Investing

Would You Quit Your Job for Reality TV? A ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant Explains How He Did It

John Schmidt

A “Bachelor” emergency? A chance to stand up during a rose ceremony doesn’t exactly qualify as a good reason to tap your emergency fund—but it could be a fun way to spend other short-term savings. After his employer refused to allow him time off to try his luck in “Bachelor Nation,” Derek Peth found himself faced with the choice to either quit his job or miss the opportunity to win JoJo Fletcher’s—and America’s—heart.

Luckily for him, the choice wasn’t as hard as it could have been. Thanks to years of saving and investing, Peth was able to put his financial services career on hold to take a chance at love and stardom (plus the potential perks and paid opportunities that come with it) on the reality show. Here, the former “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise” contestant talks about the value of rainy day funds and the choices that allowed him to take a sabbatical from his day job.

You were surprised when you heard you’d been cast on “The Bachelorette” because your sister secretly nominated you. After you got the news, how did you prepare financially to take time off to join the cast?

Financial health is no different than physical health in that it requires consistent effort and [preparation over time]. The reason I was able to make a change so quickly was that I had prepared for any potential pitfalls by saving and investing more than 25 percent of my monthly income since I had started working professionally, leaving me with a lot of flexibility to act on an exciting opportunity.

What inspired you to save and invest so much when you were just starting out? What are some of your best savings tips?

My propensity to save is twofold. First, there is a lot of advice out there surrounding the value of a rainy day fund, and I really engrained in myself the importance of having a year’s worth of living saved up. The second point comes from reading “Rich Dad Poor Dad” in high school. It taught me the value of self-perpetuating businesses that fund future ventures. My entrepreneurial endeavors, whether real estate or sole proprietorships, have always operated in a separate account from my personal funds with the full expectation that the slowly growing account will be the foundation for my next investment.

Former “Bachelor” contestants have admitted to shelling out thousands for the show, including one who infamously claimed to have dropped $40,000 on clothes alone for her appearance. Aside from clothing, what are some of the unexpected costs of participating in a reality television show?

The major factor that isn’t as flashy and less often talked about is that your life back home is still ongoing, so in my case the potential to be gone for eight weeks meant that my rent, mortgage, car payments, and insurance expenses didn’t stop and had to be automated... All in all, that was just over $3,200 a month that I still had to maintain during and just after the show.

I actually did use a producer’s computer a few times to check my bank account to see that everything was running smoothly.

How did you tackle replenishing your savings after you finished filming? Were you able to save any of your “Bachelor in Paradise” earnings?

I used far less than I actually expected of the funds I had saved up. This was driven by having real estate I could fall back on and a place I owned, which reduced my rental expenses. Since then, I’ve continued the same process of separating accounts, and new ventures like advertising on social media helped to recoup the expenses that go along with taking time off until I sought employment again.

You eventually returned to working in financial services. What was that transition like? Did you get met with any resistance from firms not wanting to hire someone who’s been on reality TV?

I did see some resistance. A few [companies] heavily researched me online and were happy to see that all the news they found was positive. Generally, there is a hill to climb to prove your capabilities, [but] it quickly becomes a non-factor [when you do].

Despite working in a full-time finance role, you still have hundreds of thousands of social media followers and co-host a "Bachelor" podcast. How do you deal with the pressure to keep up a social media influencer lifestyle?

What really resonates on social media is authenticity, so I’m just me at all times. I don’t pressure myself to maintain any type of image or get professional photos taken or even walk around and plan out pictures like some others do.

Many people have been able to turn reality TV stints into a money-making platform. What do you think separates those who are successful at that from those who aren’t?

I think what separates is how much you approach the followup as a business. Some people are very laissez-faire after the fact and want to fade away, and others hustle and leverage the new connections to build business opportunities. The most successful are those who are able to maintain their authenticity, while still running a business. My friend Wells [Adams, a fellow “The Bachelorette” contestant who is a long-time radio host and also co-hosts a podcast] is a great example of this last point.

What money rules do you live by today?

I spend 30 minutes every Friday looking through my accounts and use a credit app to make sure nobody has fraudulently accessed my account. I had this happen before and believe me, taking a bit of time to review will stop a lot of headaches in the future. It’s almost inevitable that this will happen to all of us at some point.

What do you consider your smartest investment?

I bought a few rental properties just out of college with money I had saved up from working at a young age. These still provide me with residual income today while developing equity month after month.

You’re currently at Laurel Road, which helps people refinance their student loans. Can you share any advice about how people can better manage and pay off student debt?

Most financial decisions or changes come with an expensive price tag, but refinancing your student loans is a free way to save money.

Related: Running the Numbers: Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

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