In the latest installment of Wealthsimple Magazine’s recurring series “Money Diaries,” Jon Hamm, who played Don Draper in Mad Men, talks about the role money has played in his life.
As a kid growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Jon would do chores around the house, such as raking leaves or shoveling snow. Although it was not a real paying job, his Grandmother would give him a few bucks from time to time. “The money didn’t change my attitude,” he says.
However, his attitude did change as he became a teenager, and started working for a Greek restaurant, where he switched positions between being a busboy, dishwasher, and waiter.
While working there, he learned how to appreciate people in service-based jobs, and also learned to understand other people’s problems, which is something he took with him in being an actor.
“Working in a restaurant is a good life lesson for anybody. My friend used to say that no one should be able to work in Hollywood if they haven’t worked in a restaurant.”
Jon also talked about working as a bartender and how customers would “spill their guts” to him after a long day. They just wanted someone to listen and show them kindness, and Jon did just that.
As a teacher, Jon learned as much from his students as they did from him, and although he loved his job, he felt that teachers were extremely underpaid. “Investing in higher teacher salaries is one of the most obvious things we could do to improve life in our society,” he said.
Years later, he eventually created a scholarship under his mother’s name – the Deborah Garner Hamm Memorial Scholarship – which has already helped one student graduate college, and is now helping a second. He calls it a “gratifying” way for him to spend his money.
Being in his position today, Jon realized, “Money, for me, is a means to an end: to pay your bills and eat.” He continues, “To me, the main reason to have money is to remove the hindrances that accompany being broke. Once those hindrances are out of the way, it doesn’t matter if you have a ton of money or just a comfortable amount.”
The actor then went on to offer advice to anyone in a tough financial situation today.