and Fortune: Toyah Willcox
49, shot to fame as a punk rock singer in the
1980s and went on to establish a TV and theatre
career. She lives in Worcester with her husband,
rock guitarist Robert Fripp, 61, and spoke to
How do you think your
childhood experience influenced your attitude to
Initially my childhood was
very affluent. My father inherited three very
successful joinery factories and although our
five-bedroom house was in an ordinary road in
Birmingham, it was the biggest house in the
street. We used to drive a new Rolls Royce every
When I was seven years old
my father was hit badly by a slump in the stock
market and he lost everything. Our standard of
living dropped dramatically, but he managed to
keep the house and keep me in a private school,
which was a big achievement.
How did that affect
It partly contributed to
my strong drive to be financially secure and
independent. That and people telling me I would
never achieve my dreams.
I am dyslexic and they all
laughed when I said I was going to act and sing
and get out of Birmingham.
To this day I find if
people doubt me it is incredibly motivating.
Are you cautious with
money or liberal with it?
I'm incredibly cautious
because I've seen how easily you can lose it. I
don't know who gave my father his advice, but
they should be shot.
Back then stocks and
shares were phenomenally successful, but he
didn't spread his investments. I have learned
I always travel
"cattle class" because I don't see the
point of spending thousands of pounds just to sit
in a chair. I don't see holidaymakers on those
flights, I see business people saving money like
Have you been in debt?
Yes, many times. When I
was at drama school, it was a constant struggle
to meet my rent payments and I was so poor at
times all I could afford was a Mars bar. Friends
kept me going - people like film director Derek
Jarman would say, "Toyah, come round for a
Poverty is frightening and
anyone who profits from other people's hardship,
like landlords, deserves to rot in hell as far as
I am concerned.
Has being better off
made you happier?
I think I'm only happy
when I'm under a certain amount of stress and I
can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I
really enjoy the pressure.
How do you separate
responsibility for finance with Robert?
Everything is separate. We
have a complicated way of working out who pays
What's your best buy?
An apartment I bought in
the south of France last year overlooking the
harbour in a very old town. There are 67 steps up
to it and I love it to death. In France, property
prices are still rising and attractive properties
like mine are hard to get.
The French always want
new-build, so it's really just the Swiss, Dutch,
British and Germans who go for character
I think its value has
doubled already, but that's partly because the
euro is so strong.
I bought another property
in France four years ago for £200,000 and that
has also doubled in value. I let it to a company
executive and I will let this new one when I've
finished renovating it.
But you said you would
never be a landlord?
Yes. I've changed my mind,
but only because I went to the richest area of
Europe and let to people who work in information
technology companies who I know can afford it.
That gives me no moral qualms, but I still have
problems with the idea of letting in
I find it easier to be a
businesswoman in France where I am not known. I'm
about to buy another property out there and my
investments will form a small specialised
How many properties do
I have two riverfront
properties in the Midlands, which I bought in
1999 and 2000 for £147,000 and £170,000. My
parents live in one and the family uses the other
I also have a one-bedroom
house in Chiswick I bought in 1994, which I will
never get rid of because I can't envisage buying
into London again. In England I am mortgage free
so there are no worries about making them pay.
What's your worst buy?
In 1985 I bought a studio
flat in Chelsea for £159,000. Then, during the
really bad property slump of 1990, it fell into
negative equity and I had to sell for
My mortgage had shot up to
£17,000 a year because of interest rate rises
and I was panicked by my advisers into selling
it. I wish I had hung on for another year - it is
now worth £2.5m. All I needed was 12 months to
get control of my finances and I could have
ridden out the storm.
In what other ways do
I put about four hours a
day into managing my property portfolio and share
portfolio. Investments can be fluid and I want to
know what's happening all the time.
Do you invest in
individual savings accounts (Isas)?
Yes, I have four and I
always put my annual maximum amount in. I look
upon them as my hidden pot.
Do you use high
interest savings accounts?
Yes, but I bank with
Lloyds TSB and they've been very good to me so I
just use whatever savings rate they have.
They realise I need a
relationship with my bank where I can phone and
get through immediately if I suspect fraud.
Do you bank online?
I prefer to go in and see
what's happening, but it's getting to the point
where it is going to be too expensive banking the
Do you have many credit
An American Express, a
Barclaycard and a Marks & Spencer MasterCard.
A credit card is more convenient than carrying
How do you tip?
My husband says my purse
screams whenever I open it. I think I'm a fair
tipper, but not if someone has been a s**t.
Do you get involved in
finding the best mortgage deals?
I've had more sexism
dealing with banks in this country than anywhere
else. When the Bank of Scotland started up in the
1980s I went to see the manager, but he wouldn't
talk to me - he wanted to see my husband. They
burned their bridges with me.
Are pensions a good
Yes, I used to have 20,
but I amalgamated them recently and put most of
them into a SIPP. I was hoping I would be able to
invest the whole lot in residential property, but
I can still do commercial property.
I still have three other
pensions - the Legal & General one has done
particularly well - but the rest is in the SIPP,
which I manage.
Toyah will be
releasing her new album, In the Court of the
Crimson Queen, later this year.
29th March 2008