“Stranger Things” star Caleb McLaughlin has been a household name ever since the show first premiered in 2016. But it wasn’t until recently that the 20-year-old made his first big purchase with his Netflix earnings.
McLaughlin tells CNBC Make It that for the first few years after the show was released, he was careful about not spending too much money. The actor, who earns a reported $250,000 per episode, credits his parents with teaching him fiscal responsibility and says they helped him to curb the impulse to spend money unnecessarily.
“I always felt like I had a smart mindset. My parents have always provided,'” he says. “They’re like, ‘This is your money, you can spend it however you want to spend it, but as your parents we would like to teach you about budgeting and not spending just because you can.'”
He says that he keeps separate accounts for his everyday spending versus money he wants to put toward travel or other purchases, but that he “never really cared about splurging.”
“I’d never just look at my account and be like ‘oh, I have a lot of money to spend now,'” he tells Make It. “I don’t really go out there and buy things for myself that I really want. I buy things that I need.”
It’s something that McLaughlin, who is currently working with the banking platform Step on a financial literacy initiative, had practice with even before being cast in “Stranger Things.” When he was 10 years old, he played Simba in “The Lion King” on Broadway.
“I was 10 years old making money that an adult would, you know? I was like ‘Oh, can I just get pizza? Or can I get more, like two slices of pizza? Or can I get more video games? Can I get a PS3?,'” he says. “I bought things that kids wanted, but I never had a big purchase.”
Indeed, McLaughlin says he didn’t make his first significant purchase until last year, after season 3 of Stranger Things had already aired. He bought himself a Tesla Model X, which retails starting at $106,590.
“Once I got my license, I was like ‘I need a car,’ so I bought a car,” he says. “It made sense for the time.”
While the financial tips he received as a child were simple — adults would tell him to be diligent about putting money aside in his savings — as he’s gotten older, the advice has changed.
“There’s more of a conversation about investing,” he says, adding that he has been learning about NFTs and the restaurant industry. “But there’s still so much I need to learn.”