Personal Finance > Real People
Real People:
Survivor: Investing a million
Brian Heidik, winner of 'Survivor: Thailand', has big plans for the million he made.
March 24, 2003: 4:22 PM EST
By Annelena Lobb, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Brian Heidik, winner of "Survivor: Thailand", rode an elephant and ate a spider. Now he has a million bucks.

He doesn't plan to blow it, either.

The California used car salesman, who mastered the art of playing both sides among the other contestants on the island, intends to rely on that same sense of strategy when investing his new wealth.

"Everything I do is strategy, much as it was on the island," he told CNN/

Heidik admits he's been busy since he got that check on Dec. 20, 2002. He bought himself a Dodge Viper -- and he's beefed up his home security system. "It's because of the Enquirer and reporters," he explained. "I've had to protect my sanity."

Brian Heidik in Thailand  
Brian Heidik in Thailand

He's also retained the help of Wells Fargo financial advisor Frank Colatruglio, who specializes in high net worth clients. Together, they're crafting a plan to divide his pot of gold -- about $675,000, after taxes -- into manageable pieces.

Divvying it up

First, Heidik and his wife put aside $20,000 in a 529 plan for their son, Logan, now two years old. Each parent can give Logan a cash "gift" of up to $11,000 tax-free under current law. By the time Logan is ready for college, the fund should hold more than enough to cover his tuition at a public university.

Heidik also is structuring his own business, with the advice of a CPA. As such, he contributed an initial $40,000 to the business's profit-sharing plan a portfolio of mutual funds that lets his investments grow tax-deferred until he retires. (That one's already up by a grand and a half, Heidik added.)

And finally, he put 30 percent of his new wealth, or about $235,000, into a fixed income portfolio of triple-A rated California municipal bonds that means he pays no tax on their earnings. The bonds yield between 4 and 7 percent returns, and mature from 2016 to 2025.

"I'm dealing with conservative investments, for retirement and tax reasons," Heidik explained.

But he's not strictly focused on wealth preservation. Heidik also wants to watch his money grow -- that means taking on greater risk by testing the stock market waters. He's just waiting for the "right time" to get in, depending on market conditions and the state of the economy. When the time comes, he'll invest some $200,000 in a diversified stock portfolio, including large, medium and small-cap companies, and some European companies as well.

"Frank and I are going to follow the market very closely, on a day-to-day basis, to find the bottom. I want to look at trends and statistics. Hopefully, we're near the bottom, but there may still be a ways to go. For example though it's sad to say the beginning of a war might even be the right time," Heidik said.

Heidik hopes his portfolio will fare far better than the long-term average for most investors. He's estimating returns of 10 to 20 percent per year.

The five-year plan

As for his career, Heidik has a few changes in store - he plans to dedicate the next five years to developing his acting career. Already a trained actor from his years spent in New York, Heidik has had regular roles on "Days of Our Lives" and guest spots on "Baywatch Nights" and "Doogie Howser, M.D." Before entering the used car business in L.A., he also starred in several soft-porn films.

His stint on "Survivor," however, has opened new doors of opportunity. This year, he said he'll guest star on Saturday Night Live and host Sesame Street. And he hopes to earn between $100,000 and $500,000 over the next five years through product endorsements, TV and movie gigs, and new business ventures.

Right now, Heidik has an exclusive contract with CBS, which means he needs the network's permission before giving out any endorsements over the next four years. The contract also gives Chevrolet, Visa, Radio Shack and Coca-Cola "first dibs" on him for endorsements. He's already been contacted by General Motors, and may promote a Chevrolet or Cadillac car.

"But they might now want to promote Dodge, now that I have a Viper," Heidik added.

When Heidik bought the Viper a black RT10 model, with cognac leather interior and both soft and hard tops he used both Colatruglio's advice and his own car sales savvy to get a good deal. He always buys used -- so he went for a 1999 Viper.

Colatruglio advised him not to pay cash for the car, because Heidik's borrowing power has skyrocketed and interest rates are low. He put down $10,000 and financed the rest at 6 percent over five years.

Finally, he's already refinanced his mortgage from a 30-year, fixed-rate loan at 7 percent to a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage at 5 percent. In spite of his sudden windfall, he says he and his family are not looking to move at the moment, but says he'd consider real estate investment ventures if he found a good deal.

And Heidik may get into some other business ventures too; he's considering a record company, a line of coffee shops, movie production or more work in the auto industry. A few people have come out of the woodwork, he added, to try to coax him to join them on business ventures.

"People in the car business have contacted me to try to start dealerships and so on. But I won't work with anyone who hasn't been successful and can't bring something to the table," he said. "And some wackos have wanted to start sludge lots with me, selling used cars for under $10,000."

Despite people showing up with questionable business proposals -- or having to keep the Enquirer out of his home -- Heidik said his experience on Survivor changed him in a positive way.

"I think about how important the simple things are, the day-to-day things. Going to the cabinet and grabbing what you want to eat. Hanging around with your family and friends," Heidik said. "I thought about everybody when I was out there, and how important it was not to take them for granted. I love everything and I love everybody."  Top of page

Millionaires in the making
George and Wendy Cicotte
Jeanette Courts
7 things to know before the bell
SoftBank and Toyota want driverless cars to change the world
Aston Martin falls 5% in its London IPO

graphic graphic