are we going to have a dollar or do you think it's all electronic?
Our listeners will definitely know how I feel about cryptocurrency. Have you played with cryptocurrency?
No. What conversations do you have with your financial advisor?
More or less where the market's going and where she thinks I should invest, but it has not really ever come up about crypto.
Have you guys talked about AI as an innovation for finance?
No, I didn't even know it existed.
But now you do.
Now I got to go look at what? Magnify?
Yeah, absolutely. I think it's like ChatGPT or Siri or Alexa for finances. And I think that having a tool like that really can help take the guilt and the embarrassment out of talking about finances for people that might not have a financial advisor yet. But even if you do have a financial advisor, I think some of these tools, like we said, they can be used like a hammer to build a house or to tear it down. And these tools are just tools. I think that they can really help you, whether you're working with somebody or working on your own. And so it's awesome to harness the power of it.
Interesting. I guess that's why you're out there, because you teach someone like me that those things exist. They do. Yeah.
We use AI in so many ways. Even if you're texting and it's predictive text or something like that, that's AI. And so I think people who are nervous about the robots coming to get you or something like that, that's not what it is at all. I think the basic advice for markets, and I'm sure your financial advisor would tell you this if we conference call her right now, is that you should buy low and sell high. That's the old adage of Wall Street. The problem is, Kim, is that you don't know where the low is and you don't know where the high is. And so you get very emotional when you look at stuff and the market's going in the pooper and you're like, I'm going to get out of here. But that's the worst time to get out. That's the best time to buy. But psychologically, it's hard to wrap your head around that when everybody's yelling, Fire.
Well, if there is a fire, I would suggest you get out of the house. Get out.
Of the house. Just don't get out of the market. Maybe run into the market because things are on sale. I mean, don't you love a sale?
Like a fire sale. Okay.
To end, Kim, I asked all of our guests for one tip that our listeners can take straight to the bank. What's yours? It could be anything. Advice for starting a business, dealing with an accountant, budgeting, talking to a significant other about money.
I think it should probably be being aware of your self-talk and how important that is, and that you can be your own worst advocate or you can be your best advocate. Some people love themselves too much, some people don't love themselves enough, but I find that if we spend time really listening to what we're putting in our minds and how we're talking to ourselves, you're able to give better to other people and be more useful in society. And I think we should all be useful in some aspect in society. So don't beat yourself up, but also don't give yourself too much of a break.
I've long said that investing in yourself does pay most dividends later on.
Be your best you. It's silly, but it's true.
I love it. If it's silly, then I want to be silly. Money Rehab is a production of Moneynews Network. I'm your host, Nicole Lappin. Money Rehab's executive producer is Morgan LaVoy. Our researcher is Emily Holmes. Do you need some money rehab? And let's be honest, we all do. So email us your money questions, moneyrehab@moneynewsnetwork. Com to potentially have your questions answered on the show or even have a one-on-one intervention with me. And follow us on Instagram @moneynews and TikTok @moneynewsnetwork for exclusive video content. And lastly, thank you. Seriously, thank you. Thank you for listening and for investing in yourself, which is the most important investment you can make.