Friday, 20 June 2008

First-million story #8 - Take desperate measures

A year and a half ago, Chip and Kim McAllister of Coto de Caza, Calif., were paddling furiously to stay afloat in their real-world version of "Survivor." Their company, an information-technology firm, had just gone bust, victim of a bad business partnership. Their house was in foreclosure. They had two kids at home and no jobs.

"In desperate times, you need to take desperate measures," says Chip, who came up with the idea of vying for a spot on "The Amazing Race," a reality show in which 12 couples take part in a stunt-packed race round the world. With time on their hands and nothing to lose, the McAllisters embarked on a six-week, country-hopping expedition that won them a cool million at the finish line.

Not bad for a pair of middle-aged desk jockeys. But their biggest challenge was competing against 9,000 other applicants to get on the show in the first place. To qualify, the McAllisters submitted a video that was eye-catching enough to make the cut. They also survived several tiers of interviews, culminating in a weeklong vetting by a team of producers. "They liked my husband's personality," says Kim. "He likes to talk."

Once chosen, the McAllisters spent $1,000 of their own money on equipment, then grabbed their new backpacks and set off on an adventure that included scaling cliffs, luging down mountains, trekking up ski slopes and scarfing down a stomach-churning two pounds-plus of caviar in one sitting. They won the race by booking a flight that got them to their final destination 10 minutes ahead of the second-place team.

Chip and Kim each got a check for $500,000, so they held a million bucks in their hands before paying about $350,000 in taxes. The rest of the money spared their house, valued at $1.8 million, from foreclosure, and they now have more than $1 million in home equity. They donated a portion of their winnings to their church and invested the rest in their business enterprises. Considered the most likable of the participants, the McAllisters have parlayed their TV exposure into a career as "inspirational speakers," giving lectures (for a starting fee of $7,500) on teamwork and how to build a successful marriage. (Learn more at

Aside from winning the money, Chip says he and Kim "enjoyed every single second we were on 'The Amazing Race.'" Even the caviar? "I enjoyed that after it was over."

TIP #8: Make your luck. Chip and Kim McAllister beat out 9,000 other contestants to win a million bucks on "The Amazing Race," a reality TV show.

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