Prudent: Jenny Eclair wants to sustain a decent lifestyle into old age
Writer and performer Jenny Eclair is shrewd when it comes to money. Her first inclination is to save although she says she would be quite annoyed if she died tomorrow having not enjoyed the fruits of her hard work. The 59-year-old ‘grumpy woman’ lives in South East London with husband Geoff Powell. Her latest book, Inheritance, is published next month.
What did your parents teach you about money?
Not to be extravagant with it. My parents were northern and mean with money – they never splashed out.
That taught me the value of money. I think everyone should have a northern parent for at least six months.
My father was a Major in the Army – he was a part-time spy at one point. He left to become a careers officer when I was about 11. My mother was a housewife.
She was partially disabled after contracting polio at 23 and she had three kids to look after. So she never worked and they never had a huge amount of money. But we had a lovely house and I never felt badly off. We lived well.
What was the first paid work you ever did?
I had a paper round when I was about ten, but I was lazy and it rained a lot in the North West where I lived. I loathed doing it so much I bribed my sister to do it instead. I would give her my pocket money and end up skint.
But I was a bit of a thief so if I was really skint I would nick small change out of my mum’s purse. Only 10p here and there – I never took a note.
I was a shoplifter too, because I wanted stuff I could not afford. I was greedy and a bit light- fingered when I was young. I have grown out of it, mostly.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
No, not to the extent I felt frightened I might starve or lose the roof over my head. If I had ever got stuck when I was young, my parents would have helped me out.
I have been incredibly lucky, but I still do not buy anything I cannot afford and I have never spent more than a couple of grand on a car. I worry hugely about the future.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes I have because I am in showbusiness. I have done a few TV adverts that paid silly money. I did the Family Credit voiceover for the Government for ten years and that allowed me to put enough money away to buy a second home with a mortgage. Now I make most of my money from writing novels and performing shows.
What was the best year of your financial life?
The tax year that ended April 2019. I earned more than £100,000, thanks to my solo show How To Be A Middle Aged Woman (Without Going Insane). I am still incredibly grateful to anyone who bought a ticket. I had a ball.
The most expensive thing Jenny bought for fun was a family holiday to Miami. She said it was a ‘huge, mad extravagance’
The most expensive thing you bought for fun?
It was a holiday where I took my daughter and one of her friends to Miami. It was a huge, mad extravagance. I paid for it with the money I made from doing a panto.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Taking out an interest-only mortgage in my 30s with my partner. I did not actually know what it meant. It was a real shock to realise we had not paid the mortgage off years later. It was one of those things where you just go, ‘Oh dear’. We still have a small mortgage now.
The best money decision you have made?
Building my home from scratch. It was a terribly expensive thing to do, so in some ways it was also the worst money decision. But I love it very much.
Do you save into a pension?
I put a lump sum into a pension last year after I did an advert for vaginal moisturising cream. That is the only pension I have got. I quite like the idea of living off the proceeds of this cream – going to the bank and getting out some moisturising cream money.
Have you ever taken any financial advice?
Yes, I am not good with money. I can save a bit but I do need help. I have taken two pieces of advice from my financial adviser so far.
One was get married to my partner at 57 after 35 years together because it is stupid financially not to. The other was to put my moisturiser money into a pension.
Do you invest directly in the stock market?
Yes, I have shares. If you have a career like mine where you don’t have an employer’s pension or financial security, you should save what you can and spread it across savings, pensions, property and shares.
Do you own any property?
Yes, my home – a five-bedroom house in South East London. It is like a black wooden shed but it has won a Royal Institute of British Architects medal. We also own two buy-to-let flats in South London.
What little luxury do you treat yourself to?
I think having a cleaner is a huge privilege, I have had mine for 20 years. She has made my life infinitely better.
Do you donate money to charity?
Yes, to Arts Emergency which is an initiative to help people in creative industries, and the British Heart Foundation and Red Cross.
What is your number one financial priority?
To sustain an OK lifestyle until I am really old. But I could be hoarding all my money thinking I am going to live until I am 90 and keel over tomorrow. I would be quite cross about that.