and actress Toyah Willcox would like to take all her retirement savings
and put them into property, writes John Marx
Toyah Willcox is perhaps best known for her chart
success in the late 1970s and early 1980s with singles such as Itís a Mystery.
More recently, she appeared in the second series of Iím A Celebrity, Get
Me Out of Here.
The youngest of three children, Toyah decided
she wanted to act at the age of seven. Her first big film role came in
Derek Jarmanís 1977 punk movie, Jubilee. Later that year she put together
her own punk band. Her pop career brought her chart success and the accolade
of the Best Female Singer at the 1982 British Rock and Pop Awards.
She has worked on a variety of TV programmes such
as Holiday, Heaven and Earth and Fasten Your Seatbelts. She has spent much
of the past year performing in a touring production of Calamity Jane, which
is currently in the West End.
Toyah is 45 and lives mainly in Chiswick. She
is married to Robert Fripp, a guitarist who lives in Nashville. The couple
chose not to have children, preferring to lead ďaffectionately independent
livesĒ in order to pursue their separate career interests.
How much money do you have in your purse?
About £300. I always have a lot of cash.
I think itís so that I have enough if the opportunity arises to take people
out for a meal or drink. But that doesnít happen very often so when I draw
cash from the bank it tends to sit there forever.
Do you have any credit cards?
I have cards from American Express, Barclaycard
and Marks & Spencer. I always pay them off straight away ó I donít
borrow money from anyone. I donít even like having mortgages. I really
resent giving banks interest when they are making plenty of money out of
my wealth in the first place.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I think Iím a saver, but when I spend I do it
big time. But Iím careful about what I spend it on. I donít own any expensive
cars, for example. I donít buy anything that devalues.
How much did you earn last year?
Oh, Iím not telling you that. But my earnings
this year are already three times as much as last year because Iím in a
West End musical and because of Iím a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.
Have you ever been really hard up?
Yes, many times. My parents struggled financially
throughout my teens. When I was at drama school I was very poor and it
was only the generosity of friends that kept me fed.
Derek Jarman would say: ďToyah, come round, weíre
going to give you a meal,Ē and all I could afford was the 27p bus fare
to his home. So I do know what poverty is like and I think itís the most
frightening, powerless position to be in.
What is the most lucrative work you have done?
Did you use the fee for something special?
I remember some years ago making a documentary
of the Pirelli Calendar shoot. It was five daysí work for a huge sum ó
tens of thousands of pounds. I was flown first class to Florida where there
were people catering for us, getting our clothes, driving us round in limos
and generally making sure we were happy.
With the money I bought a property to add to my
portfolio of investments.
How many homes do you own?
Several. My main financial philosophy is to buy
property. I donít rent it out because I will never be a landlord ó and
I feel really strongly about that. I either let friends live in a property,
as long as they maintain it and pay the expenses, or I allow a family to
stay there rent-free.
I use some of my homes for work. I have a place
where I paint, for example. I have also bought my parentís home and I have
looked after them financially for the past 15 years. The properties are
all quite unusual and very rare, and I have no intention of selling any
of them. They are my safety net so I never have to experience hardship
I tend to have mortgages for two years and then
I pay them off, which allows me to borrow another sum to buy the next property,
and so on. I only have the mortgages for tax purposes; my accountant gets
cross with me if I buy for cash all the time.
Do you invest in shares?
Yes, Iíve got a few Isas. I look after them myself
because my advisers only give me opinions. I judge their performance based
on the paperwork I receive.
Do you have a pension, or other retirement
I have 20 pensions and they have all lost 40%.
But I want to keep working so I shouldnít need to use them at all. Iím
hoping that when I pass away I will be able to leave a huge lump sum to
some charity. I donít need to take a pension financially, everythingís
ticking over really well with the property portfolio.
Do you believe pensions are a good thing?
Iíve been investing in pensions for 20 years
and I am so angry about the way their value has diminished.
My financial advisers say I should keep going
because in two years theyíll be back on their feet. But thatís not good
enough. I could be investing my annual lump sum in property. We have huge
arguments about it.
I think the whole problem with pensions and Isas
is that financial advisers do better out of them than we do.
What has been your worst investment?
I bought an extraordinary studio apartment in
Chelsea in 1986 for £156,000, which was quite expensive for the time.
I needed to sell it in 1990 and it went for £142,000.
Thatís the only time that I have ever had negative
equity on a property.
And your best?
A penthouse in Wapping, which I bought for £199,000
in 1984 and sold for £300,000 in 1986.
Do you manage your own financial affairs?
It took a long time for me to realise that one
of my former accountants was not working in my interests ó my money had
been pilfered. The accountant went to jail over it; I had lost a total
Now Iím my own financial manager and I have been
for the past 10 years. I do absolutely everything ó I balance my bank accounts,
make all my own decisions and even prepare my own Vat.
I have a wonderful bookkeeper whose quarterly
bill is the least out of all my professional advisers, but I trust her
What aspect of our taxation system would you
I get no tax relief for helping my parents. I
bought their home and pay for its upkeep. I also take care of their council
tax, water rates and medical costs. The more I help my parents, the more
they suffer because their benefits are reduced, even though they have only
a very small amount of savings. If I hadnít kept them over the past 15
years they would have been able to claim more benefits. It makes me livid.
What is your financial priority?
Always to have cash available. Even with people
like me, cash availability can be quite scary because most of my money
is in fixed assets. I make sure I have a bank account with a large amount
in it at all times.
Do you have a money weakness?
I donít fully understand how pensions work and
I get very frustrated by it. I donít know why my financial adviser says
ďdonít worryĒ when my pensions, which are worth hundreds of thousands of
pounds, have diminished in value.
I want to draw the lot out and buy property, but
I canít win the argument because I donít fully understand how these people
think. Thatís my biggest weakness.
What is the most extravagant thing you have
I like to commission jewellery and art. I even
hired a watercolour artist at Reddich House, a home I had for 12 years.
He was a resident artist there for 12 months to paint the seasons. I think
thatís extravagant, but it was also an investment.
Do you play the lottery? What if you won?
I only play when my instincts tell me, but I
have often thought about what I would do if I won.
Near my home in the Midlands, there are a lot
of people on lower incomes. I would go to every landlord in the community
and give them money so they could let their tenants have the month of December
free of rent.
Iíve heard conversations in shops where people
are debating which packet of biscuits to buy to get them through the week.
It breaks my heart.
The other thing I would do is invest in a project
to improve the recycling facilities in the local community.
What is the most important lesson you have
learnt about money?
I treat it as though itís terminally ill. I just
donít think money is safe unless you realise it is like water.
20th July 2003
Thanks to John Shepherd